The Gears of War franchise has retained a loyal following for over a decade, spanning four games and two spin-offs. Throughout its life, it has remained a maul-your-opponents first, ask questions later game, consistently providing stupendous graphics while never deviating too far from its exceptional origins.
Gears of War 5, released this September, starts us off with a recap of its previous installment by way of cut-scenes, allowing players to engage with the atmosphere of the game all over again. The first scene presents a spectacular range of scenery from lush green vines and sparkling blue water to rusted debris from old metal ruins. Alongside the campaign, there are three game modes: an updated Horde mode, a newly introduced Escape mode, and a wide variety of improved multiplayer game modes.
The campaign comes with a variety of new mechanics while still keeping what fans love about the game intact. One of the most notable changes has been made to what players may recognize as combat direction. You are now allowed to order your AI friends to focus-fire on a selected enemy. This added function may not be used as religiously as the developers intended at first but may offer some potential enjoyment later. I often forgot this assisting aspect even exists. Of course, it is a new mechanic so perhaps time is needed for an old dog to learn a new trick.
Jack In past games was just kind of periodically emerging in at very little time to help you do little more than open doors. With his current update, Jack becomes a sizable improvement. With his new abilities, he is able to heal you, cloak you, blind the enemy out of cover and even fetch weapons and ammo. Jack is a substantial addition to the campaign which makes you wonder how you ever played without him. He also adds value to side-quest by making you want to complete them in order to enhance him.
Throughout the campaign, there are choices that can be made by you, that have little effect on the story but allow you to bond more closely with the characters and their universe. I classify the large variety of options in two ways: simpler incremental choices and more complex, high-rank choices. This leaves the future of the Gears franchise flooded with ambiguity due to the impactful choices.
Overall the campaign has amazing graphics with an astounding storyline and relies heavily on its voice actors, who do a fantastic job of making the game feel lively and allowing it to flow naturally. Its success in being able to keep gamers engaged with new bosses, Easter Eggs, and side quests makes for enjoyable replay,where you can experience new layers each time.
Escape, the new game mode, starts you off in the middle of the Swarm Hive (the enemy’s base), with nothing but a pistol and knife. Your job is to get your team together to plant bombs and escape the hive (hence the name). You do this by picking up the weapons of your deceased foes to mow down more enemies until you get to the evac-zone where you are picked up. I enjoyed exploring the maps while moving through the Swarm Hive and trying to beat it as fast as I can. Though this game mode is quite fun, soon after playing, it begins to get repetitive. What does add interest is that the character you choose no longer serves solely for cosmetic purposes, as each one has its own unique weapons and power-ups earned through kills.
The popular game mode Horde has been brought back, and the updated gameplay is a different story altogether. The character selection is more important because it can affect the way your entire team works. Take Jack, for instance. He tends to get one kill every round, yet he can now be considered the most important character because he boosts his team by healing them and gathering experience points, making him a must for every team. Each persona within Horde falls into a category such as an engineer or soldier, but even if two characters are in the same category they can feel like total opposites allowing you to get a new experience with each character.
Gears 5 is a remarkable game I could spend hours playing. The Coalition developers executed fresh aspects to the game right while preserving what made it so popular when it first launched. They have also added just enough to make the game engaging for incoming and returning players alike. Without an update, Gears was arguably at risk of becoming obsolete. Developers have found an innovative way forward by using new mechanics to polish up the old and make Gears shine like new.