As the first Q4 releases begin, Gears of War 5 for Xbox One (Gears 5) makes an appearance with some typical GoW action, refined multiplayer and some surprises.
ChartX Games feels that it is important to get real opinions on the games that we feature.
Please let me know in the comments section below whether you enjoyed this game:
- Did you enjoy the open-world sections?
- Was the story up to expectations?
- Are you satisfied with the multiplayer options?
BEFORE READING – Please note that the following review is the opinion of the author based on the expectations of, and experiences from the title, and does not reflect in any way an official public bias of the game, nor does it indicate any personal feelings towards the game’s developer(s) and or publisher.
After a long wait and on the heels of last Autumn’s bevvy of excellent AAA titles such as Marvel’s Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption 2, 2019’s Q4 big-budget games have started to arrive, kicking off with the highly anticipated and much-hyped Gears of War 5 or “Gears 5” as it is being dubbed.
Developed by The Coalition and published by Microsoft Game Studios, Gears 5 is the fifth main installment in a gaming series that probably needs no introduction.
Gears 5 continues the epic tale of the COG Army’s battle with the Locust Army who, over the course of several decades has become the Swarm.
Beginning in Gears of War, the Locust Army first appeared approximately six weeks after an agreed ceasefire between Sera’s (the planet on which the game takes place) two main political factions The Coalition of Ordered Governments and Union of Independent Republics, posing a severe new threat to both parties.
A humanoid-reptilian race native to Sera, the Locust Army wages a horrifying war on the humans of Sera and over 14 years decimates the human population almost to extinction.
However, a last-ditch assault by the COG army on the extensive Locust tunnel network severely cripples the Locust Army’s ranks and ushers in a glimmer of hope for the survival and security of humanity.
The next two adventures of the COG army are focused around many more battles in the devastating war against the Locust Army, who from exposure from a natural Sera-based substance known as Imulsion is being mutated into a species known as the Lambent.
Because of the Lambent’s extreme violence, many Locust are forced to abandon their natural sub-terranean world and move upwards in an effort to claim the surface for themselves in a survival attempt.
More violence ensues across Gears of War 3 as the COG fights many more battles against the Lambent (and is ultimately victorious) while the Locust’s have been forced to band together into scattered settlements across Sera.
Gears of War 4 shifts focus to 25 years after the main campaign of the first three titles, as unbeknown to the COG Army, the scattered bands of Locust have been grouping together to form Swarms.
Gears 5 comes in directly following on from the events of Gears of War 4 where the Swarm has presented themselves as a direct threat to the existence of humanity of Sera.
The Saga Continues
Playing as J.D. and Kait from Gears 4, the story of the Locust origin begins to unfold as we get to traverse the largest portrayal of Sera yet across frozen wastelands, deserts and the inner depths of Sera.
As expected with modern AAA titles of this caliber, from the moment the games begins with the obligatory introduction cut-scenes right into the moment you begin rappel into the abandoned Azura facility, this feels exactly like Gears of War.
A popular technique (and one that I personally love) in today’s big games is how the game’s engine is used in the cut-scenes so as not to ruin the illusory transition from story-telling directed action to player-controlled game-based action, and vice versa; and as one would expect, Gears 5 does this extremely well.
Visually, the game is stunning, as is immediately clear from the mentioned cut-scenes and into the game by way of high-quality textures, extremely smooth animation and the game engine making the most of current generation rendering techniques such as real-time lighting, dynamic shadows and particle effects.
The well-implemented graphics engine lends itself very well to the game’s undertone narrative that highlights the duality of the nature of man and his relationship with the environment.
The game makes a sudden shift from a naturally beautiful, sun-drenched tropical paradise to a dark and abandoned man-made research facility that has taken advantage of planetary resources, and requires the somber blue illumination of an L.E.D. light for you to see.
Accompanied by Marcus from the original Gears of War, while traversing the Labyrinthian research facility Marcus fills you in on some details concerning the events that have previously taken place on Azura at the end of Gears of War 3.
Getting closer to the main objective, the game works to introduce some new features while refreshing veteran players on familiar ones.
A great new feature for the game and one that we might get to see in subsequent installments is the use of a hovering A.I. robot named Dave.
Dave’s main functionality is to grab items that may be out of reach, collect ammo or open doors, very similar to Iden Versio’s backpack droid in Star Wars Battlefront II’s excellent story mode campaign.
Another feature that you will be prompted to use is Dave’s “Pulse” that enables you to briefly see enemies and objectives through walls much in the same way as Marvel’s Spider-Man’s “Spidey Sense” and Red Dead Redemption 2’s Eagle Eye mode.
But fans of the series will be very pleased to know that the extremely popular and now iconic Lancer chainsaw is back, and more horrifyingly beautiful than ever.
The weapon makes great use of both the game engine’s visual and aural rendering system with intense sparks as you cut through some cabling along with the satisfying revs of the saw’s motor.
Speaking of the game’s audio engine, as well as the environment SFX, weapon noise and background sounds, the action-based transitions receive a hefty break into actionable music that bursts into your ears as fighting commences and indeed continues.
Now a common feature in games, making excellent use of action music keeps you focused and alert as the game proceeds to thrust upon you some of the gloriously violent combat that Gears of War is known for.
Getting closer to the target Horde, whatever course of action taken is ultimately up to you. Move-in stealthily, making use of the game’s famous cover system or burst in, guns blazing, as this is war after all.
Whatever you decide, some satisfying gameplay will ensue as Gears 5 brings back some of the thrilling action gameplay typical of a Gears of War title.
That being said, the roughly 14-hour single-player story mode does what Gears does best; run for cover, shoot or chainsaw through many, many enemies.
While all this is done to satisfying effect, the story of the campaign seems to unintentionally hold back the sense of progression that it is trying to achieve by constantly mentioning the past and keeping older characters around.
While I can appreciate that the developers are working to invoke a sense of nostalgia by harkening back to the glory days of Gears of War, I think the new adventure may have been improved by using older parts of the game and the characters to better effect; perhaps featuring them in the opening chapter only.
However, although the story and characters may be a little uneven, there is a very good reason for their use which, without spoiling the game I cannot explain here.
What’s even more uneven is the two contrasting styles of play that are presented in Gears 5.
While the game begins and ends with the classic, linear combat and story progression that GoW is known for, a large segment of the game switches to almost an open-world adventure.
While I am not opposed to an open-world Gears of War game, it doesn’t belong in a Gears of War sequel that promises to be the definitive Gears game yet – which thanks to this well-intended but ultimately un-inspiring and misplaced gameplay segment, it isn’t.
The open-world style gameplay breaks up the story advancement, ripping you from your Gears of War comfort zone so inexplicably that it is hard to forgive.
While I am not stating that the gameplay here isn’t any good, because it is, it feels like a misguided technique to advance the story, which basically ends up being down to the player when to progress.
Thre are typical open-world style objectives strewn about such as side missions that serve to award some actually decent loot, highlight the relationships between characters or shed some light on the lore of Sera’s history.
The open-world areas, however, allow the game to show some of the more interesting points of Sera and take you to places that have been otherwise unseen.
Exploring facilities in the desert for example, for the first time makes Sera feel like an actual planet rather than being defined by a series of battles between warring factions in a linear sequence of events.
While there are some bumps in the road while playing Gears 5, the game in and of itself is well put together and highly polished, as one would expect from a game of this level.
Trying to be two games in one aside, the story is compelling enough to make you want to play through to the end, and the characters along the way are intriguing and well thought out.
Uncovering Kait’s secret and some other surprises along the way make for excellent additions to the already richly detailed Gears lore, while the narrative sets up the series for another installment that, being held up by a truly remarkable ending, should make for another great chapter in one of gaming’s greatest sagas.
Owing to their commitment to modernizing Gears of War to current generation standards and expectations, The Coalition has ensured that all of your online multi-player needs are met.
Gears 5 online modes are what you would expect, but with that excellent layer of fidelity that a AAA studio such as The Coalition is able to utilize and in a true Gears fashion.
Escape, Versus and Horde provide different types of multiplayer gaming that would please even the most hardcore online competitive gamer.
Escape sees three players that must work as a team to defeat the Horde while simultaneously trying to survive a Venom bomb blast that has been planted to take them out.
Work with two other players to blast your way out the Horde lair and to victory. However, rather than frantic “run and gun” tactics, the best strategy is to utilize the strengths of each character.
Stealthily taking out enemies in order to procure weapons and items, for example, is making smarter use of the opportunities available to you, however, you will need to move quickly before the bomb explodes.
Versus on the other hand lets you battle it out against other players while one side plays as COG and the other as the Horde.
Not only does this present a challenge but the more kills you get, the better your upgrades will be as you progress through the battle before being killed.
Better weapons and items ultimately lead to more spectacular kills takedowns that are extremely satisfying in all their gruesome hilarity.
Then, prepare for a Horde mode like never seen before in Gears of War as part of a five-member co-op squad that must takedown fifty waves of an ever-increasing-in-strength Horde army.
Choosing a character and role that suits your particular playing style is key to survival against the Horde – utilizing powerful Ultimate Abilities at key moments in order to secure victory.
Activate Marcus’ headshot ability, Kait’s cloaking ability or J.D’s artillery striking and get the jump on the encroaching Horde advance while increasing perk strength by collecting Power from the battlefield.
The online modes of Gears 5, while aren’t anything new in terms of multiplayer gaming, are excellently designed and implemented in true Gears of War fashion.
As with most online multiplayer games these days, Gears of War has its own virtual currency called “Iron” that is used to purchase in-game cosmetics and items.
GoW’s distinctive play style, level designs, combat mechanics and characters all shine through to extend the life of the game in these brilliant multiplayer modes that will have you playing with friends and indeed online opponents for years to come.
For more information please see the official Gears 5 website: https://www.gears5.com/
Gears 5 is available now for Xbox One, Xbox One X and Windows 10 PC.
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