The original Gears of War was a game changer. The game was not concerned with trying to be a Halo clone, and that may have been the best decision developer Epic Games ever made. The game did not copy the “floaty” generic shooters that came before it, instead you felt the literal weight of the hulking soldiers you controlled and the battled through hordes of Enemy Locusts. Now the fifth entry of the series is here in the sophomore outing for developer Coalition after the departure of Epic Games. Is this entry a worthy successor? Read on to find out.
The original Gears or War trilogy focussed on the story of Marcus Fenix and his journey in stopping the Locust Queen and ending the battle between the Humans and Locusts. Gears of War 4 then turned its focus to Marcus’ son J.D. Fenix and his team as they battle against the resurgence of the Locust. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the story of Gears of War 4, but thanks to quick recap from the game, I was back into the story. The interesting change in Gears 5 was the fact it did not focus on Fenix family, but instead decides to delve deeper into the story of J.D.’s squadmate Kait Diaz. The story builds on elements touched on in Gears of War 4 and adds real character depth, something missing from all previous Gears of War entries. I was pleasantly surprised by the changes made as I had assumed Kait would have been a throwaway character. The story is not overly complex and at times it is very predictable. That being said, there is a choice made in the game and I have no idea how it will be handled in the sequel, but all I know is I am excited for Gears 6.
The original Gears of War blew my mind in 2006, but it was also one of the first games I ever played in HD 720p. Now, 4 sequels and 13 years later Gears 5 really shows off what the Xbox One is capable of. Is it as mind-blowing as the original Gears of War? No, but that was going from Standard Definition to High Definition. Everything in Gears 5 is bigger and better looking and sounding in 1080p and 4k. The set pieces are gigantic, the characters models look fantastic, and the atmosphere in certain areas are haunting. If that makes no sense, at one point of the game it felt as if I was playing a survival horror game. The game also supports Dolby Atmos, which really adds a bang if your home theatre system can support it. If you are not familiar with Dolby Atmos, there is a point early in the game where you rappel from a helicopter and as I lowered, the more I started hearing the helicopter above me, it really is an immersive experience.
Gears of War is a third-person action shooter and the gameplay really is the bread and butter of the series. I can confirm that the formula is still intact with a few additions that never distract from the core gameplay. If I had one complaint, it would be that oddly the game felt a bit lighter and less weighty than the previous titles. I am not saying it suddenly feels like you are floating, but it is something I noticed and it is a very small nitpick. Everything else about the gameplay is perfect. The characters control smoothly, the weapons pack a punch, and the difficulty feels fair. When I died during the campaign, it was never the game’s fault, it was a mistake I made. I think what really sticks out to me, is the fact you can play the entire campaign with up to 3 people either online or couch co-op. I think the couch co-op option is a big thing missing from games today, and that is not me saying i’m against online multiplayer, I just miss the good old days of friends getting together to play together.
Gears 5 is a worthy addition to the Gears of War franchise. The story and presentation are fantastic, and the gameplay remains amazing. I wasn’t sure if The Coalition would be able to reproduce the Gears of War feel from the previous developer, but I’m happy to say Gears is back and it seems to have matured a bit in both storytelling and gameplay. The campaign is exhilarating, but it’s even better with your friends. I cannot wait for Gears 6.