For many years now I have been an active follower of the Gears of War series, and I was absolutely stoked to dive right into Gears 5. Here is my in-depth review and honest thoughts about it.
Gears 5 is massively different from the other games in the series, from new characters to never seen before (in a Gears game) open-world adventures. This installment in the Gears franchise focuses on the story of Kait Diaz, one of the new characters we met in Gears of War 4, and how she is trying to discover what relation she has to the Locust.
As far as the campaign goes, I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline. Every new detail we learned about Kait made me want to play more and more. I won't ruin the story for you, but I will say that you're in for some big surprises and twists. Now let me address the elephant in the room... the open-world portions of the game. You're required to sail across the tundra and desert for a majority of the campaign, complete main objectives all around the world, and of course, missable side missions hidden throughout the lands. I, for one, enjoy these types of games, but if you're someone who likes a continuous campaign with no extras, the Gears 5 campaign probably isn't for you since hours of it is spent sailing on your Skiff around the world.
For multiplayer game modes, we were introduced to an entirely new mode called "Escape". I wasn't sure how I would feel about it but I was very impressed with how it turned out. You're tasked with escaping a Swarm hive as fast as you can alongside 2 allies, with a poisonous hivebuster venom creeping up on you as you battle through hordes of enemies. I love a challenge, and Escape is just that. This anxiety-inducing game mode might not be for everyone, but I'm totally invested in it. Though I do admit, it may be quite anticlimactic on the lower difficulties, The Coalition really nailed it with this new mode.
Die-hard Gears fans know how much the Horde game mode has evolved since it was first introduced in Gears of War 2. Gears 5 horde brings new challenges and new strategies. Though it is different from the Horde we've previously played, it still has the same premise... You and 4 friends must survive the onslaught of the Swarm (or Locust) Horde for 50 waves, each wave more difficult than the last. I'm not opposed to change when it comes to Horde, but I'm not sure this version was the best. The "build a base and defend it" strategy has almost become obsolete. Now, this completely matters on how you and your squadmates choose to play, however, I find that most times my squad has chosen the "divide and conquer" method, with each of us mowing down enemies by ourselves. Each character (and I must mention the fact that there are no duplicate characters. 2 people cannot be Marcus, for example) has their own set of skills and benefits to bring to the table. The biggest addition to Horde was the playable Jack bot. As Jack, you're essentially a support player. Jack can revive other players, give them power, repair power taps and any fortifications, and much more. As cool as that sounds, it isn't the best. If your squad decides not to build a base to defend (which is still a way of playing, for the record), Jack doesn't have as big of a role. His combat doesn't compare to that of any other character and to be quite honest, it becomes quite boring for the player who chose to be him. Another addition to Horde mode was "power taps". After every 10 waves, a structure called a power tap spawns on the map. Players can claim the tap and after every wave, it will produce energy for the team. Something I do love about Gears 5 horde is how when somebody picks up energy, everyone on the team will receive it. With energy you can purchase passive abilities for yourself to make the battle to Wave 50 a little easier. Each character has their own passive abilities, but most of them are to do with your damage and health.
EDIT: Decided to update my review since the game has been out for a while and I’ve had a chance to play more horde. Lately I‘ve been using the build a base and defend it strategy because I’ve learned more about characters and such, and I’ve been trying it on harder difficulties. The game has been very fun and enjoyable for the most part. I REALLY enjoy the mini boss waves on every 5th wave-i think that was a great addition to the mode. (My favourite has got to be the warden-even though that guy can rip through your base and destroy everything you’ve built up, it’s really exciting and I love a challenge.)
With every new difficulty comes new modifiers, and Gears 3 players are quite familiar with this premise. To unlock each difficulty you must complete the previous one which I actually appreciate-it prevents new players from jumping into a game that is far too hard for them.
Now, not everything about this game is sunshine and rainbows. There are a number of things that need to be fixed or updated. For starters, there were some seriously terrible service issues on the day early access users started playing. This pretty much disabled all online multiplayer and caused game-breaking progression glitches. It also made several of the achievements pretty glitchy. For me personally, the achievement you unlock for completing the campaign has been stuck at 93% and won't pop, and I know that many other users are experiencing the same problem. Many updates have been pushed to try and solve service and progression glitches but there has still been no solution to this problem.
Anyone who has played any other Gears of War games knows about the re-up system. Essentially, once you reach level 100 you can "re-up" and go back down to level 1 to give it another go. In every other Gears game there is some sort of indication when a player has re-upped, such as a special symbol around their level number. In Gears 5 there is quite literally no way of telling when someone has re-upped. I'm really hoping that The Coalition fixes this because you can't tell whether someone is a brand new player starting out for the first time, or an experienced player who has re-upped 6 times.
EDIT: Since this review has been written they have since implemented an indication to your level in the main menu, however, it is still not visible to public lobby’s (ie. in a team death match game). Thanks, Coalition, but this still isn’t what we wanted!
Speaking of experienced and brand new players, I find that the matchmaking places players with others that aren't of the same skill level. I'm going to be specific to Escape here, but as a level 13 character, you shouldn't have to play with a level 1 on Inconceivable difficulty. There is literally no way that that will work out for you. Some updates need to be made to the matchmaking as it is making the game unfair.
Let's talk about the campaign now. If you're going solo on a relatively high difficulty, you better be a damn good player, as the AI allies won't do much except get in your way. The AI in the Gears series has been meh, but the AI in Gears 5 got significantly dumber. I cannot tell you how many times I have yelled at my TV, "Pick me up, Jack, you stupid monkey!". I'm hoping that an AI update happens soon because I'm not going to attempt Insane solo if I've got dumb and dumber watching me bleed out at their feet. As far as the story goes, it's pretty predictable. It's so predictable that I can tell you exactly how every Gears game goes without even having to play it. First, you get in a big firefight for 5 minutes. Then, you look around for ammo, open a few doors, listen to some banter between characters, then hear one of your allies say "Look out, we got company!". You do this for the entire 10+ hour campaign, so you better get used to it fast.
I understand that the game is relatively new and there are many updates to come in the coming months, however, it seems like there needs to be quite a lot of work to be done at this point. The Coalition was very bold with all these changes, and I'm glad to see them experiment with some new things. I think with some feedback and criticism they could really improve the game.
This is my first review so please excuse any mistakes!