Gears 5 campaign review
Gears 5 is a welcome return to the Gears of War franchise and it drastically improves on the previous entry with emotional story beats while still expanding the series’ core mechanics.
The game has been out for a number of weeks now but with eGaming Desk having just launched, it has taken me some time to work my way through the campaign and collect my thoughts.
Gears of War 4 was revealed back in October 2016 and while it is was exciting to see Gears of War unleashed on a modern day hardware, it lost much of the appeal previous games had offered.
Having had a whole game to become acquainted with the new protagonists – coupled with the twist that Kait is somehow connected to the locust queen – very much helped me settle into Gears 5 quickly.
One of my biggest gripes with Gears 5 is nothing to do with the gameplay at all but rather The Coalition’s decision to shorten ‘Gears of War’ to simply ‘Gears.’
With that said, The Coalition has clearly refined its vision and taken some bold strides in reinventing the Gears of War formula in a bid to reinvigorate the franchise.
Other than that, I’m happy to say that I think Gears 5 really does take the franchise in the right direction and returns to its former glory, albeit in a different way.
*Warning: the following article contains major spoilers for Gears 5. If you have not yet finished the game continue at your own peril.*
A new Escape Hive awaits you in #Gears5!
Venture into the depths of 'The Hunters', a maze-like layout where Sires lurk around every corner. pic.twitter.com/5F6JskG6sf
— Gears of War (@GearsofWar) September 17, 2019
The opening act is rather fun and fantastically sets up the action for the remainder of the game while irrevocably changing the status quo.
The reintroduction of the Hammer of Dawn is more than promising, with it playing a significant role in previous games.
Anya Stroud – Marcus’ deceased wife and JD’s mother – decided to permanently decommission the Hammer of Dawn.
First Minister Jinn wishes to keep it this way, much to the chagrin of Marcus who, despite knowing the destruction it will cause, is all too aware that it is the only option if the COG want to defeat the Locust once and for all.
The scene is rather emotional when reflecting on the chaos the Hammer of Dawn has inflicted in the past and it is a not-so-subtle indicator that events will only get worse before they improve.
The following scenes play out beautifully with fan-favourite characters such as Cole and Clayton Carmine reappearing alongside the introduction of Lizzie, Carmine’s niece.
Lizzie’s appearance is a bittersweet call-back and a long-running joke that helps us feel at home with the franchise once again.
As expected, the Hammer of Dawn cannot be controlled with the one satellite the COG have. It vaporises the locust but heads straight toward Lizzie who meets an unfortunate end, completing the long-running joke that almost all Carmines are destined to die young.
— Gears of War (@GearsofWar) September 16, 2019
Act II and Act III
It was no secret that Gears 5 would ultimately be shifting focus from JD to Kait and the opening act gracefully completes the shift.
The original Gears of War games shined brightly when tackling emotional issues such as the revelation that Dom’s wife Maria was dead or when Marcus discovered the truth about his father.
As such, it is a welcome story beat to see Kait’s emotional trauma deepen with the death of Oscar and – in Kait’s mind – at her hands, no less. Particularly after the events of Gears of War 4.
Burdened with the knowledge that his actions led to Lizzie’s death, JD has changed significantly.
Oddly, this helps characterise JD well and it is positive to see a change in his character because of how bland he felt in the previous entry.
The gameplay in Act II is a breath of fresh air. The player will traverse the map – which has become open, to an extent – while riding a ‘Skiff’. And there is even secondary missions.
The secondary missions help pad out the game and encourage exploration which is uncharted territory for the franchise. It takes the games away from the typical corridor shooting gameplay and feels new.
The Skiff is fantastic for exploring, but it also feels more likely a novelty. It was enjoyable at first but soon enough felt boring. It could have been more exciting if we were able to battle locust while riding around.
Jack – Delta squad’s robot companion – really helps shape and develop the combat.
Players can upgrade Jack and his different abilities to help mix up combat and create innovative traps, sneak around using stealth or flush out enemies who are ducking behind cover.
Act II essentially serves as a trip down memory lane while also bridging together the old and new.
After receiving advice from Marcus, Kait and Del travel to both New Hope and Mount Kadar, two very prominent and important locations in the earlier games.
It is strange travelling to New Hope, Mount Kadar and meeting Niles Samson again because everything has become so different in the time that has lapsed between the two story lines.
The entire area is encompassed in snow and ice which makes for a more vibrant and bright backdrop compared to the dark, dingy corridors that were previously synonymous with Gears of War.
It is soon revealed that Reyna – Kait’s mother – has become the new locust queen.
This part of the story is a defining moment for Kait and for the first time it feels like this new generation
With the torch firmly passed, purpose finally found and with our trip down memory lane complete, Gears 5 found its feet.
Act III for the most part continues the mission for collecting satellites for the Hammer of Dawn. JD and Fahz also return to Delta squad.
In truth, there wasn’t a lot of buildup to this moment and it felt more contrived than anything, but, at the very least, the leading reason for JD becoming a ‘good guy’ once again was sufficient enough (that is Reyna becoming the locust queen).
It would have been nice to have had more time to delve in JD’s psychological state of mind following Lizzie’s death – though his and Baird’s relationship is strained because of the situation JD forced Baird into with the Hammer of Dawn.
Saturday nights are made for a #Gears5 Hive crawl.
Grab two friends and take on 4 launch Hives in new PVE mode Escape! Hoffman has you covered on your mission briefing below ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Cw1hNnXokV
— Gears of War (@GearsofWar) September 14, 2019
The final act – which deviates from the traditional five act sequence – is spectacular, even if the final boss itself falls a bit flat.
At one point, Delta squad come face to face with Reyna in a shocking culmination. Reyna captures both JD and Del and implores Kait to decide who she wants to save the most.
This is an interesting option because so far The Coalition – who developed the game – haven’t said which choice is the canon ending, at least at the time of writing.
Personally, I chose Del because there isn’t a scenario that I can conceptualise where Kait would choose JD. After all, Del has been with Kait all game on her journey.
The lines become blurred when considering that JD is Marcus’ son and the lead for Gears of War 4 plus his story hasn’t reached a satisfying conclusion.
Unfortunately, neither choice has too much of an impact on the ending. Reyna still escapes and either Marcus is grieving over his lost son, or is reflecting bleakly on the death of Del.
I applaud The Coalition for making the decision to implement an ending where the player can choose, even if it doesn’t result in much.
It does beg the question, where does Gears 6 pick up?
One would assume that we can port our save file from Gears 5 into Gears 6 and continue with our choice. It would be poor form for The Coalition to develop the next game where the franchise continues without our choices.
The final boss fight is anti-climatic, it is a rehash from the boss in Act III except slightly longer. I hoped for something in the mould of General Raam from the first Gears of War, though we’re never really introduced to a lead locust so it would have been shoehorned in.
All in all, Gears 5 improves on its predecessor massively.
It has emotional story beats that keep us more inclined to keep playing, the addition of Jack’s abilities really helps flesh out the combat scenes and we’re given more RPG-style elements that redefined the Gears of War formula.
However, it would have been nice to have seen JD’s subplot developed more, more meaningful choices implemented and an epic final boss fight to round up what was largely a fantastic entry to the franchise.
After having disliked Gears of War 4 quite a bit, I’m happy to say that I think the Gears franchise is back on track and I’m eagerly awaiting Gears 6.
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