Gears 5 Xbox One X Review

Gears 5 takes a lot of steps in the right direction for a refreshing take on this acclaimed franchise but stumbles way too many times along the way.

By Grayshadow, Posted 09 Sep 2019

Gears of War 4 introduced a new enemy and didn't attempt to stray from the established formula of the original games. Gears 5 takes a lot more risks, shifting the focus of the narrative, introducing side missions, and new gameplay mechanics by building on previous systems. Much of these new changes work in the game's benefit, providing a refreshing take on the franchise. It's unfortunate that a glitch exists that can cause halt progression in the campaign and the multiplayer, while loyal to the Gears formula, has experience boosting options. Along with the promising campaign ending with an awful cliffhanger, Gears 5 takes a lot of steps in the right direction to provide a refreshing experience from this acclaimed series but stumbles way too many times along the way.

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Gears 5 opens up by having the problem dive into the final area of Gears of War 3, Azura. The hidden home for the COG elite still houses secrets such as the keys to the Hammer of Dawn. With the Swarm now established a threat to humanity's existence, the COG has decided to restart the program and use the weapon against the Swarm.

Instead of following the traditional Act focused narrative Gears 5 decides to shift things around. The player still ventures into different locations over the course of the adventure but more focus is put in the characters instead of the action. That sense of comradery that was developed by overcoming difficult odds is still here but with a more personal focus. Characters are much more well-spoken, showing off their feelings and motives. Coupled with intense conflicts that have ripples effects that often test and break relationships.

JD takes the wheel for the start of the journey. Showing off the bold yet reckless leader taking unnecessary risks. Eventually, he comes face to face with his dangerous actions and changes because of it. Eventually, the helm is handed over the Kait. After learning that she has a connection to the Locust and thereby the Swarm Kait takes off to find answers. Kait does a terrific job of taking charge and exploring her history was exciting. With the cutscenes during these revelations being the best part of the new games.

The journey takes a more personal focus outside from the larger war. With Kait's journey to find out about her family still connecting to the overall conflict involving the Swarm. With each new layer providing information about not only the Swarm but giving context to information outside from the Gears of War video games.

The story continuously ramps up but then suddenly falls flat on its face. This is the second game in this new series so a cliffhanger is expected. However, the execution of the cliffhanger is extremely poor. The story just stops, similar to Halo 2, after a major event and recycles a familiar boss. I kept hoping it wasn't the finale until the credits rolled, leaving me feeling cheated.

Gameplay plays mostly the same with refinements made to the existing systems. The crab walk and shooting have been altered to give more weight to each action. The new animation and style for the sprint have been altered to give more of a grounded sensitization when sprinting. Shooting is a bit more precise and some weapons, like the Boltok, have altered targeting reticles for the better.

Enemies remained largely the same. There are new Elite versions of the Swarm that have increased armor and Juvis that have frag grenades attached to their bodies. The biggest new enemy type, and I mean that literally, is the Warden. A heavily armored Swarm leader that uses 2 giant maces and can only be killed by headshots. The enemies are quite smart and each individual Swarm focuses on a single tactic, like Drones staying mid-range and Grenadiers charging without any care. Your allies on the other hand vary, they can surely take a hit but often it's common to see your ally players not firing their weapons when the enemy is clearly in front of them.

Jack has seen the biggest change. Unlike previous games where your robot ally was limited to interacting with specific objects, Jack can now actively aid in combat. Jack can lay traps, heal allies, and more. All of these talents, along with passive abilities, can be upgraded using component parts and to encourage exploration unique parts are granted by completing side missions.

Side missions have been added to Gears 5 along with a semi-open world. During Act 2 and Act 3 you can travel through an open world with a handful of side missions and hidden caches. These optional objectives provide items for Jack that upgrade his existing abilities. On insane difficulty, these optional upgrades become a necessity.

The inclusion of optional objectives and a semi-open world provides a refreshing take on the series. For someone who has played every major installment, this new direction was delightful and well-implemented. It encouraged discovery, provided rewards, and sometimes housed unique bosses.

Another change that longtime fans will notice is the soundtrack. The soundtrack provides a more varied pool of musical scores. You still have the iconic Gears of War theme but included are more hopeful and relaxing scores. Whereas the previous games dealt more with bleak tracks to highlight the dark science-fiction world Gears 5's selection is more diverse. With some tracks actually expressing hope.

Graphically, Gears 5 is majestic. Weather effects, particles in the air, and the use of color are amazing. The character models, in particular, have unreal expressions as they match the voice of their actor precisely. A lot of work went into detailing every small part of this title and it shows.

Gears 5 takes a lot of risks and it is better for it. What is sad is that the biggest problems come from preventable technical problems. During my multiple playthroughs, I encountered enemies leaping outside the mission's bounds; preventing me from completing the mission. But the worst was what I called "Saving Content of Death". During situations that the game autosaved my progress, the game would lock up. Preventing me from progressing and forcing a hard restart. This issue rose so much that my entire experience was ruined because I was afraid that the glitch would reappear, forcing me to restart the entire game, and get pushed back to the previous checkpoint. On insane, this glitch was a nightmare. I went as far as to redownload the game and even purchased a new external hard drive thinking the drive was the issue and re-download the entire game. It didn't resolve the problem.

Gears 5's multiplayer was a nightmare at launch. Connecting into a competitive game was difficult and dropping out of matches was expected. Outside of the technical issues, you can choose from your traditional team deathmatch, capture the flag, Guardian, King of the Hill and Horde mode. Each mode nets you experience that can be used to unlock new cosmetics and bonuses depending on which difficulty you play the cooperative options on.

Escape is the brand new mode that has 3 players attempting to destroy and escape an enemy Hive. This mode is far more intense than Horde. Having players navigate the Hive, search for supplies, and fend off the Swarm is a great change of pace. You're given the bare minimal in supplies, making each round you find that more valuable. However, I did wish that Beast Mode made it into the game.

Horde mode has seen some improvements. At its core, it plays mostly the same. With a team of 5 surviving 50 waves of increasingly harder enemies that gain boost every 10 waves. The new addition allows players to fill empty slots with AI allies. In addition, enemy healths are constantly on display. Allowing players to easily see when an enemy is nearing death.

There are microtransactions, but most are cosmetic items. Players can purchase cosmetics directly at the store that constantly rotates items. What's unsettling is the progression boosting additions such as Iron and experience boosters. Iron is used to unlock items directly. This means you can boost the speed of your progressing, at a price. Essentially devaluing the grind to earn these items.

If that wasn't annoying the skins you unlock are just tawdry. Most of them are skins you've seen from the single-player campaign. Honestly, I was shock of how limited the selection of cosmetic skins were available. But the menus were so confusing that finding anything was a challenge. Seriously, Gears of War 4 had a superior interface. How did they go backwards with this!?

Gears 5's single-player changes up the formula to the game's benefit. Putting more focus on character development while connecting it to the overarching story allowed for a more impactful narrative. It's unfortunate that it finale leaves on a whimper, with an almost underhanded means of baiting the player with nothing at the end. The technical problems add a new layer of issues that players to deal with as a random glitch could spell doom. The multiplayer remains loyal to the core formula with a wide array of maps and options. Escape is a great new cooperative mode that provides a new challenge for players to overcome. It's a shame that the progression system has a paid booster. For every great feature in Gears 5, there's a negative trait holding the title back.


Adam Siddiqui,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Gears 5

75/100

Platform(s): Xbox One, PC
Publisher(s): Microsoft
Developer(s): The Coalition
Genres: First - Person Shooter
Themes: Science-Fiction
Release Date: 2019-09-06

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