Gears of War has always been one of my favorite game franchises, in fact when I first got my Xbox 360 back on Christmas in ‘06, the first game I got for it was the original Gears of War. In many ways, it helped to define my teenager years, pouring hundreds, if not thousands of hours across the original trilogy. Whether it was playing co-op on the hardest difficulty, trying to survive all 50 waves of Horde mode, or just playing match after match of its incredible multiplayer, Gears has always been a part of my gaming core. If I am being honest, I would say that Gears of War is my favorite competitive multiplayer series of all time, and a major reason for that is because with every new entry, it has always gotten better.
While I love the Gears franchise, my interest had waned for the last few years, but when I attended the Xbox E3 conference this year, I felt that spark reignite. I went home and dusted off my Xbox 360 and played through the original trilogy for the first time in over half a decade before playing Gears of War 4 for the first time. I felt a rush of excitement that I first felt when I played Gears of War 2 for the first time. Gears of War was back in my life and I could not be happier. I was left eagerly awaiting the new title, this time dropping the “of war” and just going with Gears 5. Now that I have had time to play it, it was everything I wanted and more. Read on to find out why!
Developer: The Coalition
Platform: Microsoft Windows (Reviewed), Xbox One
Release Date: September 10th, 2019
The presentation of Gears 5 is amazing, both when it comes to visuals as well as audio. While the Gears of War series has always been able to craft carnage like no other, the Gears titles of the modern generation have had a level of polish that really takes elevates the experience.
From the scenery to the executions, Gears 5 really does just have a nice design behind it, perfectly blending the bulky characters of the previous Gears trilogy with the leaner characters of the modern series, it never feels like there is a moment where you are not playing a Gears title.
Ranging from locations like the frozen wastes around Mount Kadar, to the red deserts of former UIR territory, Gears 5 has moved away from the brown and bloom and has embraced color and variety, which definitely pays off.
From the story to the gameplay, Gears 5 really does knock it out of the park in all the right ways, and being available on PC for both Windows 10 and Windows 7 shows just how much faith both Microsoft and The Coalition have in this latest title.
Obviously, the most important aspect of a Gears game is its gameplay, and Gears 5 does not disappoint. Whether you are playing with a controller or a mouse and keyboard, the game just feels right in your hands.
The controls are tight and responsive and while I personally use an Xbox One controller, I have spent enough time using the mouse and keyboard to say that it is more than adequate. The gunplay feels tight and responsive, with every shot feeling like it has a proper kick and reaction.
The sounds of gunfire, explosions, and screams create a visceral spectacle that only a Gears of War game can deliver. While there are only a handful of new weapons, nearly every gun from Gears 1-4 makes an appearance and feel just as good as they should.
There are also plenty of ways to play the Gears 5, with a full cooperative campaign and three different ways to play multiplayer: traditional multiplayer, Horde, and the new gamemode, Escape.
The Gears 5 campaign is still one of the best examples of a cooperative campaign done right, and this time around it can be played with up to three players. Two players will control the two main human protagonists, while a third player can control Jack, the flying droid that has assisted Delta on their adventures in the past.
While I never got the chance to play Jack during the campaign, he does have a unique playstyle coupled with a robust and entertaining toolkit which guarantees that anyone who does get the chance to play him will have a ton of fun doing so.
There are also a decent amount of collectibles for the player to find along the way. There are two kinds, one of them are just mementos, items that help to flesh out the world of Gears and give an incite into the mind of the characters.
Across the four Acts of the campaign there are over fifty of these to find. The second kind of collectible is far more numerous, and also far more important, these are called “components” and are used to upgrade Jack’s abilities.
By doing so Jack will transform from a cute little droid with a nice personality into a flying death machine that can not be stopped. On top of Jack’s abilities and upgrades, there are also special upgrades for him that are gained by completing the secondary missions in the world during Acts 2 and 3.
These saved my life more times than I can remember. Whether it is an improved cloak, a melee damage boost, or a flashbang attack that cryogenically freezes enemies, these are definitely worth the short amount of time required to gather them.
Horde mode also makes its return, carrying over much of the same style as Gears of War 4’s Horde with only one key difference: classes are now tied to characters, and it is no longer possible to run two of the same character.
This was a pretty hard hill for me to get over when I first started the game up, but after a while I found two or three characters that I enjoyed playing so that if I ever joined into a lobby, I would have backups in case my favorite character, Jack, was taken.
In Horde mode the objective is simple, you and your team must survive 50 waves of enemies, with each 10 waves have a boss wave and increased difficulty. You must use a fabricator to build up your defenses against your foes and are required to work together to ensure your success.
I have always loved Horde mode, and after playing for a while, the mix of improved gameplay and character tweaks has made Gears 5’s Horde the best version so far. The only downside is that there are currently not enough characters to play as yet, especially with no ability to run duplicate characters.
It goes without saying that the classic multiplayer that Gears of War is known for is back as well, and I can already tell that I am going to spend an unhealthy amount of time playing it as soon as this review is over.
One thing that I love about Gears 5 is that Microsoft and The Coalition have committed themselves to crossplay between the PC and Xbox One, an effort that has paid off as about half of the players that I run into, myself included, play on PC. This effort was also certainly aided by the fact that Gears 5 is the first Gears title to be released on Steam.
Finally, there is Escape, the brand new game mode that was revealed during the Xbox Conference, and is something that I was very much looking forward to. In Escape, three players have to work together to fight their way out of a Hive, a map filled to the brim with enemies.
The better they perform, the higher their score will be at the end of the level. When a match begins, each player will start with only a side arm and will be required to scavenge and explore in order to find weapons and ammo. I have only played a few rounds so far, but it is a fun challenge that has me hooked and I can not wait to find a group to play more with.
The most exciting part about Escape is that while there are a handful of maps that have been released with the game, there is also mapmaker that is currently in beta that allows anyone to create and upload their own maps for others to play.
That means that my friends and I can create maps and challenge each other to complete them. With a mapmaker, the content for Escape is practically endless, with the only downside being that none of the main cast are currently playable in Escape There are still six characters to choose from, and inevitably there will be more down the line.
While people have come to Gears of War for the gameplay, I stuck around for the story. Though some will try and reduce Gears to “Giant Worms” or “Where’s My Wife?!”, what I saw was a remarkably fleshed out universe that was fun and interesting.
Say what they may, but I was invested in the story of Dom trying to find his wife, I even choked up at his death in Gears of War 3. Though I knew that it was not the deepest narrative, there was enough that I was invested in the journey and curious about the conclusion.
Gears has always had questions that I wanted to know the answer to, things like: “Who are the COG, what are the Locust, what were the Pendulum Wars, who are the UIR, and most importantly, who was Queen Myrrah and why was she a human?
That one of the reasons why I am enjoying these new Gears games as much as I do. They have both taken time to flesh out the universe more and are beginning to answer these questions. To finally learn things after so many years hasn’t taken away from the mystery of Sera, but rather it has left me satisfied.
What shocks me the most is that it manages to do so without feeling like it is pandering or being obnoxious, which is no easy feat. Instead, all of these things are small touches, icing on the cake of an entertaining story.
It is not just the graphics and story that bring Gears to life either, but also the awesome sound effects and solid voice acting from some of the best voice actors in the industry including John DMaggio and Laura Bailey.
Everyone carries their own weight and brings their performances to life, taking a story that is silly and over-the-top and making it a believable experience. The cast has done a great job, and that is something I feel that the Gears team do not get enough credit for.
Honestly, the fact that Gears has only gotten better with each game is nothing short of a miracle. It is clear to me that everyone working on this series cares, and are willing to go above and beyond to polish anything to make the game bigger and better.
At no point did I ever feel like The Coalition ever rested on their laurels, or cut corners. While there are some issues that I would like to see addressed in future, Gears 5 has had a strong start and I am eager to see where it is in the next six to twelve months.
With plans for new content packs every 3 months, there will definitely be enough here to keep me engaged for a long time. Gears 5 is not just a good Gears of War title, it is a love letter to fans who have been around from the beginning with many callbacks to previous entries.
Gears 5 was reviewed on Windows PC via a retail copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.