We’re going back to war. Well, not really. Xbox Game Studios and The Coalition are taking us back to the Gears franchise but dropping the “of War” portion of the title and simply offering us Gears 5. But will this completely change the scope of the game to detrimental degrees? Not in the least.
What Is It?
Gears 5 picks up Kait’s storyline and her connection to the Locust.
When things first kick off, we find JD, Del, and Kait have been reinstated into the COG as the new Delta Squad, with the old Delta Squad providing leadership support. Being back in the COG presents a wider array of characters and background storylines, with glimpses that being COG again can cause political issues. That never really plays out.
Ultimately, JD makes some horrible decisions in one particularly nasty battle with Locust. This results in major trust issues and a time jump, which puts us into the boots of Kait. From here, she sets off with Del under the protective eye of Marcus to determine the extent of the Locust threat and just how much she’s connected to it all.
Why Should I Care?
Gears 5 goes well beyond its story with a solid selection of multiplayer, which it does a lot of work to remind you of, but let’s stick with feedback on the story. Overall, it’s more than solid but gets undercut by its own need to be a transition to the next game.
The campaign has an enjoyably large scope to it and what helps is the shift to Kait. I found her to not only be a much improved character, but a better lead than JD in Gears 4. Her story will drag at time early on while it deals with repetitive issues of her headaches and visions, which mimics 4’s issues with “are the Locust really an issue” drags. But ultimately, she’s a solid lead and the stakes are higher. It also carries two other enjoyable areas: light RPG elements and side missions. The RPG elements come into play to improve different Jack abilities (a new one!) that really help the combat in the campaign and parts of the multiplayer. Completing side missions also pays off with Jack upgrades. They’re generally worth the time, too, by offering solid challenges, but can throw off pacing when you have to travel large distances in some maps.
However, the end. That’s where things aren’t so hot for Gears 5. The story goes from compact and nicely told to an unraveled game that’s only interested in getting you to the next game to tell its conclusion. It ends abruptly and banks far too much on an unnecessary major death to build stakes and leave you feeling shocked. They were high enough without it and I really don’t feel like the story was better served with the choice you need to make. Additionally, I felt they could have at least wrapped up more of Kait’s story before letting things settle more into the overall threat, even if she’s inherently connected. It’s unfortunate because the game was so enjoyable until the final act.
Beyond it, there’s plenty of multiplayer to be had, featuring a great new addition in Escape mode. It’s a three-person co-op mode that is effectively a hybrid of Horde and campaign set in a pre-built map or customized selections. You’ll work together to escape from a poisonous gas leak threatening to blow up your location while you’re being hunted by a variety of Locust. Like Horde, you can choose to fight and eliminate the Locust, but you risk the gas catching up with you. Additionally, resources are rare, so melee attacks are a recommended go-to. It’s fun and involves a different level of strategy and won’t necessarily drag like Horde can with its 50 levels.
Escape, Horde, and Ranked Versus will roll fairly deep with customization and skill cards. Character classes play a bigger role in 5, especially in Horde. At times, you’re limited to who you can play as for the sake of not duplicating class types but not to completely balance out teams with a heavy, balanced, and maintenance (Jack is pretty much the maintenance in Horde and is incredibly important). It’s easy to spend a lot of time building up Skill cards, tinkering with customizations, building custom games and maps, and all of the past expectations of Gears quality with updates that enjoyably pay off. But if you want a more accessible, quick way of enjoying multiplayer, Arcade is another great addition to serve that purpose. You forego some of the heavier customizations, like Skill cards, but that’s replaced with Skulls that can help you improve abilities during your session.
What Makes it Worth My Time and Money?
I don’t know if I’d call the decisions and direction of this game dicey. Sure, it takes some chances, but I feel like they’re reasonable and push the series in a positive direction after a generally acceptable Gears 4. And overall, things really pay off for the game. Gears 5’s biggest successes lie in shifting the story’s focus to Kait, expanding elements of the campaign, and adding new options like Escape to multiplayer. These are the things that can really help keep you engaged without, even with some of the issues that can drag the story in particular. It’s a good package and certainly worth your time.