The promotional material for Gears of War 2 was what convinced me to pick up an Xbox 360 way back in 2007. The cover shooting and the action set-pieces of the series looked phenomenal, and at that stage I didn’t have a decent enough PC to play these types of games. That game was everything I wanted and, until Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, I hadn’t experienced a Gears game as good - that is until Gears 5.
Dropping the “of War” part of the franchise name, Gears 5 is obviously supposed to be a fresh start for the series, while still acknowledging the past games and building on the story started in Gears of War 4. This is the strongest story since the original trilogy, taking the not so interesting Swarm and making them something more compelling. The Swarm are still not as interesting as the Locust were when they were first introduced, but they are far better utilised in this game than they were in Gears of War 4.
The story starts you off as part of JD’s squad, consisting of Del, Kait and Marcus Fenix. While JD is still trying to live up to his father and mother’s reputations, he’s not the annoying kid he was in the last game. I found myself at least empathizing with his situation and his constant need to prove himself. The opening mission sets this scene well when JD makes a decision that, while ultimately successful, could’ve been a complete disaster.
This first act is everything you expect of a Gears game, a focused corridor cover-shooter, which requires you roadie run from cover to cover, flanking and taking out waves of enemies. The one improvement to the Gears formula is that the enemies no longer spawn out of nowhere, instead they populate the world going about their own business and you are the intruder, interrupting them. The second chapter of the first act takes place in COG Settlement 2, and again is just what you expect - a wonderful depiction of urban warfare, forcing you down various streets and into buildings as you rush towards the inevitable explosive set-piece finale. Some may feel that the first act is an overlong prologue, but for me this was a comfort blanket, setting the scene for the rest of the game and reminding me just what I love about a Gears game when all the elements click.
Those first two hours will get you back in the groove of running, slamming into cover, shooting, and perfecting your active-reloads. It advances the story while still providing a tough and rewarding tutorial. And boy is Gears 5 tough. Even on Intermediate (normal) difficulty, you will die a few times or at least get knocked down and hope like heck that the AI can get to you fast enough to revive you. I haven’t tried higher difficulties but expect the challenge to increase exponentially, providing incentive to replay the game for more gamer cred. I wouldn’t be surprised if a New Game+ like mode is added eventually.
The game changes pace, and structure, ever so slightly from the second act onwwards; this is when you'll first experience the semi open-world element.
As it stands, these areas feel as lifeless as the worlds of Mass Effect: Andromeda
Mechanically, Gears 5 is every bit as good a shooter as any of the prior games. The formula was mastered way back in the mid-2000s and doesn’t need much tweaking.
Gears 5 offers old-school gamers the choice of 3-way split-screen couch co-op; a mode that has even been ported to the PC version!
Grumpy Old Man who still collects toys (THEY. ARE. NOT. DOLLS), PC Gamer lured to the Dark Side of console gaming, comic book reader and fan of all things pop culture.
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PC, Xbox One
10 September 2019
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