Gears 5 looks like a new gen game. It is beautifully polished with iconic character models and stunning environments. The voice acting is some of the best I’ve heard in a game in a while. The sounds of the weapons and melee are what makes Gears such a memorable franchise.
I was so ready to experience this beautiful and violent third-person cover shooter. I’ve only played touches of Gears of War games before this and had a lot of fun, but this was my first time diving deep into the much-loved Xbox franchise. I was hoping for a tight narrative with fun and exciting gameplay and didn’t need anything more than that. I was disappointed from the start, though, by the gameplay. After loving Outriders I wanted more of that same style of gameplay, but Gears 5 is a much more monotonous cover shooter, with almost every fight coming down to being as simple as taking cover, shooting, waiting behind that cover to heal. The multiplayer felt alright as human opponents forced me to move more often, and escape mode could be engaging as well do to the constant movement, but the campaign felt static and disappointing.
The Gears 5 campaign is a strange departure from the norm of the series. I was coming in expecting a concise, linear, action-packed zombie shooter and hoping for a good story along the way. The first chapter of the campaign delivered that, but in chapter 2 the game opens up and players get access to a world map that is explorable, full of side quests and collectibles.
I normally would love the idea of an open world shooter with RPG elements, but that is not what I wanted out of Gears, and it did not deliver any great reasons for making this transition. The RGP elements consist only of upgrading my robot companion, which never feels vital in combat anyway. The open-world nature never adds any compelling options to combat either. All combat sequences still feel the same as they did in chapter 1, shooting at repetitive enemies while moving from barrier to barrier in a flat area while taking time out to hide behind the cover and heal or to seldomly move slightly out of the way of an incoming frag.
This is not a looter shooter. And therefore, I never have the desire to search the world for a sweet gold weapon or something. I just want to fight waves of zombies, but unfortunately even when those sequences come, they are monotonous.
There are a variety of multiplayer options in Gears 5. The traditional PVP offers recognizable modes from team death match to capture the flag and gun game. I enjoy the classic round-based matches instead of the instant respawn game modes, but there is plenty to offer for everyone’s tastes. Arcade mode is a PVP addition for more casual audiences that allows for using all of the sweet, big, booming weapons from the campaign which is fun to see. However, there almost seemed to be too many options and I was only able to hop into a “playlist” of rotating game types where it was hard to ever get my footing in any particular scenario.
The PVE modes are what Gears are arguably even more known for. Horde mode is back and as exciting as ever with multiple maps to conquer. The new Escape mode is a new take on PVE for Gears, offering a shorter, faster-paced “Left 4 Dead” type mode with three players running through a hive shooting up enemies while hoping to find stashes of ammo that can run low often. The increased need to move and be aware of resource management while working with teammates makes this game mode memorable.
Of course, Gears 5 campaign can also be played co-operatively. Though, this mode is a little disappointing because of the constrained ability to only play with up to two other players, and even then one will be stuck controlling the robot sidekick Jack.
Gears 5 definitely wants to be experienced with friends, and any number of friends can find fun playing together, with campaign being fun for two players, escape being great for three, horde being best for 4-5 players, and PVP being excellent for any number of teammates. However, on my own or with random players it was hard to get invested in any particular game mode.
I am not invested in the Gears universe, but that shouldn’t have stopped me from caring about the story. However, I couldn’t get into it at all, even with the great voice acting. Part of the problem, I think, was that there was not much storytelling through gameplay or the environment. It was mainly kept to a rigid formula of shooting enemies with a story cutscene to follow, which like other aspects of the game feels a little stuck in the 360 generation. The parts of the story where gameplay was used to tell the story – like when Kate is swallowed by the swarm – are the best moments but they are few and far between.
Gears of War released in 2006, and at the time it was innovative with the tightest cover system seen in shooting games, innovative ideas like active reload, unique game modes like horde, and a crazy, blood-soaked, muscle-filled ascetic that looked unlike anything out at the time. Playing Gears 5 fifteen years later and we have more innovation with escape mode and open-world sections, but overall, it seems like a relic of the past. I don’t need this much blood, gore, and muscle in my shooters anymore. I do need more than just a standard cover system to keep me engaged in combat. And it may be controversial to say, but I don’t need this many game modes.
In 2021 games are tightening up and focusing on one experience. Fortnite, the biggest game there is only offers Battle Royale. Battlefield is releasing this fall and will only offer multiplayer. Outriders focused on its PVE campaign and forgoes PVP multiplayer. Meanwhile PlayStation has grown to focus on single-player third-person adventures.
In a world with so many games and with games being more affordable than ever, especially with Game Pass, there is no need for a game to be come with the weight of so many game modes that need to be supported. If there is a specific game type I want to play I can find one somewhere that does it better than Gears 5.
Gears 5 is beautiful and offers a loud, violent experience in a large variety of game modes. I feel like it is weighed down by all of these game modes and fails to offer a top-tier experience in any individual area. With dated and monotonous cover combat and a half-measure open-world campaign, there is not much to keep me wanting to play. The game is definitely made to be experienced with friends, and even there is no singular mode that would draw me in to playing Gears 5 over another PVP or PVE experience. In many ways this game is a relic from another age, and with all of its AAA appeal in graphics and voice acting, it is lacking in a tight focus on any aspect of gameplay that would keep me playing.
Exciting multiplayer modes
Impressive voice acting and sounds
Lacking focus on any individual game mode
Monotonous cover shooting gameplay