- This review contains spoilers.
Gears 5 is more Gears through and through. The action itself plays just like the other 4 (technically 5) installments of the franchise. Get behind cover, take out waves of enemies, wait for the gong and you know the combat arena is over. Where this game separates itself from its predecessors is in the story, character development, and open-world areas.
Another big change to the game, is we have a new protagonist Kait. The developers (Coalition) felt like Gears of War 4 was primarily a story about Kait so they felt like it made sense to change focus on the franchise and make her the primary focus of the franchise. Which this is something that was announced before the games release so this is something that I was expecting going into Gears 5.
To my surprise, the game doesn’t start out with you playing as Kait. The game actually starts out as its a continuation of Gears of War 4, JD and you play the entire act as JD. That was very surprising to me. Between Act 1 and Act 2 is when the transition happens and it felt very natural.
The second Act is when the game picks (especially narratively), it was nice because Gears of War 4 ended on a cliff hanger with some major questions. I was happy that I didn’t have to wait until the end of the game to uncover these secrets and instead they were all uncovered half-way through the game. Sadly, the “secrets” about Kait’s mother and grandmother are not really that surprising. It was fairly predictable but it was at least interesting and helped keep the pace of the narrative moving forward.
The third act, on the other hand, nothing interesting happens. It’s just a slog and it’s disappointing. The end of Act 2 has so much momentum and then you hit act 3 it just stops. At least with the final Act, the action picks up but with that, the story does fall by the wayside.
I know the new characters aren’t as popular as the older ones in the original trilogy but Gears 5 opened up the characters a little more and made them more interesting. You get to know JD a little more, he comes off as a more complicated character. In Gears 4 he came off as a blander Nathan Drake of the Uncharted series. He had his jokes and his quips and he just didn’t seem to take things as seriously as his father Marcus did. In Gears 5, at the end of Act 1, his hubris ends up severely injuring himself but it also led to the death of another COG. After this, he really kind of changed and he was much more serious and took his responsibilities much more seriously. This led to Kait and Del splitting off on their own for a few months as JD kind of became a dick. Eventually, JD was able to forgive himself a little bit which led to him trying to mend the fence between himself and Kait/Del. Most of Act 3 consists of JD slowly opening up again and becoming his old self again. Little by little, he’s joking around a little more and happy to be back with Kait and Del.
It’s this kind of character development is why I really am enjoying the new Gears games under the coalition. You never saw this with the Epic Gears of War games. I’m excited about the future of the franchise because the Coalition is trying new things with its characters and anytime I like a games/franchises character I’m going to like that game a lot more.
The core gameplay is traditional Gears of War. It’s a third-person cover shooter. You shoot guns with chain saws on the front and you do it while behind cover. It continues to be a competently made shooter which tight shooting and great mechanics. Even though the core gameplay stayed there were some changes made that definitely did shake up the Gears of War formula.
I wasn’t quite sure where to place this but this game definitely feels much more cinematic. Early on, there are two chapters in the game where there is no action. You do not shoot a gun. I was blown away by this, that never happened in the originals. It was always action first which a short cut-scene between chapters.
Jack is a Robot and he was in the first game but never played a large role in the game. Jack was always Baird’s Robot that occasionally opened up a door. Jack does open up doors occasionally but the big thing about him is, he adds an RPG element to the Gears franchise. Jack has abilities and a skill tree that you’re upgrading with skill points. The skill points are hidden in the world and you have to find them by exploring the areas, kind of like collectibles. I’ve never been the type that needs to collect everything so collectibles in this franchise never appealed to me but now because exploration has a positive impact on gameplay, I took my time and explored areas.
Now it’s time to talk about the more negative aspect of the campaign and that’s the open-world segments. In Act 2 and Act 3, there are 2 separate large open-world areas very little in them. There are side objectives sprinkled in the open world areas but the reward is just upgrades for Jack. I didn’t mind exploring the linear paths, finding upgrades for Jack but when you’re talking about large open-world areas that became a different story. You could start at one side of the map, go to the exact opposite side of the map for 10 minutes and not run into a single thing. The open-world area just doesn’t work well. At least with Act 2, (as I discussed earlier) you’re slowly uncovering secrets of the world and Kait’s past. So you had something driving you forward through the emptiness but Act 3, just didn’t have anything interesting. There was the JD character development but that was not enough. It also didn’t help that the 2nd open-world area had even less in it.
At least with the open-world areas, the skiff is fun to use. Its a vehicle that is powered by wind, it controls well and it at least gives you something fun to do while you’re moving around this empty landmass.
It feels like the Coalition finally listened to me in regards to the bosses. Bosses now have health bars, it’s so nice because now you know you’re making progress. The downside is, the bosses are still what I call gimmicky bosses where they’re just large enemies and you have to target specific areas on their bodies. I never find the boss battles fun but at least now there is a health bar so now I know I’m doing it right.
There is one moment in this game that shook me to the core. There is a point in Act 4 when you’re fighting Kait’s mother (yes, she’s still alive) but now Kait’s mom has tentacles she has you as Kait pinned down. But then also holding onto Del and JD by their necks. This is all done through a cutscene so I didn’t think anything of it. Oh here we go, its the low point in the Act. All 3 characters are taken down by 1 enemy. They’ll be saddened by this but then rally and ultimately overcome the obstacle.
Nope, that is not what happens. All of a sudden, two options popped up. Press button to save Del or press button to save JD and time started ticking. I panicked, I didn’t know what to do so I followed my gut and chose Del. I learned to really like JD in this game but you spend the entire game will Del. First with JD and Del and then Kait and Del. I regret my decision because I kind of wish that I kept JD but that’s the point of those types of decision. You’re never going to be happy with your decision.
In a way, this puts me in a weird position because part of me wants to play through the campaign again but this time make the other decision but I also have this weird thing where I want to be stuck with my choices. Having both saves could be nice because if you feed your save into Gears 6 that could be an awesome direction to take the series.
I’m just really curious where the direction of the franchise is going to go now. Are they going to have different branching paths for Gears 6 kind of like what Wolfenstein has been doing ever since the first one? Are they going to kill Del at the beginning of Gears 6 to even things out or are they going to take the popular answer and force everyone into that timeline? Time will tell but I hope its the first option however that would be the most ambitious of the options.
Music/Sound Design/Voice Acting
Kait is played by legendary voice actress Laura Bailey. She’s amazing in almost every role she is in and she does another amazing job here.
Unfortunately, the game did have some mechanical issues as well. Especially that first weekend, the servers were very much on fire. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue for me personally since I don’t play multiplayer so I’m not online but for some reason, the single-player was linked to the servers so the campaign was affected as well. By the end of the campaign, I ran into 3 issues that do need to be discussed.
The game was not registering collectibles for that first weekend. I would pick collectibles up, the game would say I collectible found but then when you would go into the menu. It would say you collected 0/20 collectibles in the Act. Not a huge deal but for achievement hunters, that’s going to bug them. If that wasn’t fixed (which it was) it would make getting the collectible achievement impossible.
Not Getting Achievements
Speaking of not getting achievements, I didn’t get achievements for specific game moments. Like for instance beating the game. I saw credits and was sent back to the main menu but I didn’t get an achievement for beating the game. It’s disappointing, it can be easily rectified by playing the last chapter again (and I might do it) but I shouldn’t have to do it. That’s just dumb and unacceptable.
This was a major issue that I encountered and that was the game was not registering checkpoints and therefore not saving. I played through Act 1, started act 2. Played through the first chapter of Act 2, waited for a save point at the start of chapter 2. Saw that the game saved my progress so I hopped out for the night. Went back the next day and had to replay the entirety of chapter 1. That was completely unacceptable. Luckily it was a shorter chapter and it was one of the chapters where there was no combat but I also took my time the first time. I explored a lot, explored a lot and when I had to redo it, I definitely skipped areas and didn’t collect everything again. It definitely bummed me out.
It’s a tight 10ish hour campaign. For whatever reason, the Xbox isn’t tracking stats for Gears 5. It’s a little disappointing because I like to see the stats.
Recap: The Good
Recap: The Bad
Recap: The Okay
Recap: Final Thoughts
I liked this game a lot. It’s so close to being a game that I absolutely love but the issues that I ran into and the open-world segments hold the game back. A couple different design decisions and this could be one of my favorite games of the generation. But as it stands right now, its a good game but not quite a great game.