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Gears POP! Review: The Year Of Gears

2019 is dubbed “The Year of Gears.” Microsoft is slated to deliver a number of Gears-related games and comics this year, all in support of September’s Gears 5 release. Stepping up to the plate earlier this month was Gears POP! Released August 22nd on iOS, Android, and Windows PC, the game is a collaborative effort between Microsoft, Coalition, Funko POP!, and Mediatonic. Gears POP! pairs the brutish nature of the Gears franchise with the ineffable likeability of Funko POP! Characters. The result is as odd and disjointed as it sounds.

Play Gears on the go with @GearsPOP!, available for download now on iOS, Android and Windows 10 PC!

Get a friend in on the action and create a Crew to take on the newly revealed Horde mode! pic.twitter.com/wUUKI9CXky

— Gears of War (@GearsofWar) August 22, 2019

Forget for a second that this game is in any way related to Gears of War. Gears POP! is delivered under the Gears umbrella and features Funko caricatures of Marcus Fenix and General RAAM. However, that’s where the story ends. If you download the game with Gears in mind, you’ll most likely be disappointed. If you download the game with an open mind, you still might be disappointed.

We've Seen This Before

As a PvP strategy, tower-defense game, Gears POP! is basically a hackneyed stand in for Clash Royale—add cover mechanics. In an overhead battle arena, players are pitted against one another in real-time. Place tokens onto the playing field and spawn Funko versions of your favorite Gears characters in order to destroy your enemies defense towers and home base before they do the same to you. You can even test skills against AI enemies in offline game modes.

Horde mode is the closest thing to Gears of War that the game offers. In this cooperative mode, players will face several waves of Locust. With each round that players complete, new pins (characters) or coins are rewarded. If you continue to collect multiples of the same pin, you will eventually be able to level up your characters and strengthen your attacks. Playing Horde is the quickest way to level up, but it requires players to coordinate with friends or other online players, which can be difficult.

There are over 30 usable characters that offer a variety of attacks, ranging from full-steam-ahead base attacks to distance hits. In-game purchases, loot boxes, and microtransactions are sprinkled throughout the app as an invitation to build your ideal squad of characters. The game also offers Xbox Live connectivity, allowing you to save in-game achievements and progress via your Microsoft account.

What's Missing?

Everything that a successful mobile game needs is in the bag, but there’s still something missing. As a cutesy, branded precursor to Gears 5, Gears POP! dips the franchise’s toes into the pool of mobile gaming, but it doesn’t get in the water. The game is caught in between two disparate pursuits: building a standalone strategy game and offering something that Gears fans feel comfortable playing. Gears POP! rests in the liminal space, missing the mark on both accounts.

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The premise of Gears POP! is solid and simple, but it’s also nothing we haven’t seen. If you’re already tired of the PvP strategy genre, Gears POP! will probably put you to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no stand-out problem with the game. Fans of the genre will navigate through the recognizable territory of familiar gameplay and characters. However, just like the real-life Funko POP! dolls, this game is more of a collector's item than something you actually want to play with.

2.5 Out Of 5 Stars

Gears POP! is available for free on iOS, Android, and PC.

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