When Gears of War 4 released in 2016, it acted as somewhat as a reboot for the series, introducing a new cast of characters with JD Fenix, the son of Marcus, Delmont “Del” Walker and Kait Diaz leading the charge.  It was a bold move by the developers at The Coalition, as they could have leaned back and relied heavily on the characters that we’ve grown so use to knowing since the very first game back in 2006.  Though we did see the return of some of the old favourites, who also feature in Gears 5, but the series is very much about the new trio as we edge closer to the end of this generation of console.  In terms of plot, I can’t speak of Gears 4 without giving something away for Gears 5, but what I will say is that this story pretty much continues on from the previous game after Kait learns of a shocking revolution of her family heritage and with the help of her friends, she goes in pursuit of answers, while taking the fight to the enemy threat introduced in Gears 4, known as the Swarm.

At its core, Gears 5 offers the gameplay that we’ve grown accustom too.  It’s a third-person, cover-based shooter that has you mow down the enemies in their swarms.  One of the appeals for the series (at least for me), is the simplicity of the gameplay mechanics, it’s what a popcorn movie is to the gaming world and Gears 5 is no exception to that trend.  However, The Coalition have tried a few new tricks in an attempt to freshen up the tried and tested formula with the most impactful is having some of the campaign maps to be open-world, so to speak.  Now this isn’t open-world in a GTA kind of way, but rather certain campaign missions where you’re able to explore a map quite freely partaking in a side-mission or two, as well as the main campaign mission.  There are missions that are very traditional to the series, so you don’t have to worry about being alienated too much, if you prefer the old-school map layout, but it’s a good way to keep the pace of the campaign feeling fresh and interesting.

You’ll also be able to counter enemy attacks as they leap over cover and you’ll also be encouraged to stealth kill during certain segments, which can be aided by your bot companion, Jack.  Having a bot companion is nothing new to the series, but in previous instalments, it was pretty much restricted to unlocking a door while you fight off a wave of enemies.  Don’t get me wrong, your bot will still do that here, but it now brings so much more to the table, such as offering a tactical advantage and being upgradable.  Jack (your bot) will not only be able to unlock certain doors, but as you progress in the campaign, he’ll be able to provide you with a temporary shield, allowing you to take a little more damage for a short duration, he’ll be able to make you invisible for a short period, stun or shock enemies, highlight areas of interest, pick up weapons and ammo, and much more.  His skills and abilities will be upgradable with components that you’ll find on your way through the campaign or via one of the side activities, some of which might just offer something extra special.  Though I must say that Dave is the real MVP.

So what of the multiplayer?  Something that is as much of a benchmark to the series, then the campaign.  Well, pretty much everything you’d want from a Gears game in terms of multiplayer is here and then some.  You have the usual modes such as Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Escalation, Warzone and more.  In total there are nine different online match-types at the time of writing this review, with more promised to be on the way in the future, along with the inclusion of new maps too.  All of which will be free to those that own Gears 5.  However, the introduction of the new Arcade Deathmatch is quite possibly my favourite, competitive match-type in Gears 5, which plays on the traditional Team Deathmatch formula.

In Arcade Deathmatch, players will be able to select a character role, each of them having their own loadouts and abilities.  During the match, the better you perform; you’ll earn a Skull currency by killing, getting assists or by achieving a specific bounty.  Once you have earned enough Skull currency, you can buy upgrades, special weapons and character enhancements.  However, if you die, you’ll lose your purchases and opposing players can even pick-up your special weapon, but you will keep hold of any unspent Skull currency that you haven’t spent.  Arcade Deathmatch is a fun spin on the Team Deathmatch formula that adds that little more competitive edge and above all else, fun.

Horde also makes a return, a particular favourite mode of mine, where you and a group of other players will team-up to fight-off waves of enemies that will increase in difficulty as you progress.  Not only will the enemy numbers increase the further you progress, but you could also end up fighting a big-ass Brumak.  In another attempt to keep the popular Horde mode feeling fresh, a few new and improved gameplay improvements have been introduced.  One of which are character abilities, such as JD Fenix being able to call in artillery strikes for example.  As you progress further into the mode, you will be forced out of your comfort zone.  For example, if you get to comfortable camping base in one area of the map, the game will become more aggressive around that particular surrounding area, prompting you to find new defensive ground.  You will also be able to counter the ever-increasing aggressiveness by building defence structures and mounting weaponry as you attempt to fight back.

A new mode brought into Gears 5 is Escape, which is kind of similar to Horde mode, only it’s a much more short-burst mode and will require you to fight from the start and reach the end of the map to escape.  What’s quite special about this mode is that the maps can be user generated with the easy to pick-up level editor.  It’s as simple as building the map with tiles, plonk in the enemies, weapon pick-ups, terrain and what not, and away you go.  Once you have edited and customised your very own Escape map, you can there share it with the Gears 5 community to take on.  Escape is probably not a mode that I will play too often, but if I want a short distraction and a quick go of Gears 5, Escape offers a quick pick-up and play alternative, and it will be quite interesting to see what the community delivers in the coming months.

Another key feature of Gears 5 is the Tour of Duty system.  This in essence is a fancy levelling-up system when playing the online modes, which as you level-up, you will earn character and weapon skins, emotes (or expressions as they’re known here), new executions, banners/flags to proudly display behind your online character and much more.  You will not only earn items by playing the online modes, but the Tour of Duty system will also offer daily and seasonal challenges, offering players new rewards in the process, in many ways it acts similar to that of a Battle Pass.  Tour of Duty is a key factor in your online progress, especially when it comes to unlocking loot, because Gears 5 features no Gear Packs aka loot boxes or no season pass.  As already mentioned, all maps and modes, including ones yet to be released, will be free to all players.

However, Gears 5 does have a premium Iron currency to make additional purchases, but there are loads of items that can only be earned via in-game progression, and some items that can only be acquired via the premium currency.  Some might still frown at this, as not everything is earnable with gameplay, but there is far more to earn, then there is to purchase.  Also with no loot boxes, means no random drops, which means that if there’s an item you want to earn or purchase, you can get it directly and it won’t be determined the RNG gods.  I will say however, that while I welcome the Tour of Duty system, you perhaps won’t level up quite as quickly as you’d perhaps like.  Which might be individual to the player’s tastes, but I just hope that the current grind doesn’t leave the door open to loot boxes a year or two down the line, but I might just be being overly sceptical (hopefully).  There is one other issue however, and that’s with the fact that you can’t earn the Iron currency in-game until you reach level 24 in the Tour of Duty, personally, I think that level cap should be brought down by about 10-15 levels at least in my opinion, as it can be a bit de-motivating having that currency so far out of reach for beginners.

Gears 5 isn’t without its technical flaws, because oddly during certain boss battles in the campaign, the game wouldn’t progress after an encounter, it left me unable to progress further and having to restart the checkpoint.  Hopefully this is just a minor technical issue and should be easily fixed with a future patch (if not already by the time you read this review).  Still, Gears 5 makes a lot of effort in bringing the series forward with both its main campaign and the multiplayer offerings, and in doing so, The Coalition have breathed in much needed fresh air into the long-running franchise.  Gears 5 won’t likely win over any new fans, especially if you’re not won over already, plus this would be an odd starting point for the series.

What it does do, is cater very well to its loyal fan base, by introducing new features and improvements, not to mention the Tour of Duty in the most part is a welcomed progressive step for the future of its multiplayer.  Additionally, the jacked main campaign does a fantastic job in developing the new characters that were introduced in the previous outing, while adding extra layers to those already established to the series.  This installment offers more content than ever before, but it’s a rare case of both quality and quantity, something that some series’ do not achieve.  Gears 5 is a firm evolution in a multitude of ways and is arguably the most complete package yet.  Gears 5 is back at its peak and as a fan of the series, I’m excited to see what the future holds as we dawn upon the new console generation.



Author

Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

Gamimg has been my life for 30+ years and will always be my passion. I have a BDes Hons Games Development and Digital Media, and I hope to one day turn my passion for gaming and writing into a living. My favourite gaming series are Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I love football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. I can also often be found wondering the outskirts of Raccoon City. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake and you can check out my Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/solidus5nake