( Editor’s note: I am on ACT III. This first impressions cover ACT II and barely gets into the game mechanics as I want to keep everything, including gameplay and the RPG mechanics and progression down to a bare minimum so you can play it and experience it for yourself. This is a spoiler-free First Impressions, this is not a final review.)
I’m a huge fan of Gears. I even find it better than Halo in many regards, I just love the franchise. Right from the very first game, it became a tradition to play campaign co-cooperatively with my best friend and squad up together in multiplayer and horde mode. Gears has been undeniably a huge part of my life and no matter how much love I have for the franchise, I have to criticize it. It was a franchise that felt too safe and too stuck in its way to change, however, Gears 5 changes all that. It has some expectations which aren’t all that great.
Gears of War 4 was a game that I didn’t really like that much. It felt too safe, too predictable, overall just another third person shooter. Gears 4 introduced us to a new cast of characters that the saga would focus on, it introduced us to a new generation that was up and coming in a world that was recovering from years of conflict. The Locust had nearly succeeded in wiping out humanity if it wasn’t for Delta Squad, however, they weren’t entirely wiped as the Swarm rose from their ashes and began to kidnap people. However, beyond that interesting premise, Gears 4 was a very formulaic Gears game, one that we had come to expect in the years following Gears 3. However, Gears 5, isn’t that at all. It isn’t just another Gears.
We begin right on the heel of the original E3 2018 trailer as Kait rushes down some flight of stairs and gets on her knees as JD, Marcus, and Fahz comes to see what’s going on. From what occurs here, I explored more insight into the trio’s relationship: one that is tense and on the verge of breaking as JD retreats into the all familiar military mindset. The three were all outsiders, outside of JD and Del who were both officers in the COG Army and had gone AWOL after a mysterious affair at Settlement 2, now they’re either all enlisted or been reinstated into the COG as the fight between the humans and the Swarm become more intense.
After this, I hit the ground running and this is where the game truly shines. As you explore the game and journey across Sera to unearth Kait’s origins and uncover the truth of the Swarm, you’ll travel across a wide arrange of open-world style hubs and this is where the game shines. You take control of a sail-driven skiff which is your main transportation towards the base of Mount Kadar and the New Hope Research Facility which resides in the Mount Kadar Valley which Gears of War 2 took place around and you can see leftovers of the operation that was conducted there during the timeline of Gears 2.
These areas aren’t true open world areas like in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Fallout, or The Elder Scrolls but resemble more closely to Metro Exodus. The world around you is designed for you to explore and see what’s out there, this is the first time the franchise has ever done this which expands the world building to another level. I always wanted to explore Sera and see this world that is filled with rich lore and history and it’s a shame that we never got that until now.
The Mount Kadar area was tighly packed and quite dense as condors were scattered across the map, campsites dotted around, and filled with little things to do like a side quest to find Lena, an Outsider who had escaped the massacre at the village, and much more. Kait and Del frequently spoke about the surrounding areas, the history behind what was left behind during the Hollowstorm Operation, which helped the game retain its cinematic feel that the games have become famous for. This isn’t an open world just for the sake of it, The Coalition has worked hard on retaining what makes Gears Gears while expanding the franchise.
Connecting the open world style layouts is the more traditional levels that we have come to expect from Gears. I entered the New Hope Research Facility, which was a classified COG research facility that was once the home to experimentation on children who were affected by Rustlung during the Pendulum Wars, with its familiar hallways and layout. The structures here provide some of the big setpiece moments that we have come to expect from the franchise while the open world style layout makes Gears more modern and more up to date.
The open world is proof that Gears is in the right hands. This is an experimentation exploring the boundaries of what the franchise can do, without the need to sacrifice and self-sabotage its sense of identity and being that many other games do. The Coalition is ready to expand the franchise by introducing open world style levels, vehicle traversal, RPG mechanics in the form of Jack which is very neat, introducing exploration makes me believe that the franchise that I deeply love and care about is in the right hands. This is an interesting game and the evolution that the franchise needed.