Review | Gears 5 is one of the best Xbox One exclusives.

After the release of Gears of War: Judgment in 2013, it seemed that the Gears series was on its way to its retirement. Judgment was a great game, but did not reach the heights of the original trilogy. After the unveiling of Gears of War 4, the question arose whether there was still room in the current shooter genre for the once influential third-person shooter. Whereas The Coalition with Gears of War 4 was especially safe in the footsteps of Epic Games, it is now taking big leaps forward with Gears 5.

Obviously, taking on a much-loved franchise and introducing new characters, stories and gameplay elements is a tough and risky task, while the old school fans still covers the bulk of the community. For example, many thought the new protagonists from Gears of War 4 could not match the old Delta Squad. Gears 5, however, shows that Kait, Del and JD are indeed worthy successors to the heroes from the original trilogy. This time, the game does not have to have a set of new weapons and enemies, but rather a story that holds us in its tight grip from start to finish.

This is mainly due to the main characters who come into their own in Gears 5 much better than in part four. The driving force behind this story is Kait, who made a shocking discovery at the end of the previous part, causing her to be confused in Gears 5. Even before we get to work with the heroine, we step into the skin of JD Fenix, who still has a respectful admiration for his dad, Marcus. JD is all too aware of the fact that his father has meant a lot to mankind and that leaves him constantly trying to prove himself on the battlefield, much to Marcus’s annoyance. This heroic attitude leads to a catastrophic event, which unfortunately results in difficulties within Delta Squad.

This event leads us to the moment when we finally get Kait under our control. That is also the moment when Gears 5 for the first time breaks with the linear gameplay we all know and places us in atmospheric open-world areas in which we can look for missions ourselves. So we no longer have static battles to be allowed to proceed to the next checkpoint, but cross beautiful environments such as the snowy area around Mount Kadar and a desert-like area in the UIR on our skiff, a kind of sled-type vehicle. These small open worlds are limited to the two middle acts. Apart from a handful of main missions and optional side missions where you earn upgrades for veteran Jack, there is not much to do in these areas, but Gears 5’s experience of traveling from mission to mission graces itself primarily due to the interaction between the different characters during these treks are deepened.

So now it is mainly in those conversations between main characters, which gives the story a certain impact more than ever before in the series. For example, Kait and Del reflect on the history that is (not) told by the COG, their friendship with JD and whether they are on the right path themselves. They also try to put recent events in perspective. One of these recent events is the increased intelligence of The Swarm. This is not only referred to as a narrative, but also during the firefights we see that The Swarm has become much more agile, looks up confrontation and makes it increasingly difficult for the player to hide behind a crumbling wall. In short, artificial intelligence has noticeably improved since part four and requires more tactical insight than before, which greatly benefits the gameplay.

You’ll get those tactical possibilities in the form of Jack, because the gunfights becomes a lot more dynamic thanks to a number of clever adjustments to our mechanical handler. For example, Jack can now scan the area to spot enemies, regularly attack enemies, pick up command weapons and ammunition, or temporarily generate an energy shield for the player to ward off bullets. It is these types of small adjustments that, for the first time in years, give a fresh feel to the franchise.

Especially in the first and the last act there are certain scenes that will blow you over in terms of intense fighting. Gears 5 starts to go full throttle early in the game and won’t let you go until the abrupt end. Without giving away too much about the story, it seemed as if defeating the final boss was just the beginning of another act. Although the single player of Gears 5 is considerably longer than that of Gears 4, it still feels like the story is ending too quickly. However, it does not mean that I still enjoyed it immensely.

The fact that the single player campaign is so impressive does not mean that the multiplayer is subordinate to this. The multiplayer is again very strong and has largely remained unchanged. The launch of the game unfortunately brought some server problems, but in the days that followed I hardly noticed anything. Versus again consists of an arcade mode in which two teams of five compete against each other in different game modes. New to this mode is the ability to earn points during game play to unlock weapons. An important difference with the ranked mode is that the Gnasher shotgun has been removed. In addition, you playfully unlock certain skills, such as the ability to run a little faster or extra health. This makes it easier for newcomers in particular to master the game before competing against each other in Ranked mode.

The latest showpiece of the multiplayer is the Escape mode, in which a team of three players has to free themselves from a base occupied by the Swarm, which is slowly filling up with poisoned gas. The feeling that you are being chased by this gas ensures that the tension during a game of Escape is good and nerve wrecking. It’s therefore important to quickly as possible make short work ¬†with increasingly challenging waves of enemies, while ammunition is scarce. Escape excels especially at higher levels of difficulty. Because ammunition is scarce, it is important to be careful with this and stay close to your teammates. The trick in Escape is mainly to eliminate targeted enemies together before you move forward. However, it is advisable to play this mode with a solid party, since players often tend to leave the game as it gets harder.

Everything indicates that The Coalition dares to leave its permanent mark on the series. Where Gears of War 4 remained as close as possible to the essence of the series, the developer in Gears 5 implements the necessary innovations that makes Gears interesting for both fans and newcomers. The iconic gameplay has remained intact, but is now extra layered thanks to the tactical possibilities that Jack brings. In combination with the strong story, this sometimes results in memorable moments that I haven’t experienced in a Gears title since the original trilogy. Add that to the sublime multiplayer and you’ll think of Gears 5 one of the best Xbox One exclusives of recent years.

Score:

9,0

– Server problems during launch.
– Just a few side missions.
– Very abrupt ending.

+ Characters have more depth
+ Compelling story
+ Dynamic firefights that put you on the edge of your seat
+ Extensive multiplayer modes