After three years, the boys of The Coalition led by Rod Fergusson, churn out Gears 5, the new chapter of the venerable Microsoft saga. And, in many respects, this is a transitional chapter. A good transition, As far as I am concerned. The game offers a lot and revolutionizes many little things, let's look at them calmly.
Cover no more
I want to be honest with you. To me, the Gears 4 campaign bored. It was too basic, too anchored to the past, with a rhythm that touched me every time I played with it. With Gears 5 was completely the opposite. This is due to important changes both in the gameplay side and in terms of history.
Gears has always had the problem of being "the torso height shooter". There is that sort of mantra that the player wants to place himself against a wall and spend time shooting from his cover against enemies covered in turn. Those who really play there know that this is not the case, but it has been almost always for reasons of reaction. Let's take the enemies that tend to charge in close combat and then force the player to have to back away and move. What Gears 5 does is add a component of action from the player to break the cover mantra. And the result is a game much more dynamic than its predecessors. The accompanying robot typical of the series, here called Jack, is endowed with various abilities that totally change the face of the battle.
The most useful skill is to recover weapons from the battlefield and bring them to the player. In Gears, being left without bullets or without an adequate weapon is something that can happen and this function allows you to do everything in a much safer way. The remaining abilities are targeted flashbangs, electric traps, total invisibility and the ability to absorb damage for a limited period. Knowing how to exploit this arsenal is what makes the Gears experience a leap, becoming a much more aggressive shooter than in the past. I fully approve the passage. Among other things, Jack is controllable by a co-op player, making the cooperative experience asymmetrical and perfect for a player less accustomed to shooters who still want to get involved.
The other aspect that I appreciated is the rhythm of the game. Gears has always been very hectic. There was always a goal ahead and it continued to fuck hard, always. Something that is fine, but that tends to tire more than it should. In Gears 5, in the central part of the adventure we find ourselves in two macro areas to navigate to reach the main or secondary mission areas. This space is used to relax, to absorb the world around you and to have so many dialogues between the group. Allow the game to breathe and keep the player glued to the screen for the duration of the campaign. What is certain is that here you go a lot to personal tastes, and some players might see it all as a waste of time. But trust me, it does more good than harm.
The last major change for the campaign is fiction. As we had already guessed for a while, we are moving away from pure macismo, the characters seem more proportionate and we are trying to give them more than a single emotional range. There is still a long way to go, but shifting attention to Kait as the protagonist was the right choice. He is an introspective character with numerous inner conflicts to resolve, a big step forward compared to the more one-dimensional Marcus Phoenix and also to JD by Gears 4. I was very struck by a moment ... "Wolfenstein" of the game and I'm curious to see how they will carry on the story. Avoiding spoilers, we can say that the game goes to fetch many elements from Gears' past, to give it new light and dimension in this new era made up of new heroes. And it matters little if the new swarm does the same things as the locust horde in practice.
Narratively, the game draws its best cards in the first half and, even if the second half loses a bit of bite, the whole final sequence is noteworthy and sets the trajectory of the sequel well. What time I wait with healthy optimism.
Once the campaign is finished in around 10 hours, it's time to dive into multiplayer. The game open to season pass holders allowed us to test the game modes with a reasonable number of people. There are many things to do, all with a very solid base and a long-term future.
The game has a good progression system and sees our profile level up separately from the various characters linked to the Escape and Horde mode. As you advance, both aesthetic trappings and new passive abilities for your heroes are unlocked in the Escape and Horde modes.
The absence of Jack's multiplayer abilities makes the experience much more like the previous ones. The Coalition has made a remarkable change to the shooting, going to completely eliminate the dispersion of bullets from weapons. The first Gears, from the first to the third, simulated the loss of precision of the assault rifles going to disperse the bullets as they were fired with the trigger pressed. This quickly led Gears to become a violent clash of shotguns in pursuing the optimum. Now this spread has disappeared completely, leaving a real recoil to the weapons. This can be compensated (better with a mouse than with a controller of course) and increased the skill level a player can get. On paper at least. I personally greatly appreciate this change because it brings back the accuracy of the aim in the hands of the player.
The other novelty is the Escape mode. This is a PvE-focused mode on running and moving. The goal is to escape from a swarming hive in the shortest possible time. The focus is therefore on movement, on making decisions quickly and on surviving by finding what happens around. A total change of course compared to horde. I personally like the experience, is in tune with what is played in the campaign, but only time will tell if players will appreciate this way of playing Gears. This mode is also associated with a level editor, with which to create your own hive from which to escape. Actually, the editor is a bit limited at the moment. The hope is that over time it can be expanded and, why not, also addressed to other modes.
I could try the other modes with matchmaking open to those who have early access through the Gamepass and the experience has been excellent for now, both playfully and technically, with clean and smooth connections. The maps seem quite varied and well made, but it takes several hours to discern the goodness or criticality of the design.
Unreal Engine perfected
Under Epic, the Gears series was the work with which they presented their graphic engine to the world, which they then had to sell. The Coalition confirms to be the best possible heir and Gears 5 is audiovisually fantastic. The details of the world and the characters are well cared for, as are all the lighting effects. Pre-calculated physics has always been a great show, even if used in a less flashy way than Gears 4. It is a modern game, in step with the times and cleverly built.
I played on a PC with these specifications: Xeon 1650 @ 3.9Ghz, 16GBDDR3 @ 1600MT / s and an RTX2060. By setting everything to ultra, you can expect about 78fps in 1080p, 56fps in 1440p and 30fps in 4k. At low detail instead, the full HD you can expect 122fps, but my system ran into a slight CPU bottleneck, having a CPU of the 2011. In any case, the settings are many and it is a really well optimized port, managing to adequately exploit the multicore and not exceeding in RAM consumption.
This in the countryside, of course, where graphic fidelity is pushed to the maximum, especially in movies. In multiplayer I noticed, with the limit to 60fps, a usage of the GPU halved compared to the campaign, so there is ample room to play with excellent quality at high framerates. I could not try the game on consoles, but the consensus is of a really good Xbox One X version, while on Xbox One S trudges a little, especially for the halved framerate in the campaign.
So, all things considered, what can we say about Gears 5? Which is a nice game. Funny, solid in all its aspects. Beautiful campaign, evolving gameplay but anchored to its hyper-reliable roots. Graphically excellent. Projected towards the new generation. The only real shame is that he arrived late in the Xbox life cycle. All fans of the saga should not miss it and those who play shooters even occasionally must give us an eye.