The Gears of War franchise is now 13 years old. It’s now an awkward teenager trying to grow and establish itself. It’s even going out of its way to shed off its full name and wishes to be referred to as Gears now.
It’s been a while since the Gears franchise found itself under The Coalition’s stewardship. Gears of War 4 was a safe but worthy modernization of the franchise. After coming to terms with what the franchise had to offer, The Coalition tried a slew of new ideas with Gears 5. Some it was fine but I found a lot of it fell flat.
The most prominent additions were the giant open chapters where Kait and Del traversed from point to point on the Skiff — a wind surfing sled on skis. It offered Gears 5 a bit more breathing room between the action. We’re exploring abandoned mines, cities, and the like which yielded opportunities for collectibles and world building. I like the tidbits that I picked up about Sera and its history. I also certainly enjoyed seeing the giant vistas. However, I was less enthralled about trekking across these desolate lands for a second time.
Gears 5 was a looker and was performant on my NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 powered PC. I only experienced issues with sporadic juddering when I was a passenger on the Skiff. I lowered settings and resolution in hopes to rid of it all, but no luck. An equally irksome issue was the sound mixing that resulted with speech audio coming in way too low. I tried to adjust the audio settings but I kept missing out on key information. As result, Gears 5 was one of the few games in recent memory that I had to use subtitles for.
I liked Kait in Gears of War 4 and was happy to see her take the lead in Gears 5. She was driven to accomplish her goals but not stupid enough like JD to endanger others. I hope they continue this trend of changing leads and give opportunities to explore other characters. We witnessed Kait’s diplomatic skills and strength in the face of inexplicable (and undeserved) tragedy. Regardless of how events unfolded, I was content with Kait at the helm of it all.
This franchise offers some of the more satisfying third person shooting action in the industry but when I’ve played 4 games worth of it already without drastic inclusions: it’s going to get stale. There were, of course, new weapons, enemies, and refinements to systems introduced in Gears of War 4 like the stealth mechanic. They even gave Jack new upgradable abilities to influence the battlefield. Unfortunately, it’s a bit cumbersome to coordinate the use of Jack in co-op play.
It was evident that they were trying to expand horizons but I felt the ideas were hobbled by old habits. It’s about time the Gears were allowed to mantle over cover without having to take cover first. I realize mantle vaulting is a thing but that requires running at cover. And is it not time that the Gears stop roadie running across open spaces? I bought the conceit when we’re in the thick of it with bullets flying and we’re moving cover to cover, but when all the fighting is done? It’s just highlighting an unnecessary clinging to traditions.
While I’m at it: How is shoulder switching not possible in this game?
Gears 5 was in its element when bullets were flying, enemies were piling in, and the Hammer of Dawn was online. Things were popping off and I loved it. Unfortunately, we found those moments too fleeting. Glitches or inexplicable insta-deaths were too prevalent. I don’t ever recall succumbing to so many oneshot kills before. I also cannot recall ever dreading the damage sponge nature of some of the enemies. We were playing on “Experienced” difficulty and I found certain enemy combinations like the Bastion protecting Swarms and the Flock the antithesis of fun.
They were dumb damage sponges when their A.I. routines were working but at least they were moving. My brother and I experienced at least a dozen instances of enemy A.I. breaking down and just standing or hovering around areas oblivious to our presence. We were even able to repeat a specific A.I. bug during an encounter towards the back third of the game.
I obviously want Gears of War to grow into a modern third person shooter while retaining all the trademarks that give it character. I know there are fans who live and breathe the way it plays, but they will lose fans like myself if they continue to down this path. The next Gears game needs to finally grow up and “get with the times”. It can learn and draw inspiration from its past but it doesn’t need to feel beholden to keeping things the way they are because it’s always been that way.
It was okay