Gears 5 review for Xbox One, PC

Platform: PC
Also on: Xbox One
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: The Coalition
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

Gears of War was a hugely integral part of my high school years, and was one of the most influential games for me on the Xbox 360, alongside Halo of course. Gears of War and Halo were what really brought me into the world of video games outside of Nintendo. Sure, Call of Duty and various RPG games came along and influenced me as well, but Halo and Gears of War were two of my big go-to games for both campaign and multiplayer action. Gears 4 brought us into a new generation of Gears, with mixed results if you ask me. I find myself missing the original trilogy, but I understand some of that may just be nostalgia. I do not feel the same connection to JD, Kait, and Del that I did with Marcus, Dom, and Cole. JD is the closest one to an original Gear, with some clear Marcus traits and voice lines, but the other two just don?t fit in the same. I love the parts of the new games that include Marcus, Cole, and Baird, but it always feels like it is just included as fan service. Cole has some of the best ?Cole-Train? lines in the series in Gears 5, and I honestly find myself wanting to go back and play the original trilogy again. You can count that as a win or a loss for Gears 5. On the one hand, I find myself yearning for the older games, and on the other hand, I am enjoying the character so much again it leaves me wanting more.

Gears 5 leaves JD and all of the original Gears characters behind in favor of a much more Kait focused story, with Del in a supporting role. I feel that the story and the investment into what is happening are lessened without the familiar faces, and without John DiMaggio delivering his signature gruff Marcus Fenix lines, but all in all, it ends up being interesting enough to keep things going. Spoilers for Gears of War 4 ahead. At the end of Gears of War 4, Kait ends up finding her kidnapped mother and killing her through the process of freeing her from the swarm hive they have nested her in. She is given a necklace that her mother had, from her grandmother before her. Upon inspection, she realizes the necklace has the Locust symbol on the back, leading us into Gears 5 and the hunt for what that means for Kait. After the initial chapters, the game splits off and leaves you with just Kait and Del, dropping all of the other characters until the end for the most part. The thread that ties the whole series together is Baird, who finds himself at odds with the COG and helping Kait and Del under the table. Baird was arguably the weakest of the original trilogy’s main characters, and that doesn?t really change much here. Baird is there, he delivers some witty lines, but aside from that just serves as a plot device to give you tools and upgrades.

Tools and upgrades! Gears 5 opens up some brand new avenues for the series to follow in future installments, and really adds some great features to the already great combat. Baird gives you a new and upgraded Jack robot, and the campaign will have you hunting components to use as upgrade materials, as well as new attachments that bring new abilities to the table. A flash feature, a temporary armor boost, shock mines, and my personal favorite, mind control, are just a few of the new tricks Gears 5 has up its sleeve. To facilitate these pseudo-RPG features, Gears 5 also opens up its second and third acts, making them less linear and including several side quests. These side quests range from multistep, story filled missions to one-off battles over a crashed Condor while hunting for an upgrade. While the main story remains relatively straight forward, these side quests add a new level of depth and make for a more fully realized game world. I strongly recommend doing all of them for a few reasons. First and foremost, the upgrades. Each of your Jack abilities has an ultimate upgrade, which can only be found through the completion of side missions, and they play a huge part in how easy or difficult the end of the game will be. Second, they add some much-needed playtime to the story. Even playing almost entirely solo, dealing with the overwhelming incompetence of my AI teammate and hunting for everything, Gears 5 took me less than 10 hours. This is not necessarily a negative, as long as you understand that going in and are wanting to jump into the various multiplayer game modes as well. If you are only here for the campaign, don?t be scared off by the relatively short run time. I dove back in for a run on Insane as soon as I finished. There are also some big choices to be made that drastically affect the final act, so a second playthrough with different decisions is almost a must.

If multiplayer is more your cup of tea, then you will find that your cup runneth over in Gears 5. The staple Horde mode makes a return, with some all-new and much-needed features, the less than fully realized but still fun Escape mode allows for enjoyable co-op action without the multi-hour investment a full 50 wave Horde run requires, and your standard Versus game modes return, alongside several new variations that cater to every type of Gears player out there.

Horde has been one of my favorite aspects of the Gears franchise since it was first introduced. Every game seems to improve on it in new and exciting ways, keeping it fresh while still staying true to the roots that made it so good to begin with. In Gears 5, each character you select for Horde has their own unique guns, ultimate abilities, and class archetypes. You can play a DPS role, a tank role, or a support role. This brings a whole new level of planning and strategy to help complete the 50 waves you want for the best rewards. Fortunately, that is all just a bonus, so if you have a team and everyone wants to just play a DPS type character, there are no real issues. It is not impossible, or even really that much harder to succeed without the character planning, there are just some quality of life bonuses and certain aspects end up easier if you do so.

Escape is by far the weakest aspect of Gears 5, but it is by no means bad. Escape gives you and two other players a time limit to do exactly what the title says, escape. Escape has its own unique characters to play as, complete with their own unique abilities built specifically for this game mode. Escape is a much quicker co-op mode, for when you do not have the time or desire to dive into Horde, but I always find myself leaning toward hopping into a Versus match if I am short on time, not Escape. I would not have played much Escape if it were not for needing to do the review, but maybe in the coming weeks, I will get more heavily invested in it.

Versus marks yet another smashing success for the Gears franchise. While the tried and true classic game modes are here and better than ever, with fierce gunplay and smooth movement/cover mechanics, the new Arcade mode is where I found myself spending the gross majority of my 20+ multiplayer hours. Instead of a standard loadout, with weapon pickups scattered around the map and on limited timers, Arcade mode lets you choose your character, which determines what your weapons are. In addition to this, as you play and get eliminations, you collect skulls that can be spent on better weapons in the match. If you are not so great at killing other players, that is alright, and you can earn skulls as well, giving you a chance for better weapons and more opportunities to get some kills. The frustration of being a newer player in the admittedly daunting world of wall bouncing and gnasher kills can be eliminated by diving into Arcade. That is not to say Arcade is easier by any means, and as a good player, you can still have just as much fun. It is a welcome change to the original formula, and Gears 5 includes it right alongside the classic game modes, so either way you prefer, you win.

Movement, cover, and shooting have always been hallmarks of the Gears franchise. As probably the biggest name in the Third Person Shooter genre, there is a lot of pressure on The Coalition to get these things right. At the end of the day, the movement and shooting are what the rest of the game is built on. No matter how many cool features get added to Horde, or how many new game modes come in Versus, or how well crafted the story is, none of it works without the staple Gears of War gameplay. Gears 5 absolutely nails it. Playing on PC with mouse and keyboard is a dream, with a few minor changes (Nobody wants to sprint using the space bar). Bouncing from cover to cover, popping the head on a locust with the Longshot, executing a downed enemy with a chainsaw appendectomy, all of it just feels so GEARS. I will admit, I still do not like the DeeBees, shooting robots just does not have the same visceral punch that shooting the flesh and blood enemies does, but they take a back seat to more traditional enemies in most game modes.

Graphically and performance-wise, I had no issues playing on PC, and playing with my friends on Xbox worked seamlessly with the Xbox Desktop Companion. Gears 5 may not be a benchmark powerhouse or something that you use to really showcase the power of a great PC, but it is certainly nothing to scoff at. The environments are gorgeous, the character models look great, smooth 60fps for the gameplay and surprisingly well designed Ultrawide support all make Gears 5 an outstanding PC title, in addition to an outstanding Xbox title. With Sony coming out head and shoulders above Microsoft when it comes to first-party games this console generation, it is truly refreshing to finally get something with this level of polish from Microsoft.

Gears 5 has something for every Gears fan. The campaign plays well, even if the story is less than it could have been. Horde offers endless hours of co-op gameplay and depth, and the Versus modes are the best they have ever been. With Call of Duty still a few months away and Halo next year, Gears 5 hits at a time where this kind of great multiplayer gameplay is definitely lacking. The Coalition has plans for content updates well into 2020, so it looks like they will be supporting the game well past launch. Whether you have been a fan since the beginning, or someone who just started with Gears of War 4, there is something here for everyone. I definitely recommend picking up Gears 5 sooner rather than later.

Microsoft provided us with a Gears 5 PC/Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: B+