Gears of War 5 Review

Gears of War is back yet again, delivering its stunning visuals, intense gory kills and everything that we love about gears, but now with a whole new playstyle that feels just as close to the original but with brand new mechanics that both give the franchise a refreshing feel that is adaptable, yet still has that classic gears feel to its core. For the most part of Gears 5, you might feel like you’re playing another game straight out of the original trilogy’s Locust war. From the gunplay to the story, much of the story feels like past Gears of War games and The Coalition have really made sure to emphasize the core cover-shooting elements that have always been a strong point in the franchise, but Gears 5 also adds a handful of new ideas that are both useful and help strengthen its core aspects.

For its campaign, Gears 5 changes how you play out through the story, one of which is the brand new upgrade that now allows the player to not only play as Jack if in online co-op mode, but also lets you have full control of the friendly bot himself this time around. With the upgrade system, Jack is no longer just a standard AI, but instead can provide all-around support that can go from reviving you and allies, placing shock traps, check area pulse for objects/enemies, and even add a temporary cloak so as to sneak in and out of stealth or intense situations.

Mission-wise, it’s no longer the standard “work your way from point A to point B” but instead we’re now given the choice to roam around parts of the games’ two new open-world maps. Upon first glance, you would think its a small preset map but if not explored thoroughly you can and will miss out on new hidden sightings that unlock more chapters to the game that can actually extend the campaign’s runtime. Though the extra optional side missions don’t necessarily alter the actual story itself and are often time filled with a waiting ambush, they do also play a part discovering the collectible items, some progression on a side story, maybe a lore drop, and extra helpful components that you can use to upgrade Jacks overall capabilities, from faster cooldowns to more intense upgrades like upgrading Jack’s stun gun to a full-on weapon. It’s a handful of a task but with patience, they can come in handy later on if you choose to do so.

Within the locations themselves, you encounter new kinds of battles that aren’t so fixated on you only running into swarm soldiers. Often times, you might come across them unaware giving you the perfect chance to sneak up behind them, set up ambushes or even try and take out a few or all of them with stealth. The more open structure of the game means that there are now more ways for you to think about how you approach a fight and more opportunities for you to change up how to deal with your enemies.

The open portions on the other hand also display some of Gears 5 best writing, as they give the characters more time with each other to talk; really allowing you to get to know and understand the characters more than in the previous Gears 4 instalment. This time around Gears 5 spends the focus on Kait, the new protagonist and one of the new characters that were introduced in Gears 4, as she searches for answers about her heritage and her connection with the Locus/Swarm, as was implicated at the end of Gears 4. However, the rest of the story campaign doesn’t quite hold up as its much smaller character moments and the second of the games four acts is all about finding answers for Kait, but a chunk of those plotlines get wrapped up or pushed aside within the second act of the game. The rest mostly focuses itself around the Swarm threat without advancing the overall story or character tones beyond trying to restore the iconic gears superweapon, The Hammer of Dawn.

With that in mind, Gears 5’s story, for the most part, feels like its revisiting old territory and everything in some fashion feels like it did in the original trilogy, except with the two new open-world acts. Gears 5’s world, for the first time, feels lived in. With discovering new areas, hidden notes of people who once lived there or going out of your way to help out people who still might currently have camp set up, doesn’t feel so one dimensional or straightforward. Outside of that, the story itself does end somewhat abruptly and most of the interesting conflicts get swept aside for more fights with big monsters, but the additions that Gears 5 adds to the core formula are thoughtful advancements to the franchises’ identity; despite many being mainstream in the shooter market and that especially goes for the multiplayer as well.

When it comes to its competitive modes, The Coalition doesn’t quite alter much about how Gears plays as it has been with every Gears instalment. However, instead of changing the combat, Gears bolsters with depth that uses more common to live services titles that make playing with friends online feel more involved; more verity than just your normal series of matches. From progression systems that allow you to unlock new characters to new weapons and cosmetics, multiplayer provides several different modes for you to work through that all essentially play the same game types from the previous games, such as match types like Dodgeball, and of course the traditional ranked play with Team Deathmatch. Where the live service influences is most apparent in the co-op modes. The waved-based Horde mode returns once more with new adjustments that push you to specialize more on your team instead of having a squad role, like in Gears 4, you now have particular characters who all individually have special perks and abilities like one you would expect to see in a hero shooter. The same can be said about the new Escape mode which has you rushing out of a Swarm hive while you flee from deadly gas with nothing but a limited amount of items that you can round-up to help you fight your way to freedom, which in both cases you’ll choose a character with a particular playstyle and upgrades you can earn through playing and its these additions that help to vary Gears 5 gameplay while encouraging teamwork.

Changes like these are needed around this time, though some such as experimenting with bringing Gears to a new open-world light might feel unusual for longtime fans of the franchise, but it’s certainly a change that needed to give Gears new light and a new sense of direction to try and add some importance and value to this new generation of heroes. However, with these new changes and features, it doesn’t stray from what made the gears series strong throughout the franchise. Campaign wise it might have been a little too narrow in the past but with so many new additions that Judgement and 4 lacked, this one is a significant step in the right direction.

It doesn’t go without saying however that despite the many high points that Gears 5 checks off, it still has its own fair share of issues; some of which have never been common to a newly released gears title before. On the campaign side there only a minor amount of bugs that interfere with the flow of the game, one of which is that randomization of crashes that would occur when you’ve dealt with a wave of enemies and it’s now time for you to progress on to the next mission of the game where AIs suddenly stay behind as you move on to the next checkpoint and no interactable icons prompt you to proceed. The only way to get past this is for you to pause the game and restart the previous checkpoint; it slows the game’s progression and can be frustrating to constantly do when it happens but it’s at least doable, to say the least. Other cases involve where you can be playing through an important mission or roaming around the map on your skiff and the whole game itself suddenly crashes out, immediately rebooting the game and forcing you to replay through your last save point. To add to that, AIs this time around feel like they’ve taken a step backward to the first two original gears titles where they act more braindead and watch you do all the work when it comes to assisting you during waves of enemies and boss fights or doesn’t often come to your aid or your teammate’s aid when downed and hanging on for dear life; oftentimes even literally standing right next you and staring at you for seconds before reviving you at the last second, leaving you to die, or even getting knocked down themselves.

Outside of the campaign, multiplayer has also had its own fair share of issues from service issues to an imbalance in matchmaking since launch. Though The Coalition has been on top of notifying the community of new patched update every other hour and every other day to assure that everything runs smoothly, it still has minor tweaks here and there, even after its release. In some instances, there have been times where the game never opens up past the “press start” menu screen and would remain loading despite reinstalling and rebooting the game/console often times leaving you unable to play for hours until the next patch. It’s no way a bad game but it does feel like it wasn’t fully ready at launch which is a first when you look back at the previous releases.

Above all, when everything works, it’s without a doubt a gorgeous game from start to finish and the multiplayer feels more enjoyable than it has in recent years. Everything added to the gears formula helps make the game feel much deeper and more open to a variety of playstyles and no matter how you choose to play, there’s an option for you and the new ideas that are brought into the series are all good reasons for fans to return.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Gears 5 Review
  • Gameplay - 8/10
    8/10
  • Graphics - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sound - 8/10
    8/10
  • Replay Value - 8/10
    8/10
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User Review
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Comments Rating 0/10 (0 reviews)
Overall
8/10

Summary

Gears of War is back yet again, delivering its stunning visuals, intense gory kills and everything that we love about gears.