Halo is the franchise that has been the most associated with the Xbox-brand, but for me, Gears of War has always been my to go to game throughout my nine Xbox years. I have every single Gears of War Neca action figure, I have a Gears tattoo on my left leg, all kinds of collectibles and played over two thousand combined hours in the franchise. I live and breathe Gears! After the good but rather safe Gears 4 in 2016, developer The Coalition changed some things up and reinvented the known gameplay mechanics. Pretty sure that sets off some alarm bells for some hardcore Gears-players but there is absolutely no need for any panic, as you will read in this, for LifeisXbox.eu standards, very long review.
What do you do? Gears 5 is a third person shooter with a robust campaign and many different versus or co-op modes. The signature cover shooting mechanics together with the gore visuals make it a very recognisable experience.
- Industry-leading accessibility features: Perhaps the biggest positive thing that can be said about Gears 5, is the accessibility. Deaf people can perfectly play it, you have text to speech and speech to text options, a color blind mode, complete controller remapping and thanks to the Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller almost everyone can enjoy what The Coalition created. I can’t say this enough but it is remarkable how much work and effort went into accessibility.
- Perfect for newcomers: One of the most hand-holding tutorials I ever played welcomes you when you first start Gears 5 and you have a video that covers the entire Gears of War saga. Even if you are well aware of what happened it is still an awesome way to see how much Gears has changed over the years. So I really suggest you watch this recap video! Anyway, it is overly obvious that The Coalition is counting on MANY new Gears player (Hello Xbox Game Pass) and luckily those players have the tools to catch up fast and understand how to play this third-person shooter.
- Jack: Your flying drone friend brings some big changes to the good old combat from Gears. Jack allows you to stun enemies, make you invisible for a short time, give you extra armor and much more. It opens up the combat in such a way that it becomes far less repetitive than previous Gears games. Exploring the much bigger environments is encouraged too, as you can find components that improve the abilities of Jack. Yeah… some small RPG elements in Gears, who would have thought that?
- Spectacular visuals and performance: Best looking Xbox One X game, without a doubt. It is insane how much detail and visually impressive moments The Coalition created for Gears 5, all with 60FPS in the campaign and the multiplayer modes. Honestly, my jaw dropped on multiple occasions while playing the campaign, right in the beginning you start in a lush environment and you immediately notice that the game has other colors besides brown now.. the game switches from impressive jungle settings to big massive open ice or sand environments. What really sets Gears 5 apart is the lighting system that can create such bone-chilling atmospheres that bring many horror-like moments. what I found really surprising was the overall love for details, while going through houses or COG facilities things really look realistic. Another thing that is worth mentioning and I honestly don’t get the wizard work behind it, but walking through the snow or using the Skiff vehicle creates a trail that doesn’t disappear. It is a silly thing to notice but I have never seen anything like that. I was doing a medium-sized optional quest (yes, that’s a thing now) that took around 20 minutes, when I came back to the Skiff I noticed the trails that I made previously… I am not kidding you that my jaw literally dropped. I can’t say this enough but all of that with a performance that never noticeably struggles or anything. This is running with a dynamic resolution (most of the times 4K) with consistent 60FPS on Xbox One X and a locked 30 FPS with 1080p (720p in some parts) on the normal Xbox One.
- Satisfying gunplay and impactful melee: Arguably a worthy discussion but for me Gears 5 has the best weapon and melee mechanics in any shooter game. All weapons feel completely different with weight, feedback, and recoil. The good old perfect reload function stays rewarding and the new weapons that are introduced in Gears 5 totally fit the world.
- The skiff and exploration of the brand new open-world mechanics: Gears has always been known as a corridor shooter, in other words, narrow places with only a few small-sized open places. So imagine my surprise that Gears 5 has two pretty large open-world places with sub-quests and stuff to explore. In these sections, you travel with a vehicle called “the Skiff” controlling it feels very natural and bring something entirely new to the Gears-franchise. Here you’ll come across a few side-missions that you don’t have to finish but you are rewarded greatly with components for Jack. More important they don’t feel like unnecessary filler, they are honestly really fun to play!
- Insane amount of content: I know a few games with more content. A campaign that lasts for about 15 hours, collecting and finding everything takes even longer. An addictive co-op Horde mode, the new Escape mode and all the competitive Versus modes. Not to mention the map-builder and Tour of Duty progression system. (I’m pretty sure that not even a Snatcher can have all that content in its stomach.) Gears 5 truly is a rich-featured filled game meant to last for years.
- Characters: The way how Kait’s background story is told and how it influences the game is really impressive. You really have no idea what is happening at some very spooky fragments, the mystery and how it is implemented at some crucial points in the game is really something memorable. Not only Kait but the entire character roster is well designed and a huge step-up from Gears of War 4. You start to care for them, you start to hate them… and that’s when you know that the developer did a good job.
- Sound: Gears always had a distinct sound, for example, the guitar rif when you cleared all enemies or the brutal and animal-like growl from the Locust. With Dolby Atmos the sound is so highly detailed and bombastic, I never experienced something similar and it friggin incredible. Especially the new Lancer Grenade Launcher.. it gives you the best eargasm that you can get. Not to worry though, even without Atmos the sound is still very good. Just as the visuals it is simply an example in the gaming scene.
- (online) Co-op Mode “Escape” with map-builder: This mode was announced at E3 2019 and brings something entirely different to the Gears franchise. You and two others let themself get captured by a Snatcher. In case you don’t know them, a Snatcher can hold humans inside their stomach. They kidnap people and bring them to a hive to turn them into Juvie’s, another enemy type in Gears. What the Snatcher doesn’t know is that you wear a special mask so you don’t fall unconscious. Once inside the hive you place a poison gas bomb and try to escape the hive as soon as possible with limited ammo and guns. The time pressure, low resources, and unique level set-up make it a thrilling experience to play with friends or strangers. Every week a new Hive map is released and the community can also make Escape levels.
- Map-builder: Because players can make Escape levels the content is almost endless, it is fairly easy but a little time-consuming to make levels yourself. You can’t really change how things look but you connect specific points together and place enemies, weapons or power-ups. It is surprising to see the outcomes and is a BIG addition for co-op players, something Gears is already famous for.
- (online) Always been hardcore now casuals can play too: It is something you hear from many Gears-haters… the famous (but lovely) Gnasher is a reason why some people don’t like to play the online from Gears. NOTHING HAS CHANGED for us hardcore players but The Coalition made a brand new mode called Arcade. Much more aimed for the casual players and more importantly, the standard Gnasher/Lancer combo isn’t present. Weapons depend on what character you pick and that’s either a Lancer, Hammerburst or the Enforcer SMG. By doing eliminations you get skulls and with these earned skulls you can buy the special weapons that you would normally expect to find on the timed ground locations. It works wonderfully and keeps the hardcore and casual player base perfectly happy.
- (online) Horde 4.0: Many people’s favorite is the Horde mode and The Coalition did some revamping, for the better! The basic idea isn’t any different, surviving waves until you reach wave 50. After every 10 a boss fight pops up and you and four other squad members will have to work together defeating everything while surviving. Besides the stuff we’re already familiar with, for example, the class roles, Horde 4.0 introduces two big changes. Character-based abilities and power taps that appear after surviving enough waves. Getting these power taps up and running is important to receive enough power to keep your fortifications up and improving your character. So the risk management between leaving your base to protect a power tap all has an effect on gameplay, making this new Horde so much more fun and challenging.
- (online) Tour of Duty: Gears 5 has a new progression system besides the regular level 1-100 level ranking. This is called Tour of Duty, each season lasts three months and the higher the rank the more character and weapon skins, expressions or banners you receive. Gaining new Tour of Duty rankings is done by completing three challenges a day that will force you to play a little bit different than you are used too. It naturally lets you play different modes too, keeping it fresh. Some challenge examples are finishing 35 Horde waves, getting 30 kills with a specific character, escaping three times in Escape and so on. You also have longer medal objectives that don’t change after 12 hours, for example doing 10 million damage, killing 1000 enemies, etc.. Important to know is that every new Tour of Duty season comes with brand new rewards, characters, and levels. Keeping players motivated to start Gears again with each new season. And with Xbox Game Pass that seems like a great idea.
- Difficulty spikes in the campaign: To say it in food terms, sometimes you are making an easy sandwich with cheese and a minute later you have to make a perfectly baked Moelleux au chocolat. The difficulty is all over the place, especially at a particular boss fight or big open battles. Is this a bad thing? Not per se, but it can be a little frustrating for people who aren’t used to the challenge. Thing is, thanks to Jack Gears is a lot less challenging anyway, as you can just continue to use the stun-ability, to give an example. It gives you much more strategic options but at the same time lowers the difficulty quite a while.
- (online) Horde mode doesn’t have any explanations: While you start to figure it out by yourself, I did find it weird that the skills cards aren’t introduced with a tutorial. Upgrading and selecting skill cards are actually pretty well hidden after not two but FOUR different menu’s.
- Story waters down near the ending: It starts out strong with some strong emotional moments but near the ending or even the last two chapters things don’t really take players attention anymore. Which is a damn shame because the storytelling and character development in the first two acts is really fantastic. Same thing with the questionable ending, it honestly gave me a Halo 2 ending feeling.
- Few bugs: I would have given Gears 5 a 100% if it didn’t have some annoying bugs. For example, playing in Horde the attack function stops working for Jack after you sometimes take over an enemy. Campaign events don’t pop up meaning you have to restart and at launch, there were a lot of progression and server-based issues (those are pretty much solved now)
Score: 97% Gears 5 is sensational. It is the best Gears game in the franchise and gives players so much content. A robust and fun campaign, many co-op options and competitive online modes that can be played by casuals and hardcore players. It looks unbelievable, it sounds unbelievable and it plays unbelievable. The Coalition delivered something so great that they are unbelievable too. Please buy Gears 5, right now.