Thanks to Game Pass a good percentage of players on my friends list were checking out Gears 5 from day one which means in terms of popularity it’s off to a good start. I’ve not touched on the multiplayer much yet and have been focusing on the campaign so here’s my impressions of that so far… and spoiler free.
Starting out in Gears 5 means that the “boot camp” tutorial will be the very first thing you play before you get any further into the game. Anyone who has played Gears of War 4 will be familiar with the setting and the robotic DeeBees that you test your fighting skills against. It’s straightforward and gives you a taste of the game’s mechanics before dropping you into the campaign or multiplayer. The game also mentions at this point the topic of difficulty levels so players who find it challenging can dial it back in the game itself to focus less on shooting technique and more of the experience. There’s still new tricks to learn in the rest of the game too but what is here is enough to get you started and if you ever need a refresher it’s always available from the main menu.
The narrative in the campaign so far has been creative and least does really well to keep you hooked. You might know from advertising some aspects of what’s to come but there’s still a few surprises in store for players and I’m glad The Coalition was willing to push hard. I’ve appreciated the direction that it’s taken with many of the characters so far and how they’ve allowed room for them to have their own tales to tell even if it’s only in conversation. And it’s good having Marcus Fenix be a voice through the game again even if it’s often just radio chatter. I’m halfway through the campaign now and I’m liking it a lot. Worth noting is if you’re new to the series there’s a video that runs through the original trilogy as well as the opening introduction so that you can catch up on anything you might miss. With the series turning 13 years old in November it’s likely a few players aren’t familiar with the whole story so this is a helpful addition.
The big gameplay additions of note so far have been:
- Up to three players can now take part in the campaign. You’re still confined to the appropriate characters but it does add a new mechanic thanks to that addition.
- The droid “Jack” is now a controllable character in both campaign and multiplayer. No just for open doors, the new Jack can provide a myriad of support skills to a team and is upgradeable with new skills.
- The environments plays a big role in setting up some fun scenarios. Past games have used this trick before from lights to ward of enemies to avoiding killer weather but nothing like this.
- New open areas that allow a player to have a little fun and not be confined to following the series traditional linear levels.
- Finding unique weapons that offer perks that may convince you to hold onto them longer than you normally would in the game.
- Enemy variety has been given a boost with new types that will push players to be more flexible during encounters.
The production aspects of the game are top level. The graphics are phenomenal and developer The Coalition is hell bent on staying far away from the original trilogy’s often criticized art choices that leaned toward greys and browns. There’s nothing but an abundance of colour in Gears 5 and screenshots don’t do any of it justice. It’s a shame I needed to tweak the ones I have here on show because they lose a little spark when making them non-HDR compatible. Lighting in the game is at times spectacular with situations that do well to demonstrate the best the Unreal engine can do. Some terrain deformation is in there too as you travel through snow and sand and it’s pretty amazing to turn around and see the winding trail that your character has left behind.vWith 4K/HDR/60fps on an Xbox One X it’s easily a game worth showing off to people and anyone with a better spec PC will be VERY happy too with it supporting a wide range of graphics options to allow you to get the best out of your system. If you have a good audio system (or headphones) get them out and crank them up as the game supports Dolby Atmos and does a great job of delivering a Gears style cacophony of gunfire, growls and a the usual multitude of squishy things.
Even with the advances there’s still a couple of things that surprised me and the first is how still feel restricted in where on a map that you can travel. The game is fine in allowing your character to rush to barricades, clamber through windows or down ledges but you can still run into a lot of artificial barriers that expose limitations of the levels or design which calls back to problems that even existed in the original game. I soon put that aside as I got further into the game but it was still jarring. The second is that the game is launching out of the gate with a few bugs that forced me to restart a couple of times… especially if I’ve paused during cutscenes. Hopefully those get resolved in updates real soon because I didn’t expect to see these kinds of issues escape QA.
Issues aside I’ve been completely absorbed in the Gears 5 campaign and found myself playing it through the night and into wee small hours of the morning because I wanted to see the conclusion to a chapter or act before getting some sleep. As I’ve been getting very little sleep over these last few days it’s probably a fair sign that I’m really wanting to find to find out what happens to everyone before it gets spoiled. And with the expanded co-op I’ll be back to tackle it again at a harder setting too.
The campaign in Gears 5 feels like it’s taking a big step forward in establishing a new generation beyond the Xbox 360 trilogy and it’s much stronger for it.