“A breath of adventure amidst the carnage of war”
Gears of War has been around for as long as I can remember. Hey, it launched on the Xbox 360 so that’s going back a few. Over the years our gaming lives have been filled with many memorable moments throughout the franchise. From plunging into the depths of the locust hordes in Gears of War 2 to the heart-breaking sacrifice of Dominic Santiago in Gears of War 3. The story has kept us coming back for more again and again. Even with the enjoyable spin-off of Gears of War: Judgement. So when Gears of War 4 was announced back in 2015 I was intrigued yet sceptical for a story that didn’t necessarily follow Marcus Fenix and the rest of Delta Squad.
After playing through the campaign of Gears of War 4 though, I was left pleasantly surprised. The story was interesting (although slow to start). I enjoyed the idea of the locust believed to be destroyed and then returning. You can’t have a Gears game without its main enemy! Even the new gameplay additions were extremely enjoyable. For example, controlling a Mech while fighting a Brumak made me feel like I was in the Pacific Rim. I thoroughly enjoyed the campaign. So when I was left with that big old cliff-hanger of an ending, I wanted to know what happens next.
Which brings us onto Gears 5.
Gears 5 has essentially taken everything that did or didn’t work in the previous games and mixed it in with some fresh additions that the franchise hasn’t seen before.
Now when I say this game is a different step forward for Gears of War, I mean it. Graphicly, this is the best looking Gears of war game out there. Now, I know it’s only the second Gears game on next-gen consoles so It’s only competing with its predecessor. Yet this game looks better than some recent games. It’s no Red Redemption in looks, but it’s close. For example, the opening Cinematic blew me away. There was even an opening credit sequence that made me feel like I was gearing up for a David Fincher esque feature.
The story starts not so long after the events of Gears of War 4. You’re tasked with launching a Hammer of Dawn satellite to turn the tide of the oncoming war against the locust (which has repercussions later in the game). Like Gears 4 you play as J.D. Fenix. Now the opening first act felt like a simple continuation of the previous game. It wasn’t until the close of act 1 that I realised I was subtly being introduced to the ‘Fresh’ additions to Gears 5, preparing me for act 2. In Act 1 the main differences that I clocked onto was that of Jack (your robot companion to delta squad) or in this case Dave (until he’s replaced by Jack). Jack now is beneficial to your gameplay experience. Before, he was simply a background character. Now a valuable asset. Jack has different abilities that will help you throughout the game. He can pick up ammo crates, guns that are too far to reach. Protect you with a temporary short shield. Use pulse to mark out enemies. Oh yeah! And he can momentarily make you invisible. INVISIBLE!!
By collecting components along your way, you can use them to unlock upgrades to these skills, making Jack event more proficient. And believe me, using Jack will help you a lot throughout the game. Other subtle differences I noticed was a hit marker (like in call of duty) and a health bar above harder enemies like scions, snatchers and carriers. There are new enemies to take down as well. A swarm flock (like a horde of flying locusts flies) which are made up from a load of leeches. This new enemy is interesting as its a task to take out but also as a story element. The leeches can attack deebee units and latch onto them turning them into an enemy.
There are new weapons to choose from. My most favourite being the Lancer gl. The gl standing for grenade launcher. Yes, everyone’s favourite over the top fictional gun has traded in its chainsaw for explosives. My personal weapon layout is a lancer (who doesn’t love chainsaw animations), lancer gl, relic Boltok pistol (believe me it’s good) and standard grenades.
Act 2 is where Gears 5s campaign really shines. A breath of adventure amidst the carnage of war. The setting is artic. Your means of exploration is a wind ski. You are taken out of the shoes of J.D. and into those of Kait Diaz. Her goal is to find out what is happening to her and her connection to the locust. Gears takes a step back out of the harsh reality of war and into a human story of self-exploration.
While the story sticks to a linear game style, it does open up for the expedition. The map is huge for a Gears game. There are area’s for you to explore which open up side missions where you can earn some useful gear and upgrades. You can find relic guns that are custom versions of common weapons, making them more powerful. There is of course classic gears style gameplay and story amidst all this. Most notably, when you are investigating a lab to find answers and you are plunged into darkness. The dynamic lighting here is fantastic in building tension. The only light you get is from Jack. The music during this section, mixed with the lack of visibility makes for a truly tense scene. Ironically the way this level kept me tense was exactly how a chapter in act 3 of Gears of War 2 made me feel. It was only halfway through the chapter in Gears 5 that I realised I was in the same laboratory in ‘new hope’ that I played during Gears of war 2. So it was nice to see returning locations, not just returning characters.
Now for some Gears multiplayer. I have fond memories of playing the likes of horde mode during gearsmass counting down the new year each wave at a time. Playing intense matches of execution and King of the hill. So let’s see if the multiplayer can complement a fresh and bold campaign mode.
Coincidently the multiplayer is just as polished as the campaign. I had a thorough enjoyment out of playing online to most multiplayer like Call of duty or Battlefield. To start it off I dived right into versus mode. Coupled with the ultimate DLC and Terminator: Dark Fate character and weapon skins, I had an absolute blast wandering around the Battlefield picking off players as a gun-toting Sarah Conner. Even more so when the match switched sides and I was the wreaking havoc as a T-800. Now there are some concerns I had when I first logged in, and that’s to do with the graphics. It seemed that the graphics had taken a bit of a downgrade for online as well as the sound. It sounded tinny. However, this could be due to either my set up or the server I was playing on. Never the less it didn’t detract from my enjoyment.
In horde mode, I rallied around my teammates fighting wave after wave. It was challenging which I would expect from a horde mode. To this day I haven’t been able to get past wave 20, I came close in Gears Of War 2, but I’ll get there someday.
One addition that I found extremely exhilarating was escape mode. This mode opens with a cinematic of your chosen character preparing to be deliberately taken by a Snatcher. The game then starts as you burst open a pod, take off your breathing mask and plant a venom bomb. You then have 59 seconds to escape the Swarm hive. Once the timer is up, get out of there as fast as you can. I and the two others I was playing with found ourselves quickly depleting our ammo and again being overwhelmed. Which leads me back to my main point about Gears 5s multiplayer. It’s challenging. I don’t feel like I’m playing with a handicap, I don’t feel like rage quitting. I’m in the solid middle ground. Content. I believe a multiplayer game should be. Enjoyable and challenging.
As you can tell I enjoyed this game. Apart from a few technical glitches here and there, Gears 5 is a solid game which has built on its past experiences and improved on them to make something truly special. For this, I’m happy to give Gears 5 a well earned 10 out of 10.
Gears 5 is available on Xbox one and windows 10 and free for game pass ultimate players.
GEARS 5 is out on XBox One and PC