When Gears of War exploded onto the scene in 2006, it did so with unparalleled presentation, third-person shooting mechanics that would inspire many games thereafter, and a multiplayer component that has seen a steady evolution over the course of nearly 13 years. Arriving at Gears 5, there are new modes and features to behold, though Gears 5 largely plays it safe by including its familiar modes that returning fans will likely flock. Further, Gears 5 sticks to its classic cover-based gameplay that made it so popular to begin with, which isn't a bad thing by any means, especially in a game whose online multiplayer options run at silky-smooth speeds.
Competitive Multiplayer: A Welcome Addition And Beloved Returns
On the competitive multiplayer end, Gears 5 has several different Versus modes in both Quickplay and Ranked multiplayer. In Quickplay, there is Arcade Quickplay, Classic Quickplay, and Co-Op Vs. AI. Arcade Quickplay involving a new mode called Arcade mode. In Arcade mode, characters from which players can choose to fight as come with unique loadouts and abilities. For example, one who chooses to fight as Marcus Fenix will find themselves equipped with a Lancer, Snub pistol, and the ability to gain health for damage dealt to opposing players. Meanwhile, another who elects to fight as Kait Diaz will find themselves with increased speed and a Hammberburst and Talon Autopistol to start out with.
Classic Quickplay includes a revolving door of returning modes that include the beloved Team Deathmatch, Arms Race, and Dodgeball. Finally, Co-Op Vs. AI is essentially as implied. The mode has players team up in a variety of modes against AI opponents. The mode is fun, but it feels as if it was included at the last second, as there is nothing particularly better about fighting opponents over player-controlled enemies.
Ranked online multiplayer modes include the aforementioned Team Deathmatch, though they also include other returning modes like King of the Hill, Escalation, and Guardian. They each play in mostly identical fashion to the iterations that came before them, though it is worth noting the omission of classic Gears modes, like Warzone and Execution, that have existed since the series' debut. The modes are available for hosting custom matches, but their absence from the competitive modes available to choose from is striking.
While the added Arcade mode is fun and offers something different from the usual Team Deathmatch, it's something that more seasoned players likely won't be turning to for their Gears multiplayer fill. More likely, they will probably turn to Team Deathmatch for that instead.
Co-Operative Multiplayer: Keeping It Fresh With Escape
The classic Horde mode that Gears of War 2 spawned comes back in full swing. It plays mostly identical to Gears of War 4's rendition of Horde mode, including the use of the Fabricator, which acts as the place where players purchase ammunition, traps, and other items with points gained from defeating enemies. The character you choose determines your class and, thus, your loadout and abilities. This is somewhat similar to Arcade mode's system of differing loadouts among different characters. However, characters chosen in Horde are attached to a role as well, including Tank, Offense, Scout, and Engineer. As mentioned previously, Gears 5's Horde mode largely retains all that composed Gears of War 4's Horde mode, which is more of a good thing than a bad thing.
Perhaps the biggest mode to be added to Gears 5 is Escape, which was unveiled at E3 2019. In Escape mode, three players must find their way out of a Hive by finding their way through a series of passages that will eventually lead to an outside area. Throughout the Hive, waves of enemies will launch assaults on you. Further, the same class system present in Horde mode migrates well into Escape mode. Overall, Escape is a welcome addition because, whereas Horde requires players to hold out for up to 50 waves, Escape has players working toward a more definitive and tangible goal.
Gears 5's multiplayer runs flawlessly most of the time. Latency issues have largely been swept aside, as matches run at 60 frames-per-second to provide the most intense and uninterrupted multiplayer experience possible. During my time playing, there were very few hiccups, save for a match in which I was merely controlling a levitating shotgun, which could not be moved in any direction as it was. Otherwise, the game runs impressively smoothly and was very issue-free, even though fixes to errors like the one mentioned should swiftly be made.
It's also worth noting that the new maps are fantastic. Set in a variety of environments, each come with their own dangers and, as with previous maps in the series, they are uniquely symmetrical and offer a very fair experience. The setup also allows for the implementation of strategy since it is a level playing field. From the urban setting of District to returning maps like Harbor, they have very distinct flavors and are designed to ensure that nobody can permanently hold the high ground.
One additional interesting component brought to Gears 5 is the ability to hold public matches. Since Gears of War 2, hosted online matches were restricted to private play. The first Gears of War was never granted its own dedicated servers, meaning players hosting public matches was largely the only game in town. The ability to do so returns, which is a nice option for those who want their multiplayer gameplay tailored to specific settings.
Playing It Safe For The (Mostly) Best Results
Gears 5's online multiplayer truly sticks to the tried-and-true aspects of Gears of War's online gameplay. The added modes give the game some variety that Gears 5 lacks in some areas. As far as new modes go, Escape mode is very likely to overshadow Arcade mode since it brings a fresh spin on co-operative play. Gears 5, like the Gears of War iterations before it, refines the performance of the multiplayer component, which runs impressively well. It couldn't quite be defined as perfect, but I felt engaged the whole time I was playing the game's different multiplayer modes. Despite its "playing-it-safe" approach, I've become enthralled, once more, with the Gears 5's multiplayer due to the solid mechanics and raw intensity.
4.5 Out Of 5
A copy of Gears 5 was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Gears 5 is now available on Xbox One and PC.