Gears 5, the latest installment in the long-running franchise, does not disappoint. From its stunning visuals and well-rounded gameplay to the heartfelt campaign and various multiplayer modes, the title has something for everyone, whether you're a returning fan or new to the series. While a few server issues may have slightly plagued the multiplayer experience, there is no denying that Gears 5 is the biggest entry yet as well as an all-around masterpiece.
On the surface, Gears 5 is stunning. Its vast environments draw you in and make you want to explore while also providing something beautiful to look at. Whether it is a town torn to shreds, a red desert with lightning and fire tornadoes, or snow and ice-covered mountainous terrain, the environments presented in the game are a sight to behold and may often lead to casually stopping and taking it all in. That is, of course, when you're not being swarmed by enemies or too busy trying to find the 90 collectibles that are scattered around.
Gears 5 brings a few new elements to the table this time around when it comes to maps. For starters, the game introduces open-world elements to the experience, something that has not been seen in the series before. The red desert and icy mountains are both open-world environments that players are able to travel around by Skiff, a vehicle that uses the power of the wind to sail around to each location that requires attention. Some of these locations happen to be optional side quests, which can lead to impressive loot and even upgrades for the helper robot, Jack. This floating friend will help unlock doors, find loot, and even help in fights by shocking enemies, cloaking the heroes of the story, or even providing a shield.
How Jack is able to do all of this is through a skill tree, adding another layer of the role-playing elements that are new to the franchise. Players can upgrade Jack by finding Components out in the wild and completing the optional side quests that pop up throughout the campaign. An upgraded Jack is a happy Jack, and can be quite beneficial.
As for the campaign featured in Gears 5, it is easily the biggest yet, and it features a complex heroine searching for the truth alongside her cohorts. While Marcus Fenix is back along with son JD and others, it is Kait Diaz who this story is about. For those who completed Gears of War 4, you know the family heirloom that Kait received at the end and what it might spell out for the latest entry. The story itself plays out beautifully and is filled with gore galore across four acts. Combine this with the incredible environments and the brilliant cast who put on an outstanding performance, and the Gears 5 campaign is among the best yet.
While the campaign is great and full of heart, and worth revisiting if you don't take your time to gather all of the collectibles the first time around, the multiplayer modes are where a lot of players will be spending their time. Versus and Horde are back for all of the action one desires, with the former providing both casual and ranked play, and the latter allowing players to increase the difficulty settings that could lead to greater rewards. Both of these modes performed well when they were working, save for a few server issues that slightly plagued the experience, which will likely be rectified within days of launch.
The third multiplayer mode is Escape, which is new to the series. This mode puts together a three-person suicide squad to fight their way out of a hive as fast as they can. If you are looking for an easy going experience, keep it on beginner and knife your way to victory because why use guns when you can cut every enemy down? Of course, a challenge is always fun, and dialing the difficulty up not only brings the pain, but also allows for the ability to obtain some sweet loot. Between the three of these multiplayer modes, there is a little something for everyone, and it's all filled with the glorious action that Gears fans love.
Something that players may not love, however, are the microtransactions. Scrap is back, but instead of having to manually scrap duplicates, the work is automatically done for you, which is clean and easy. Unfortunately, it takes a bit of grinding to get duplicates as the frequency at which the Supply Drops that items come in drop is based on time played and not performance. There is also a premium currency called Iron that can be purchased with real money, which will allow players to buy cosmetic items as well as XP Boosts. There are no loot boxes, however, and players will always know what they are buying, which is a plus.
What really stands out about Gears 5, outside of its fantastic visuals and action-packed multiplayer modes, is the gameplay itself. Movements are as fluid as ever and the weapons are a blast to shoot -- they feel like they have some real power behind them. Of course, you can always just rip apart enemies with a chainsaw and call it a day, but it's always nice to mix it up once in a while. Throw some finishing moves in here and there, and it's a party serving up a ton of carnage. This is easily the best feeling Gears yet, and it is an all-around joy to play, regardless of the mode.
Gears 5 is incredible from start to finish, and, playing on PC, it is easily one of the best ports to the platform. Despite the few hiccups with servers, I was able to play entirely on Ultra settings without issue, and that's on hardware that isn't exactly the latest and greatest. The visuals are beautiful, gameplay is fun and gory, the campaign is heartfelt with incredible performances from the cast, and it is just a wonderful experience from start to finish and beyond. This is a title fans of the series will not want to miss, and it is a shining example of how The Coalition has put their mark on the franchise.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Gears 5 is currently available on PC and Xbox One. A retail code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.