Wednesday, September 04, 2019

"Gears 5" Review

With such a slim slate of console exclusives this year, Xbox One owners needed "Gears 5" to be a staggering success. Anything less than a spellbinding success on both the campaign and multiplayer fronts would be a crushing setback.

No pressure, right?

Luckily -- actually, it had much more to do with skill and experience -- the dev team at the Coalition was more than up to the task. "Gears 5" is good enough to draw lapsed fans of the series back into the fold. It's good enough to forge new inroads and suck new players in, setting them on the path to hardcore veteran status. It's good enough to make PS4 and Switch loyalists tremble with envy.

Following the steady, if uninspiring, success of "Gears of War 4" in 2016, "Gears 5" hews close to the spirit of its title's naming convention by powering foward as a sleeker, more economical and vigorous than any series entry since its inception. A rebirth for the franchise that pushes it forward in meaningful ways, the game slices through the burden of expectations with the ferocious vengeance of a chainsaw bayonet.

Shedding the series' dudebro past for a more serious, relatable and gender-inclusive vibe, the new entry makes a compelling case that Gears is the most stable and promising pillar of Xbox Land, looking sharp where its cohorts -- Halo and Forza -- have been showing frayed edges for years.

At the forefront is a killer campaign that powers in like a freight train after a somewhat tiresome opening training module tutorial. The voice performances and facial models lend severity and maturity to the stakes. The writers lace each chapter with memorable, paradigm-shifting twists that keep you glued to the story with the skill of a binge-worthy streaming series.

As strong as the campaign is, The Coalition doesn't step off the gas when it comes to multiplayer.

Gears is known for building a hardcore insular community that maintains such a high level of play that it's difficult for newcomers to break in. The new game makes a heroic effort to shatter the barriers to entry and making online mode far more accessible and forgiving than in games' past.

Although the out-of-the-gate offerings don't exactly bowl you over with a multitude of modes, what we get is enough to consolidate the community to keep the matchmaking working at maximum efficiency. If the series' past is any indication, players can expect a cavalcade of free updates and enhancements as the months roll by, with the Coalition adapting with nimble speed and measured empathy, adjusting to the shifting yearnings of the community with fresh, invigorating content.

"Gears 5" is a resounding success that -- judging from the sporadic drip of system-exclusive blockbusters from Microsoft over the past few years and the next "Halo" being saved for the next generation -- may well serve as the definitive high point for the Xbox One. If so, this makes for one hell of a sendoff.

Publisher provided review code.

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