Review: Gears 5
The Gears of War franchise is definitely one of the biggest out there, and it only looks like each new entry expands it into an even bigger one. Some might argue that the series has stayed the same as far as gameplay goes, with some changes here and there, but Gears 5 is aiming to change people's perspective on the franchise forever. This time, we get to follow Kait's story, and learn more about who she really is - a concept that means more variety to the story as we've never played as a female protagonist in the games before. I've played 10-20+ hours of the game, and I definitely have some things to talk about.
Platform: Xbox One S.
Introduction Before the game began, campaign wise, I was shown a "Previously in Gears of War" sort of throwback video to update me of what's happened before Gears 5. Once shown, another (haunting) cinematic plays out, and this one is one of Kait's nightmares where she's trapped in a gross heart looking thing hanging from the ceiling of wherever she is, which the next sequence reveals as Kait wakes up in a helicopter along with Marcus, JD and Del (Dave, too, of course)
on their way to Azura in order to find some abandoned but still functional satellites with the help of Damon Baird to get the Hammer of Dawn to work again for the on-going war against the Swarm. The group begins their journey, and faces the fact that the place has seen better days, as it's literally falling apart during their visit. Acting quickly to find the satelites, they soon realize that they're not alone - something that's sure to mess with their plans. After surviving some encounters with the swarm and exploring for a bit, the group finds one functional satellite, but the hatch above the rocket that'll send it up to space, isn't opening correctly,
so JD and Del separates themselves from the group to fix the problem, which they do, and the satellites is launched later on. I'm very impressed by this first part of the game, and it's a very strong one at that. It essentially serves as a way to pass the torch from JD to Kait, as I was controlling JD the whole first act, and I'm fine with that, but I wouldn't say no to getting to be JD again in a future game. Visuals/performance
I was expecting some top notch visuals but Gears 5 takes it all to another level - even on an Xbox One S. The game paired with a resolution of 1080p (and even more so in 4K, I presume), sports what I honestly can call the kind of graphical fidelity you'd expect to see in almost a year from now once Xbox's next generation console releases. I truly believe in my honest opinion that it's unprecedented,
as the sheer amount of obvious dedication towards making sure that the game runs, looks, feels, and even sounds like nothing we've ever seen before in any game, shows. For starters, the textures are downright insane looking, and they're of high resolution for sure, but not only are there great looking textures, there's volumetric lightning featured that looks so absurdly good that I can't believe it's on a current generation console, and we even got to see a part of that in Gears of War 4, but definitely not to this level. In addition to great lightning, reflections on ice and such like are terrific,
almost to the point of looking like ray-traced reflections. Speaking of that technology, The Coalition actually managed to, ahead of next generation, implent ray-traced shadows - a feat that can't be overlooked, as it provides one heck of a difference: it really looks like the shadows are authentic ones, and that they're literally made by the sun or other sources of light. It's hard to explain it and it really should be experienced in person to see the beauty of it, but believe me when I write that it makes a difference. Xbox players have already gotten a taste of next generation, on a current generation console.
Every single second of the game has looked super gorgeous, with beautiful textures, extremely detailed and life-like characters (especially in cut-scenes, my God!), defined and high quality animations, superb lightning, great looking effects like smoke, fire, particles flying around, and snow, the best level design in any Gears of War game, huge and amazing looking scenery, and more. Performance is pretty much flawless, I haven't noticed any, at least significant, drop at all, even when using the skiff, or when there's a lot of action going on. The stellar performance is accompanied by a bug-free experience, as well.
The one most impressive and amazing thing with Gears 5 is definitely the fact that every single mode except for campaign is running at 60fps on an Xbox One S, at least with a target of that number, something that wasn't present in Gears of War 4. I sure had a surprised face when I noticed the change, I couldn't believe that they had made something so good looking and action packed run at 60fps. In general, the game is right next to Red Dead Redemption 2 in my list of the most good looking games that exist right now. Audio is top notch, even without a pair of high budget headphones, be it you're playing without headphones at all, or using the most expensive ones available.
All this thanks to the good old fashioned amazing development that Gears 5 is surrounded by. Guns sound solid and real, voice acting is incredible (best thing is that Marcus is voiced by the same voice actor as before, so the nostalgia level is through the roof!), effect sounds have been well designed, the soundtrack is perfect, and it all just sounds good all the way through. Split-screen is of course back, and it works wonders, too! Gameplay The Gears of War games has always been third person shooters, and Gears 5 is no different. Though, with Gears 5, there are changes but good ones in the form of altering it so that the series evolves, and not like in Judgment (I liked Judgment, however), and the biggest change is probably that there's now semi open-world segments, much like the case in Metro: Exodus. They're very big, and I managed to traverse them with the help of a "skiff", a snowmobile sort of vehicle that uses a parachute and wind to move about. It's a very welcome change to the games, not only cause of how few the times we've actually gotten to use vehicles are,
but also cause we get to move around freely with it this time entirely. There's also a unique skill for every character now in multiplayer modes, something that sure poses as a bigger threat to the enemy as it does make a difference in the field. Marcus's skill turns every player's hit onto an enemy into a headshot, Kait's skill makes her invincible, and Fahz's skill allows him to shoot through walls, for instance. Throughout the game, I had a tendency to notice smaller yet still important changes, like that the button to rev the chainsaw up has changed from B to RB, melee has been improved a LOT (a knife will now be used instead of hitting enemies with the gun being held), pipes and other melee weapons can now be used, Dave/Jack is a much more efficient asset to the team now as he's now able to fetch ammo, guns,
and collectibles for the players, and he's also needed several times within the campaign to progress. Gears 5 is different when it comes to weapons/combat, too, as the weapons now have a solid punch to them (more realistic recoil) and actually feel heavy, as well as that when projectiles/bullets hits an enemy, it really looks like it is damaging the enemy, something that was a bit lacking in previous games. The more unexpected change is that there's now RPG elements in the form of Jack having upgradable skills, skills that can be found during the campaign for use in combat, progressing further, and more. To upgrade a skill, components are needed, and they are found just like the other collectibles in the game. The skills are very useful and I really like how they change the gameplay for the better - something that the series needed in order to evolve further.
For example, one skill can make Kait invincible, one can improve her armor, and some improve Jack's health & more. We even get to see some new weapons, even one made by the Swarm themselves, that becomes more accurate the longer it's being fired. Two other new weapons are the Lancer GL, and the Talon pistol, two very good newcomers. All this is the perfect recipe for a game series to evolve, and it only creates an experience that is more fun, varied, diverse, and even lengthy. Story In short, the campaign in Gears 5 is one of the best campaigns I've ever played in any game. However, you all know my way of reviewing games by now (AKA: writing huge reviews), so allow me to get to work. The first full act revolves more around JD than Kait, as we're seeing it from his perspective. In Gears 5, JD has seen better days, and I really feel bad for him sometimes. I might be biased due to the fact that he's Marcus' son, but I really do like JD as a character. After launching the satellite into space, the team ventures back to their headquarters where Marcus and Jinn has a semi-heated argument regarding his deceased wife, and fellow veteran character from older games, Anya Stroud, but it becomes a quick stop, as the team finds out that one of the settlements is being attacked by the Swarm. Once there, and after fighting the Swarm, the group begins rounding up the survivors, but falls short cause of an incoming second attack, led by Swarmaks.
JD settles on a tough decision involving the Hammer of Dawn, and things do not end up the way he wanted it to. This is where Kait's journey begins, and JD's, for the time being, is over for the player. I can't say I've been this deeply involved in a Gears of War campaign in any other game since the third game, it really is that good. Fast forward some 4 months, and Kait & Del is seen going to the last outsider post out there that haven't signed up for joining COG, a post that is run by no other than Oscar from Gears of War 4, Kait's uncle. It doesn't take long for the post to be attacked by the Swarm, and things unfortunately, yet again, take a turn for the worst. Out of all this, however, Kait learns more about herself, and is joined by Del on a mission to get to the bottom of it all, so the duo ventures out to find a secret facility called Mount Kadar. The reason to why I love the campaign in Gears 5 is because of how far we've seen Kait go from the fourth game to now; she's stronger, doesn't back down, more stubborn, and her loyality is unrivaled.
She definitely grows throughout the game, despite being haunted by her inner demons in the form of occasional flashbacks/visions. Kait learns something very serious about her background, who her grandmother was, and why the Swarm wants her so bad. We get to see familiar but ugly faces like the Locust, Matriarch (Berserker), but also the AI Niles from another Gears game. It's a campaign that caters to both veteran and new players, with nostalgia but also new experiences peeping out from every corner. It's honestly one of the best campaigns I've played in any game ever; focusing on character development, grand journeys through all kinds of different enviroments like snow & desert but as well as familiar places from older games, plot twists, emotional and super cinematic cutscenes that come together beautifully thanks to them now being rendered in real-time, and top of the line action sequences, with the open world segments helping sewing it all together into one huge, beautiful, long, and amazing AAA story.
I wasn't sure if I was going to like Kait as a protagonist, but after playing through Gears 5, I'm ready for more with her in future installments. The game now features side quests during the open world segments, and while they're not that deep, it's still pretty awesome exploring and finding out more about the world of Gears 5 in the form of them. Some side quests saw me trying to find lost outsiders that have ventured out of their settlements, and some had me exploring different locations that rewarded me with upgrades/skills for Jack. Escape Mode Escape Mode is an entirely new mode where three players that are part of a "suicide squad" enters a hive mind with the sole objective of destroying it with the help of gas bombs. The whole thing starts with the player(s) getting captured intentionally by a Snatcher in order to get inside a hive mind, a procedure that sees the player bursting out of a Snatcher bubble once inside the Hive. This is where the process of arming gas bombs begins, and the match begins. Honestly, Escape Mode is probably the most creative and fun addition to the Gears of War games I've gotten to play in a long time, and part of me feels like it's due to the uncertainty of "Will I make it out,
or will the Swarm die with me?" question that the whole mode is about, but the other part of me feels like it's mainly due to just how simple yet unpredictable the gameplay as well as whole experience is with each match. Teamwork is the key to success, and the group needs each other, as well as each player's different skill, to survive. As soon as the match starts, the players are inside the hive, and the bombs have been armed, the run begins; they now a timer set until the bombs explode, and now have to navigate through uncharted (at least for humans) and enemy territory before the gas gets to them, all while scavenging for weapons and ammo by either taking it from the enemy's dead body,
or finding it in safe rooms/occasional ammo rooms throughout the level, with the only thing worse than the nearly endless amounts of enemies, being that a Warden has a chance of spawning, too. If the player(s) does survive, a helicopter rescues the group, and the hive mind is vanquished. Oh, did I mention that there's five different difficulties to choose from? Yeah. Seriously, though, I've enjoyed every single second spent in Escape mode, and it's a mode I really do think is unique, full of creativity, and great gameplay. Versus Mode Versus Mode is back and better than ever before - offering the most enjoyable, fluid (especially with the 60hz servers), and action packed PVP in any Gears game yet. Characters in multiplayer modes in general all have their own levels and skill cards, with there being a good amount of launch characters to choose from, including: Halo Reach characters, Sarah Connor from Terminator, Fazh, Marcus, Mac, Lahni, Kait, Swarm Drone, Swarm Sniper, and more. The usual stuff like skins for weapons and characters, emotes, and sprays,
is also in the game, and there's a good amount of them. However, there are no loot boxes, so all this is earned by playing matches and such like, the good old fashioned way. The PVP of any Gears of War game is without any doubt the go-to mode for many people, at least those who are competitive, and some might think that it's onesided, that there's only 1-2 different types of playlists within Versus, but that's where they're very wrong. Versus mode in Gears 5 features the most playlists ever seen in the franchise, and they're all so much fun - Arcade playlist being probably the more casual, easy-to-pick-up & refreshing playlist of them all. Old-school playlists like Execution, King of the Hill, and Team Deathmatch make a return, as well. Versus has never felt this fluid and smooth before, mainly due to the debut of 60hz servers, which honestly makes for a big difference.
It's as hard to master multiplayer as it's always been, too. I've played dozens of Versus matches, and every single one has been balanced with good spawns, balanced weapons, and perfect performance even with a lot of effects on-screen. There's a good amount of XP awarded after every match, especially with a boost activated. Versus mode is just really great, with a lot of playlists to choose from, super smooth & fluid 60fps gameplay, balanced matches, balanced weapons, and a lot of fun to be had. Horde Mode Horde Mode has always ever since it made its debut in the second game, been the highlight of the multiplayer side of the Gears of War games, at least when it comes to fun. The Coalition has aimed high this time, to churn out the best possible version of Horde yet, and it shows, cause this Horde mode can literally use that exact same definition: the best one yet. The same old concept is used, where up to 5 players defend a certain point at the map with the help of a device called a Fabricator that can give players turrets, weapons, barriers, distractions, devices that can hold weapons, and more,
in exchange for points that are earned by killing enemies, with the whole match being made up of waves that become more difficult the longer progressed in the match. However, this time around, the mode introduces players to some new additions like the ability to level perks up that only work for your character, so if I ever wanted to output more damage with assault rifles, I was able to do that, or if I ever wanted to increase my health, I could do that. It gives each player the chance of surviving on their own in the field, and the choice of either donating the points to the whole team, or using it for themselves. The Perk system isn't the only new addition, as a tap that can generate points appears every 10th wave that players have to activate, and defend during the whole match (up to 4 of them).
On every 10th wave, a random boss appears that (though with smaller bosses in between) forces the entire team to work together like never before. The game now lets one player play as Jack, the robot sidekick, and this mode is perfect for it as one player can then focus on fetching weapons, reviving players, damage/kill enemies, and some might think that it doesn't help, but it sure does: the only person reviving me during a match was Jack, and we had a constant income of weapons at our disposal thanks to him. Horde mode is now running at 60fps no matter what Xbox One console you're playing on, which is honestly insane, so combat feels great during the match. Horde mode in Gears 5 feels like the one we had in Gears of War 4, but a much better one due to just how more fun, huge, varied, and fluid it is.
It might be a bit easier this time due to the different difficulties, though, to get to 50 waves, but we had a hard time completing the mode no matter what, deep down. It turns into a better mode now automatically because of the sligthly changed gameplay overall, as well. If a player quits the match, there's no more being left alone, as a bot now takes over in that player's place, which is something that I really like. Overall, Horde mode in Gears 5 is the best one yet, and I've had an immense amount of fun during it. All in all Gears 5 sits comfortably among one of the most visually breathtaking games I've ever played, and it wholeheartedly deserves it - with lightning, character designs, ray-traced shadows, level design, and performance that is simply unprecedented. Not only does it shine very bright with its stellar campaign that evolves the whole franchise into one that combines open world exploration, cinematic and high quality storytelling, RPG elements, character development, and intense combat, but it also sets the standard for amount of content that a $60 game should have, cause it really does Swarm (pun intended) the user with an insane amount of different modes and experiences. The Coalition has managed to create a stunning game all the way through, with multiplayer modes that never hold back with the level of fun, action, smooth 60fps gameplay, and variation. I can't say I've enjoyed a game as much as Gears 5 in a while, and it really is a spectacular showcase beginning to end.
Gears 5 is available both digitally and physically, with two editions to choose from, ranging from $60 to $100. If you're a subscriber to Xbox Game Pass, the game is available for download, and if you're a subscriber to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, the Ultimate Edition is available as well. There's also a deal right now where you can snag 2 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for only $2. Interested in buying the game? That can be done here: Gears 5 - Microsoft Store. A review code was provided by Microsoft for review purposes. This review is written by Jesper Ingemansson, and is based on his honest opinion about the game.