The long-awaited and highly anticipated sequel to flagship franchise Gears of War is finally here. It’s been almost 3 years since Gears of War 4 passed the torch to JD, Kait and Del and we were left with a long lingering shot of a medallion that Kait says belonged to her grandmother. The back of the medallion revealed the Locust Horde, giving us the impression that Kait’s mom is actually related to the Locust Queen Myrrah. Continuing with our tradition of trying to remain spoiler-free, let’s dive in.
Gears 5 is very much Kait’s story as she embarks on a journey to understand her family’s origins. To get players reacquainted with the controls and movement, the traditional tutorial level kicks off with Del helping out Baird as he calibrates his new AI bot, Dave. The tutorial level is mandatory but won’t take much more than 5-10 minutes depending on how adept you are at the game’s mechanics. Once complete, they run down the entire story so far as a refresher for us old guys. Along the way, you’ll experience a wide variety of locales and meet with some new and returning people. The overall story had a few moments where I thought they were headed one way and then it never really got fleshed out completely. There are also some big BIG moments that may have major implications into the future of the series. My first playthrough was about 16 hours and my second was considerably quicker but to be honest I didn’t pay much attention to how long it took. Mainly because I was looking for collectibles and wanted to approach some things a bit differently.
New to Gears 5 is the ability to play 3 player co-op local and online. I haven’t had the opportunity to delve into local split-screen because I don’t have a player 2 for these kinds of games but playing online is a blast. Also new is the ability to control Dave/Jack. In previous games Jack just sort of uncloaked and sprung to action whenever he was needed to hack a system or cut a welded door. Now players can command Jack to grab weapons or ammo that’s hard to reach by holding the aim button and pressing x. Throughout the game, you can find new modules to install into Jack and apply them to his support or assault functions. These can be upgraded with components scattered In the various levels as well as his passive abilities giving the game a bit of an open feel to the progression system for Dave/Jack who is very helpful and handy to have around. Changing the active abilities is as simple as pressing lb+ the d-pad in the direction of the ability you desire. We also get a few new faces and some old familiar ones (and names) are back along with all the guns you’ve come to know and love including a few new ones like my personal favourite the Lancer GL (Grenade Launcher).
Another new element to the series is the addition of 2 large open world landscapes and travelling across these spaces you’ll get to pilot a skiff. The skiff also has 2 slots for you to stow away weapons. I strongly suggest you find yourself something large like the Mulcher or the Cryo-Canon at the end of the level/mission and bring it along for the next location. One of them is set in the icy North and another in the desolate sands. While stunning and beautiful to look at, they still felt a bit too linear and devoid life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great new direction they went in with this open space exploration and I had a great time playing in that sandbox, I just feel like it was a bit of a missed opportunity. I would have enjoyed random encounters, more landmarks for exploration and more side quests.
In addition to the cover mechanics synonymous with the Gears series, there’s a new environmental dynamic in the ice environment that can be used against you or help turn the tide with the ability to shoot and break the ice. The feeling of a well-placed grenade as the swarm charges you and then drop out of sight into the freezing waters is delightful and sure to make anyone smile. Speaking of smiles, the gruesome executions are back with a few new surprises. I especially love the one with the Lancer GL. Every time I had the opportunity to drop that one I did so and never once regretted it.
To put it simply, Gears 5 is a stunning showcase of what 4k 60fps gaming is all about. The animation is velvety smooth and the environment artists really need to be called out here for putting together some of the most beautiful environments out there. From the leaves to the sand storms to the sheer destruction all around, the level of detail that was put into this game is nothing short of spectacular. The cut scenes are equally incredible and the transition between cut-scenes to gameplay is amazing. There are also some little details in the character animations that for some reason really stood out as incredible to me. For example, when starting off the skiff or cutting hard to side, the characters all shift their weight and adjust themselves. The soundtrack is glorious. The orchestral music is moody and incredibly atmospheric and really adds to the tension and the big moments.
I managed to get in some Horde Mode, co-op and bot enabled PVP with my friend Jason Stettner who runs GamerHQ. Unfortunately, due to time restraints, I was never able to get in a round of Escape mode. My understanding is that it takes at least 45 minutes to complete but I’m eagerly awaiting the opportunity to jump in sooner than later. Horde Mode is likely where I’ll hang my hat for most of my MP time. It’s just non stop adrenaline-fueled action with 12 maps to choose from. I white-knuckled it on my own with bots as my partners and managed to make it to wave 18. I’m really excited to jump in with my friends as we try to get to that top tier 50th wave.
Gears of War was an Epic series and now I think I can say that it’s firmly a Coalition series and they’ve certainly stepped out from the Epic’s long dark shadow. Gears 5 is jam-packed with content and I can’t think of another game that delivers so much content for your money. Especially if you’re a Game Pass subscriber, it’s easily the best $10 you ever spent. All in all, I absolutely loved Gears 5. The graphics are incredible, the gameplay is exactly what you’d expect from a Gears title and the open-world exploration seems like it’s a precursor to something we can likely expect to see more of in the future and I’m extremely excited to see what happens next.
The graphics and soundtrack are stunning. An absolute clinic in 4K 60fps
New open world exploration
Voice acting is top notch
The value in Gears 5 is second to none
High level of replay value in MP and the campaign
The open spaces could be a bit livelier