“Sixth Time’s A Charm” — A Gears 5 (Review) Xbox One

“Sixth Time’s A Charm” — A Gears 5 (Review) Xbox One
Review Score:

For games that end up being a popular series (Halo, Deadrising, Resident Evil; take your pick), you often find yourself wondering after the first few installments or so, what could possibly happen the next time around.  Am I right?  So then it should come as no surprise that as one of gaming’s very highly acclaimed sagas, Gears 5 from developer The Coalition and publisher Xbox Game Studios, is even bigger than ever, complete with a plethora of features and thrilling game modes, plus not to mention the deepest campaign yet.

Before cutting into the campaign and multiplayer — oh, did I mention multiplayer? — meat of the game, let’s discuss some of what GOW5 is featuring, shall we?

Three-player ‘Campaign’ co-op:  In this mode, you can battle alongside your friends, either in three-player online or split-screen co-op.

“Tour of Duty”:  Here, you can rank up from new recruit to four-star general, in what is basically GOW5’s version of a Battle Pass.  Take on new and exciting challenges, earn awesome rewards, and show off your loot.

“Boot Camp”:  If you’re new to the series or are a bit rusty, then this mode is a decent, fun way to learn the ropes, from the basic stuff to more advanced combat techniques.

Able to play as Jack:  Another option for Gears’ newcomers is the ability to play as Jack, who is your personal flying support bot that can protect allies and damage enemies.

Graphic masterpiece:  For all you fortunate Xbox One X owners out there, yes – you can play every mode in 4K and HDR at a smooth 60 fps.

Out of all of these offerings though, “Tour Of Duty” is what intrigued me the most.  It’s a grind-heavy system, where you’re given three objectives to complete per day, that each one offers a certain number of stars. The objectives themselves are often nothing to laugh at — like say, having to kill 90 Drone Elites — but are still obtainable overall, within a few hours of playtime or so. As an added bonus, you have the option to swap a hard objective out for a random one; just keep in mind though the more you do this, the more Iron (GOW5’s in-game currency) it will cost you.  The progression here seems o.k. and all, but the honeymoon novelty of it lasts for only a little while, since you only get three challenges per day. You can’t spend a day of blazing through them to earn your stars.

Just as in typical battle pass fashion, once you earn enough stars to move up a rank, you collect that rank’s reward and then move on to the next one.  Unfortunately, however, these rewards are rather disappointing. As you move up through the first eight ranks, you get a salute emote, bloodsprays, and banners.  And then when you reach Sergeant III rank, you get Fahz’s skin — the one of him in desert armor, from campaign mode.  While that may sound awesome at first, bear in mind that this isn’t a totally new skin or anything; just a recycled skin from the campaign.

The biggest kicker with all of this though, is how it remains true to all the rewards in GOW5’s “Tour Of Duty” offerings.  There’s plenty of banners; recycled campaign skins; some new executions that you can’t preview; basic emotes; bloodsprays (a notable few that are actually any better than the ones you start with); and a whole whopping total of 500 Iron, which isn’t even enough to buy one single skin from the store.

In a nutshell, I feel that the whole microtransaction system here feels like more of a mess than anything else.  The rewards in GOW5’s first “Tour of Duty” just don’t match the crazy amount of time that would need to be spent to earn them all.  Plus, the items that are only obtainable in the store, just don’t feel special enough to justify spending $10 a pop on a game that costs around $60 or more right off the bat.  But I can’t say too much — I’ve done my fair share and then some on micro-transaction stuff before.  So I’ll just say to each his own in that respect.

Now let’s get back to what I mentioned a good ways back, about the game’s campaign and multiplayer modes, starting with the campaign first. It’s an entertaining romp through Sera’s unseen landscapes. You initially start out as JD, who is Marcus Fenix’s generic soldier son. Then for the majority of the time you play as the impressive Kait, who seems to be the unlucky recipient of a monstrous migraine, caused by her Locust heritage. As a result, we’re treated to one hell of a campaign here, with a story of a journey so compelling that Gears hasn’t really seen since Dom and Marcus were headlining the series.

The third-person action has been on a slow and steady pace from one entry to the next. In GOW5, the bulk of “So what’s new?” flows through Jack, who just so happens to be your floating support robot.  He can do certain things, such as snag weapons from the battlefield and unlock safes for you, among other actions.  On top of that, you’ll earn new abilities for him to use in combat, such as reviving you and your comrades when you’re down, cloaking you, and much more.  Upgrades are scattered all over the place, so you can choose to specialize in one or two areas, or have a little bit of everything.

Speaking of all things combat-related, it still feels mighty good. GOW5 does an awesome job of balancing old weaponry with new goodies — GOW4’s Overkill shotgun makes a return, packing a punch along with it, classics like the Mulcher and Longshot are still around to lay waste to the opposition, and new toys (such as the Claw) have a unique feel to them, but fit in nicely. And yes, the mighty Lancer is still present, to help satisfy those “chainsaw bad guys in half” urges.

Simply put, GOW5’s combat is reliable fun. Sure you have the cutscenes and gritty story, but it’s that addition of Jack that allows you to fight in ways that were once impossible. On harder difficulties, he’s fun and indispensable. You’ll definitely want to do all the side quests, because they will unlock the ultimate versions of your super powers.

One last thing worth noting in GOW5’s campaign is the open structure of the middle two acts — you get to cruise the area on your Skiff, with the freedom to take on optional secondary objectives. As a rule, your rewards tend to be Jack upgrades, so they’re certainly worth doing. This is a nice change of pace for the game, and the multiple varied boss fights help make it feel fresh throughout.

Aside from GOW5’s stellar story of a campaign mode, there’s also multiplayer to dive into, which consists of Versus (Classic, Ranked, and Arcade), Horde, and Escape.  In “Versus”, it’s all about ‘may the best team win’ and rewards for every type of competitive playing style, from casual to pro.  In “Horde”, it’s up to you and four friends to endure waves of ever-stronger enemies and bosses. The key to survival here is by using new hero abilities, leveling up skills, building defenses, collecting power, and of course teamwork. And in “Escape”, the premise is to escape the Hive, all the while outsmarting the Swarm and outrunning the bomb in the process. This mode in particular is new and very aggressive, featuring a 3-player co-op squad that has no choice but to work together in order to eliminate the enemy hives from within and survive.

Out of everything that was awesome in GOW5’s multiplayer modes, I felt that “Arcade” was the definite standout in Versus — while certainly chaotic in nature, this new mode is also more casual.  Instead of starting players with the standard loadout (Lancer/Gnasher), you’re given a weapon arsenal based on whatever character you’re using, which can be changed at any point between deaths during a match.  And don’t be expecting to see premium weapons scattered about on the map with a timer attached to them or anything, either.  Instead, you get to buy special weapons and equipment with skulls, which you earn by killing enemies. You can even get one if you happen to die a lot.  As an added bonus (while we’re briefly on the topic of dying here), your skulls persist through death too, thus giving folks a chance to get some fun equipment, especially those who aren’t exactly the greatest at getting consecutive kills.

(Kinda-Sorta Related Side Note:  if you’re new to the Gears’ series or are bringing a new friend in, there’s a lobby that’s for co-op Versus against bots.  That way, people can ease themselves into competitive play, instead of just diving headfirst into the lions’ den.)

To sum this all up, for me to say that GOW5 is an excellent third-person action title, is a major understatement. This series in particular never really missed a step, even when development changed hands from Epic to The Coalition. What caught me off guard though, was just how well and effective the game’s campaign was done, for being so focused on character and filled with consequence. Include all of that, plus a hard-hitter of a multiplayer line-up, and you have yourself one hell of a game.

Sean Boley
Platform:  Xbox One
Publisher:  Xbox Game Studios
Developer:  The Coalition
ESRB:  Mature 17+
Price:  $30 (Standard) / $80 (Ultimate)

Gear 5’s Official Website: https://www.gears5.com/

Review Score
Graphicswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Awesome visuals galore.
Soundwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
More than enough for the ol' eardrums!
Gameplaywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
New stuff meets old stuff, and crammed with fun.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
An amazing entry for this iconic series; you can't pass this up.
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