It's tough to think of a more impactful, epic, game-changing third person shooter of the last 15 years than the Gears of Wars series. The franchise has been known for its gritty action-packed gameplay, as well as its refined, nuanced mechanics - which include a solid cover system and an oh-so-satisfying array of finishing moves. Since it's debut in 2006, Gears titles have seen a number of changes, tweaks, and refinements.
As the highly anticipated Gears 5 is finally just around the corner, fans of the Epic Games/Coalition shooter are geared up to jump back into the fray and take out some Locust. This sequel looks to be the biggest and most thrilling entry yet. Still, between The Coalition, the relatively vanilla devs behind the project, and Gears' somewhat dicey reputation, there remains a certain "cautious optimism" among many of the fans.
With that said, let's lock and load as we take a look at some of the most exciting new features Gears 5 promises to have. We'll also examine some needed inclusions and fixes to truly excel beyond its predecessors.
One of the biggest highlights in terms of Gears 5's flashy new features has to be the new 3 player cooperative multiplayer romp, Escape Mode. The game revs up the already intense, grueling gameplay of this third-person shooter by putting you and some teammates against both the locus and the clock.
The experience is meant to provide some puzzle elements, along with an intense sense of urgency. Though it's essentially distilled down to a basic goal - battle your way through Locus hordes in your path and get the hell out of dodge before a trail of poisonous gas consumes you. It feels akin to a deadly, Gears-tinged version of an Escape Room.
It's no secret that despite the well-crafted multiplayer, the ranking and matchmaking systems themselves can use some refining. While Gears 4 has certainly improved the matchmaking system, there are still notable imbalances to the point where one team can just steamroll another.
It's not particularly fun being tossed into a ranked match as a Silver player and finding yourself faced with near-certain doom with a team full of Golds, Onyx, and Diamonds. A more fleshed-out, specific, and/or multi-tiered ranking system would help to make face-offs more enjoyable and competitive for everyone.
The Gears series has been known for its gorgeous aesthetics, but the 5th main installment of this franchise looks to truly reign supreme when it comes to the visuals.
Xbox One X users will be able to see the console truly flex its muscle with both 4k and 60 FPS HDR support. Gears 4 made the user choose between visuals and performance, forcing them to juggle between either 4k support or 60 FPS. And even then, the campaign mode ran at a choppier 30 FPS. With Gears 5, you'll be getting smooth and glitzy 4k and 60 FPS support across the board (with the exception of split-screen co-op). The increased horsepower, though, will also allow for 3 player split-screen support.
One of the biggest complaints of the online multiplayer experience of Gears 4, in particular, is its abundance of explosive and insta-kill weapons that can wipe you out before you knew what hit you. What seems to be a Gears arms race for more epic and over-powered weaponry has shifted the dynamic from grittier, more tactical gameplay - which rewarded skill and clutch playing - into insta-kill anarchy and spamfests.
Thankfully, Gears 5 seems to be at least partially dialing back the explosive Boom/Dropshot-type beasts in favor of tamer weapons like the Cryo Cannon and Breaker Mace.
Multiplayer has always been Gears' forte, but it's also provided some awesome campaign experiences. This is thanks in no small part to some dazzling visuals, memorable characters, and some truly epic cinematics. The Coalition looks to step things up even further in terms of its cinematic realism with the support of performance capture.
This feature will allow the game's stars, Laura Bailey, John DiMaggio, and the supporting cast, to add their own personal flair; not just with voices, but with body motions. Thanks to performance capture technologies, a new dimension of emotion and characterization can be added by capturing the movements and emotions of the actors. This will surely make for an even richer cinematic campaign.
It's likely no coincidence that the quality of the Gears series has been something of a mixed bag since creator Cliff Bleszinski walked away from development. The game creator has recently announced he was not only through with his gaming baby and Epic Games, but that he's in fact done with game production in general.
In all fairness, the series has still been in good hands with its new foster parents, The Coalition, whose new title Gears 4, along with its original Gears reboot, Ultimate Edition, have proven solid overall. Still, it'd be nice to get at least some input from CliffyB, even if it's at an indirect/advisory role, similar to the role Nintendo took with the Metroid Prime series.
The multiplayer elements of the Gears of War series have always been pretty robust and appealing. Gears 5 looks to keep its prestige on this front with a plethora of both new and old multi-modes. In addition to the return of the fan-favorite Horde Mode, Escalation, and King of the Hill, Gears 5 will bring some new multiplayer varieties as well, not the least of which is Arcade Mode. The details are still sketchy as to what it will entail.
Per The Coalition head's Rod Ferguson - it'll be "a frenetic experience built for jump-in, over-the-top fun." Sounds cool - though it certainly leaves things up to interpretation...
It is reportedly meant to be somewhat modeled off Escalation - so perhaps players will be given kill-based objectives that will reward them with loot drops and/or weapons depending on their performance in-game.
Gears of War: Judgment may be known as the universally accepted "worst game in the series," but it did have at least one redeeming feature. The game type is called OverRun, and it is one of the more unique and enjoyable multiplayer romps in recent Gears history. This would make an awesome inclusion to Gears 5, but - at least at the moment - it remains absent.
It rings similar to Escape in that it adds a cool co-op dynamic, requiring you and your teammates to hone in on a point of interest. It also adds a welcomed element of tactical gameplay with much of the experience hinging on protecting your turf with a palette of defensive structures. An OverRun with new-and-improved mechanics this time 'round would be a blast to play.
Xbox Game Pass is looking more appealing all the time. With it, you can be one of the first to play parts of the game as soon as July 19-21, and again from July 26-29 as part of the "Multiplayer Technical Test." You can also gain access to this should you preorder the game from participating retailers, including the Microsoft store.
With this early access, you'll be able to try out the new competitive game type, Arcade, along with King of the Hill, Escalation, and the new training mode, Bootcamp. You'll also be able to jump into the new exciting rendition of Horde Mode on August 19th. Finally, you can play the entire game 4 days earlier than its September 10th launch. This will be available for both Xbox One and Windows 10 users.
It's true that the addition of dedicated servers for competitive online matches has squelched many of the lag issues and host advantage, making for a far smoother multiplayer experience. The first two Gears games largely put you at the mercy of the server host, while Gears 3, 4, and Judgement's dedicated servers and the "cilent-side hit detection" that comes with it allows servers to "keep up with the action" more sharply.
Still, with a relative lack of servers and their distance to many gamers, some still note being disadvantaged as a result of high ping. Luckily, The Coalition is looking to include even more dedicated servers for Gears 5 in order to further mitigate lag and hopefully completely eliminate the remnants of host advantage.