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Gears 5 - Single Player Campaign - Xbox One and PC Review

Kait Diaz is in search for answers about the origins of her family and the Locust Horde that has left the planet in chaos.

Sep 09, 2019

Gears 5 - Single Player Campaign - Xbox One and PC Review - Reviewed by Kidzworld on Sep 09, 2019
( Rating: 5 Star Rating)

After the great potential set up by Gears of War 4, Xbox and The Coalition took full advantage and we now have a new contender for one of the best Xbox games this generation. Check out Kidzworld’s review of Gears 5 on Xbox One.

By: Noah Friscopp

Warning: This is a review of a game rated M for Mature

I have always loved Gears, the series has stood as one of the pillars of the Xbox since the first game released in 2006. However, in the last few years, there have been some missteps. First, there was Gears of War: Judgment, the final game to come out of Epic Games (recently responsible for Fortnite) that received mediocre reviews. Gears of War 4 was handled by a new studio, The Coalition, that was formed by Microsoft specifically to tackle the Gears series. Both of these games had something in common. The stellar cover-based gameplay the series was known for was there, but neither of them hit the lofty heights of the first three games. 4, though, set up an interesting twist at the end of its campaign where the identity of one of its characters, Kait Diaz was put into question, and the fate of the world was placed in the balance. Gears 5 picks up where that revelation left off, and I am happy to report that what follows is not only one of the best games in the series but an absolute must-play for Xbox fans.

Personal Stakes

Though the main character you’ll play as for most of the game is Kait Diaz, you start off as JD Fenix, the protagonist of the last game and son of series hero Marcus Fenix. In Gears of War 4, the new generation of characters had their moments of quippy dialogue and proved themselves capable warriors, Gears 5 is where they finally feel like fully formed characters. They all have a more easily defined personality and are given challenges throughout the story that they all must come to terms with. The original Gears trilogy was great at this. Every member of Delta Squad had a unique personality, and things happened to them that grounded them in an otherwise ridiculous story about monsters from underground invading the planet. This time though, the military organization that they belong to, the COG, is at the center of these conflicts. You spend much of Gears of War 4 battling against the robotic forces of the COG and get a glimpse at how people on the outside dislike how they handle things. JD, Kait, and Del have since re-enlisted in the army and now get to see firsthand the reasons for this and uncover some secrets the COG wished stayed buried.

Kait and Marcus grow closer in this gameKait and Marcus grow closer in this game

I never really thought about the morality of the COG in the original trilogy because of the shared threat of the Locust, but now that you see the opinions of others in the world, I feel like their motivations are entirely put into question and I love it. Kait is thrust into a search for answers about her own destiny that leads her learning about both herself and the origins of the Locust Horde. Characters old and new make a return and show up for the first time. One of the new characters is Fahz, a brash soldier that makes his debut here. I found myself enjoying the wit and cocky attitude more throughout the game, which is something Gears of War 4 never really did for me. I never felt like my opinion of the characters changed much, but here everyone has some sort of trials to go through and story arcs to progress. The old guard of Delta Squad returns, with Marcus Fenix, Damon Baird, Cole Train, and even Gears 3’s Clayton Carmine all getting enough time to shine while still allowing for the new generation to take the reigns. Cole, as usual, steals the show in several scenes, and his one-liners put a big smile on my face once again. This game has some legitimately heart-pounding moments, and I felt myself grinning ear to ear during certain sections due to them feeling so uniquely Gears. The Coalition has managed to revive the feeling that made the first three games so memorable, and by the end, I was on the absolute edge of my seat watching how it unfolded with a real emotional weight carrying the narrative. The characters and storytelling of Gears 5 stand toe to toe with the best of the series, and some of the later scenes were devastating in the best way.

Fahz and Cole are soldiers from two different erasFahz and Cole are soldiers from two different eras

Combat and Enemy Types

The combat in Gears 5 is better than it has ever been, with weapons all feeling fine-tuned to perfection. With every Gears game, it seems like the speed at which the projectiles travel gets faster and faster, but it works here. The Boltok pistol and Markza rifle were my favorites of the returning weapons, and the new Lancer Grenade Launcher variant gave the original a run for its money. I think the only weapon I preferred an older games’ version to was the original Lancer, as here it just feels a little too precise and lacks the meaty feel that makes the weapon one of the most iconic in video games. The environment plays a huge role in combat as well, with the ability to use it to your advantage playing a more significant part in your success than ever before. Shooting the ice underneath an enemy and watching them fall into the frozen water never got old in Act 2, for example. The interactivity with the environment is another way Gears 5 makes the world around you feel more real. The Swarm returns as the main enemies of the game but unlike Gears of War 4 where the variety of enemies you face seemed to pale in comparison to the Locust Horde. The Swarm feels like a fully developed threat with new enemy types, new weapons, and a new sense of purpose that I won’t spoil.

The Swarm finally feels like a worthy enemy to succeed the LocustThe Swarm finally feels like a worthy enemy to succeed the Locust

Fighting The Swarm in Gears 5 is finally as fun as it had the potential to be. Juvies, the small and agile types run at you in huge numbers, and some even have explosives strapped to them like the Tickers of the original games. Grenadiers, shotgun-wielding Drones march forward toward you and soak up damage with their heavy armor. Elite Hunters hang back and try to pin explosives to you with their Torque Bows all while lobbing smoke grenades to keep your vision obscured (these guys are a real pain). These are just some of the new enemy types, but they keep you on your toes and firefights stay interesting throughout the entire campaign. The only downside to this is that it seems like these new Swarm are very grenade and explosives-happy, and you can be killed over and over again due to Frag Grenade or Drop-Shot rounds that you didn’t see or hear coming until it is too late. The COG’s DeeBees return but with a twist. The Swarm have taken over the machines and twisted them to their own will, making DeeBee-Swarm abominations that need to be dispatched quickly. Bastions are flying enemies that shield bigger units like the Mulcher-wielding Swarm that you'll want to take out as soon as possible. Stumps are enormous masses of metal and Swarm that blast at you with it’s mounted machine gun, and Rejects are the result of the basic DeeBees being infected. You’ll encounter these in large numbers, but luckily you can usually take them down quietly, which you usually wouldn’t associate with Gears. The option of stealth gameplay is just one of the ways that Gears 5 looks to set itself apart.

Some combat encounters can be completed without ever firing a single shot, thanks to new melee takedowns and the invisibility power-up you get later in the game. It feels very satisfying to clear out a group of enemies without having to resort to full-on combat every so often. This is just one of the ways the game feels continuously fresh and engaging even though it is the longest Gears campaign to date. The handful of boss battles you’ll engage with could be frustrating at times, at least on the “Experienced” difficulty. Unlike Gears of War 4 where your AI teammates would rush to your aid when you were taken out of the fight, it seems like in Gears 5 your partners get distracted by every single thing and often get over to revive you when it is too late. I can’t count how many times I was downed right next to a teammate and watched as they seemingly ignored my pain until the absolute last second, or not at all. It can definitely be frustrating at times, so maybe consider Normal difficulty for your first playthrough.

The stakes have been raised for Kait and the other GearsThe stakes have been raised for Kait and the other Gears

A New Direction

The game begins as fans would expect, very linear and full of heart-pounding action. However, at the heart of Gears 5 is a huge shift in direction for the series. Inspired by the recent Tomb Raider games and PlayStation’s God of War, Gears 5 sends you out to large but guided environments that you can explore at your leisure. While exploring, you’re given a Skiff, a wind-powered vehicle that holds the exploration together. If the Skiff wasn’t fun to use, setting off through Sera’s wilderness would probably get stale fast, but luckily I found the Skiff to be one of the most enjoyable vehicles to control in recent memory. It is fast, capable of launching you off of jumps, and you can even store up to two weapons on it. I was sad when I had carried a heavy Tri-Shot weapon back with me from a mission knowing I would have to get rid of it, only to be delighted to find out I could store it on the vehicle for later. Gears 5 goes out of its way to tell the player “yes” more than ever before. There was very little friction throughout the entire experience, and as such, I had never felt more immersed in Sera.

Driving the Skiff is a blastDriving the Skiff is a blast

Gears of War’s unique style of architecture and vistas has always felt specific to Gears’ world. Exploring abandoned camps, settlements, and other places of interest, all while collecting new and interesting collectibles that flesh out the story give the locations you find yourself in the sense of being lived-in and real. While exploring, you can complete side missions that unlock new, powerful upgrades for Jack, your robot companion that you’ll be upgrading with new skills and abilities throughout the game. Robot companions are no new thing for Gears, but this time it plays a central role in the gameplay, as you are collecting components found in the levels to upgrade features that are genuinely useful in combat and exploration that can be switched between and deployed at will. From identifying enemies to a brief armor boost, invisibility, and more, Jack can mean the difference between life and death. He interacts with objects, is used to solve puzzles, and can even be played as in co-op. The side missions are a nice change of pace from the rest of the game and throw you into encounters that might not have fit in with the story otherwise. The little stories they tell, and the banter you get while doing them would have been worth it on its own, but the upgrades they bring are extremely powerful so be sure to scour the map for all of them. Luckily, there aren’t too many of them for it to be monotonous, just the right amount to encourage exploring off the beaten path.

Exploring Sera make the action feel more impactful when it happens, but there is still a lot of itExploring Sera make the action feel more impactful when it happens, but there is still a lot of it

Final Thoughts

Gears 5’s campaign feels like the perfect balance of a superb return to form and innovation to carry the series into the next generation. It takes the storytelling potential set up by Gears of War 4 and runs with it, all while giving the new cast of characters meaningful depth and conflicts to overcome. The world of Sera feels more lived-in than ever, and lingering questions that have surrounded the series are answered in satisfying ways. The gameplay is better than it has ever been, and while the AI teammates can lead to some frustration, it is the most balanced campaign experience to date. I am anxious to see what happens next. 

Pros

  • Stellar Gameplay Variety
  • Impactful Story
  • Semi-Open World Levels

Cons

  • Unhelpful AI Teammates
  • Some Frustrating Combat Encounters

Gears 5 Video Game Rating: 5

Available now for Xbox One and PC

Share Your Thoughts

Does Gears 5 look like a return to form for the series? Or have the new elements gone too far? Let us know below!