Microsoft try to reinvent the Gears Of War formula, but are the new multiplayer modes and open world areas enough to do it?
There comes that point in every long-running franchises life where it goes from genre-defining blockbuster to just part of the furniture. New entries become more formulaic and predictable, while ill-advised new features are added that do nothing but undermine the appeal of the originals. Often times there is a recovery, as Microsoft are banking on with Halo Infinite next year, but while Gears Of War has never sunk as low as Halo 5 in fans estimation, Gears 5 is not the reinvigoration of the series that the game makers have been hinting at.
The first three Gears Of War games were all made by Fortnite developer Epic Games but to ensure the franchise remained an Xbox exclusive Microsoft bought it off them at the start of this generation and put one of their own in-house studios, now called The Coalition, to work on it – while hiring Rod Fergusson, whos been the executive producer on the entire series, to oversee everything.
The end result of that was 2016s Gears Of War 4, an enjoyable but uninspired third person shooter that nevertheless proved that Epic werent needed to replicate the formula. Gears 5 is a direct sequel to that game, but while its thick with references to the previous entries the plot is paper thin and much of the storytelling focus is on making new protagonist Kait a more three-dimensional character, which… the game doesnt really pull off.
Theres been a lot of talk about how this is the most dramatic and grounded Gears Of War game so far and in many ways thats true, but Kaits origins as an outsider with alien (or however youd classify the Locust) lineage are little more than a plot detail. And whiles shes certainly more interesting than Marcus Fenixs son JD shes still not close to being a believable, human character.
Theres also an attempt to show a darker side to JD and some of the other soldiers, but thats constantly glossed over by the game and the other characters. The actual plot doesnt revolve around anything more than getting the Hammer of Dawn laser satellite system up and running again, which is extremely underwhelming – especially when the game ends arbitrarily on what only barely counts as a cliffhanger.
The action is classic Gears Of War, with very little in the way of new features, beyond the introduction of a floating utility droid called Jack. Although he has only minimal offensive weaponry he can revive other characters and provides Kait with a variety of special abilities that can be collected on the way, including traps, shields, and limited invisibility. Hes useful, and has a fairly complex skill tree to unlock, plus he can be controlled by a human player in co-op – allowing someone without much in the way of shooter skills to have a meaningful role.
Everything else is run of the mill Gears Of War, with very few new weapons or enemies that werent in the last game. Its also the same old cover system and combat as always and frankly its beginning to seem old hat. Perhaps its because Kait seems like she should be more athletic than her roided out allies but the cover system and movement feels increasingly clumsy compared to most modern games.
What always makes the Gears Of War games difficult to quantify though is that theyre best played in co-op and if you can get two other players to join you on the campaign (including local split-screen) it is a lot more entertaining. Although, as ever with a co-op game, its debatable how much of that is down to the quality of the game versus the quality of your friendship. Especially as there are no real co-op puzzles or team-up requirements, beyond occasionally needing two people to open a door.
Gears 5 does have a big new idea though and that comes in the form of two separate open world areas. Its very obvious that these, and the whole revised approached to storytelling, has been inspired by God Of War but none of it works nearly as well in Gears 5. Theres hardly anything in the open worlds, except a small number of short side quests that feature nothing in the way of unique objectives, gameplay, or enemies.
Theyre all over before you know it, with the only reward an extra gadget for Jack. The few characters you meet never speak English and there are no enemies wandering around the open world itself. So apart from picking up the odd rare weapon theres no reason to explore beyond the five or six obvious side quests locations. Even the weird wind-powered toboggan you use to get around is pointless, as it requires virtually no skill to steer.
The main problem Gears Of War has always suffered from is that despite all the giant monsters and impractical weapons its not quite silly enough to embrace the 90s style arcade action it always seems to skate so close to. Gears 5 moves away from that to a degree (theres certainly nothing as amusingly OTT as Gears Of War 4s finale) but its still not grounded enough to take seriously, leaving it stuck even more awkwardly between two stools.
It doesnt help that your team-mates are almost the only people who speak to you the whole game, leaving the motivations of the enemy extremely unclear, especially to anyone not familiar with the series. Theres no real lead protagonist and the only bad guy that says anything more than a gurgled threat is a human thats been downloaded into a computer. And its telling that his section is by far the most enjoyable in the game.
Add in some eye-rollingly contrived boss battles, that are some of the worst examples from a Western developer weve seen in a long time, and Gears 5s story campaign lands with a wet thud. Its by no means unenjoyable but it is formulaic and repetitive, with the few attempts at moving things forward never really working.
There are plenty of multiplayer modes but, again, it all seems a little too familiar. Horde mode was innovative 10 years ago but wave-based PvE is hardly a noveltRead More – Source