I’ve finally made my first trip through the Gears 5 campaign and put in a few more multiplayer sessions too so feel like sharing some additional thoughts. This is based on my time on playing the game on Xbox One X so worth noting that the experience may vary for both PC and original Xbox One users.
What’s been good?
The campaign takes a different path to its predecessors with open sections that allow players to pick and choose optional objectives. To be fair those areas could do with a little more life added to them as they lack content to keep them interesting in the long term. In the end you just accept them as being more like mission hubs. Once you reach destinations and the real missions begin things start getting back to feeling like Gears again with some massive areas to both explore and fight in.
Those who are fans of the universe will appreciate the choices made in the story and really I like how the story transitions over to Kait who has now become the central character in this story. Though Marcus Fenix is no longer core to the story he’s still an important part and is always there even if only in radio chatter. The ending sets up an obvious sequel too but with an interesting twist (no spoilers!) which makes me wonder how it will be handled.
Multiplayer continues to be built out with the new Escape mode that offers a glimpse of a future where the players can help drive future map designs for Gears. The narrative for it is thin and it’s definitely not Left4Dead but it does give players with less free time the opportunity for a strong PvE experience that plays a little into the character skills used in Horde.
Graphically the game is outstanding and shows The Coalition have some real design talent. A couple of my favourite sections were during the third Act during a storm and a vast building interior that would make past games “big” maps feel tiny in comparison. The world detail is really impressive and gets better the further you play through the campaign.
What’s been bad?
Maybe me and my console are edge cases but I’ve had a lot of frustrating issues during my time so far that have dampened my enjoyment. There’s been a few incidents during the game with audio drop outs which I can’t be sure are due to it or Xbox party chat but when it happens there’s a noticeable stutter in the game before chat reconnects. In games that rely on network stability for a variety of reasons it doesn’t help.
Then there are the lock ups. Having the game break during cutscenes is one of the most annoying things I’ve faced in any game in ages. For a title like Gears 5 that has a significant part of its story played out during these sequences anything that impacts that presentation is going to also reflect on how players respond too. In my case I had three times during the campaign where I had to close the game because it locked up and in the final cutscene and credits it happened once more. I’m actually worried I may have missed out on any sequel teasers (if they exist) as a result of it. My completion achievements were affected too which I wasn’t happy about either.
What’s the verdict?
If this is the last Gears game to appear until the next generation arrives it can be held up as the most feature filled entry to hit Xbox One thanks to it being packed with a great campaign and new multiplayer features that might give it an extended life for players. When it works well I’ve had a great time with it.
It might have even been one of the best in the series too if not for issues with the game ruining key moments in my campaign play through. Players who jump in a few patches down the road are likely going to feel much better about the game as a whole and I hope that I will too when I finally give campaign co-op a go.
Gears 5 is out now on Xbox One and PC.