Review: ‘Gears 5’ Brings a Fresh Perspective to the Franchise


Not that I think critics need to be intimately familiar with a franchise to write a meaningful review, but since we’re talking about the fifth Gears of War game here it’s probably worth telling you some of my thoughts on the other four. I played through the original after it was remastered for Xbox One, and I saw a tournament for the fourth one at Microsoft’s swanky Mixer eSports arena. But that’s it. So for much of my Gears 5 playthrough I was pretty confused about what was going on with these Starship Troopers and their space gasoline. And as a solo player, I can’t tell you much about multiplayer like the upgraded Horde mode and new Escape mode with map builder.

What I can tell you though is that even for a relatively casual player like me Gears 5 offers an appreciated fresh take on the franchise that makes it far more fascinating than I was expecting. Don’t let the shorter name fool you. This is a much bigger game.

Gears 5 is book-ended with levels that give you what you’ve come to know from this series, especially after Gears of War 4. Barrel through war-tron sci-fi streets, beautiful but desolate lands perfect for sad pop song covers. Frequently you’ll need to slide behind walls and shoot enemies that would tear you apart in the open. These mechanics are refined rather than fully reinvented. You still actively reload and fluidly swap between different cover points. Grab enemies out of cover and counter them with melee kills. Heal your squadmates when they go down. The guns still have chainsaws attached to them.

While I recognize this cover-based third-person shooting was revolutionary in its day, I found “stop and pop” a little boring and repetitive when playing the remake of the original. Fortunately, Gears 5 keeps combat exciting with different enemy types that force you to vary your playstyle tactics and actually get out of cover. Most notable are robots hijacked by alien slugs that swarm you like cyborg zombies or infest huge moving turrets. Even during the campaign the game essentially turns into Horde mode, and key to survival is just recognizing the right creative strategy for each enemy. Shoot out support robots providing shields for Scions and their Gatling guns. Knock the helmet off of a Warden’s head while dodging its dual-hammer strikes. Use your own support robot to shield yourself, become invisible, or scan the area.

That combat is consistent throughout, but the middle of the Gears 5 campaign dramatically changes the context in which combat is presented. This largely linear shooter decides to basically become a light open-world game, or at least greatly open up its possibility for exploration. Between the structure, snow setting, and focus on tough but vulnerably leading lady Kait Diaz, it reminds me of Rise of the Tomb Raider.

And it’s great! Hopping on your cute little skiff and sailing across the expansive wastelands is a haunting yet oddly relaxing ritual I never expected from a Gears of War game. Your objectives are never unclear. And once you get to a location you’ll play through more typical Gears firefights. But now you can take detours and scavenge through outposts, set waypoints on your map, and actually exist in this world you’re trying to save. These open-world sections tend to have one macro goal, like building a rocket, and the new sense of scale makes victory more satisfying.

There are some growing pains. I got a bit lost a few times during some inelegant bits of exploration while my brain was adjusting to the paradigm shift. But even when you can’t find the path you’ll likely stumble across upgrade pieces for your robot so it’s worth it. Ultimately the lengthy middle chunk of Gears 5 is like a whole new game unto itself.

It helps that by far the most worthwhile story material, the material all the marketing revolves around, is in this part. In this world full of tree trunk boys, playing as a woman just means playing as a person with normal proportions. And I enjoyed getting to know Kait Diaz as she got away from Marcus Fenix’s boring son to learn the conspiratorial truth of her origins. The Locust had always confused me. Why did these monster men also need guns? So I’ve felt seen when the game shared my confusion.

And while there are still plenty of meatheads (hello, Fahz) overall the tone is less obnoxious. There’s a whole section in a theater that’s low-key hilarious, complete with Hamilton jokes. That said, it’s still wild that Microsoft seems to view Gears is its more artistic AAA game when it comes to tone.

Gears 5 isn’t The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or anything like that. But I got a tiny bit of that same buzz when I realized that I could take out enemies walking across the wide frozen lakes by shooting the ice beneath their feet, a concept I taught myself before applying it to a boss fight. It’s awesome, one of my favorite surprises of the year. If this is what happens when Gears of War goes a little open-world, we can’t wait to see how Halo: Infinite turns out.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Jordan Minor

Author: Droolin' Dog News Team