Marcus Fenix is a legend. He did his best trying to save the campaign in Gears of War 4. It was only thanks to him that we were able to cope with the goofy, dry jokes of his son, J. D., and company. I don't know why the developers from The Coalition thought it a good idea to create a cast of characters that simply seemed shallow compared to the veterans of the first trilogy, but I know the devs have learned from their mistakes, because Gears 5 is a step in the right direction. The characters were finally fleshed out, and even though Marcus is absent for the majority of game, it doesn't prevent us from achieving true Zen.
The nightmare continues
- a very good campaign that often references the original trilogy;
- the characters are no longer a bunch of wussies;
- updating the formula by adding quasi-open stages in acts II and III;
- giving Jack some new skills;
- as always well prepared multiplayer modes, both PvE and PvP;
- the soundtrack by Ramin Javadi;
- wasted potential of the open stages in the campaign;
- a little confusing mechanics of unlocking stuff in the multiplayer;
- occasional skipping animations in cut-scenes.
Although the word "war" is no longer included in the official name of the game, the conflict with the so-called Locusts is full-on. The monsters, guided by the will of their queen, swarmed the entire planet, and regular battles in the cities are still the daily bread. The victory of mankind can only be achieved by rebooting the Hammer of Dawn, a powerful energy weapon located in the planets orbit. It's the main axis of the new Gears campaign, alongside an attempt to unravel the mystery of the origins of Kait and her mother.
If Gears 5 is going to be your first contact with the series, I strongly recommend completing at least part four. The plots of both games are closely related, and the five begins immediately after the previous installment. However, the developers included two videos recapping the events of Gears of War 4 in the game menu, as did they in other games of the series, but it is not as organic and personal an experience as completing the game yourself. Moreover, even in the case of Xbox, the game currently costs peanuts.
It's usually hard to talk about a compelling, truly immersive plot in the case of regular shooters, where the single most important mechanic is pulling the trigger. One thing that can surely be said about the plot in this game, however, is that it's satisfying. This is a fairly simple soldier story, but it also offers a level of mystery that makes pursuing the conclusion worth it. At the end of the game, there even is a moral decision that may be problematic in terms of a sequel. Which, by the way, is very likely to appear, because the story ends with a minor cliffhanger.
Large, empty locations
In the single-player campaign, we enact two characters. In the first act, it's JD, son of Marcus Phoenix and the protagonist of the previous installment. From the second act, until the very end of the game, the perspective shifts to Kait. From this moment on, the series' traditional approach to gameplay also changes. I mean, it doesn't change in the sense of the mechanics of combat Gears 5 remains a cover-shooter and is very much a Gears game, but there also are some larger, open locations, which we traverse in a skiff basically, a sailing sled.
On the one hand, this definitely provides a nice diversification of the rail-shooter experience. On the other, the potential of the idea is untapped; essentially, it simply lengthens the transitions between subsequent combat scenes we now have to skid for a while, rather than just enter the next area. I did love the mayhem during combat, but it also seemed to me that moving through those quasi-open locations could easily be a bit more interesting, more interactive.
Hit the road, Jack
In fact, the biggest change when it comes to the mechanics is the flying drone accompanying our team, which is now more than just a prop used for opening doors. So far, our mechanical companion was mostly useless. Now, we can teach it a few useful tricks, ranging from bringing us weapons scattered around the location, cloaking the entire squad, or putting a barrier that deflects incoming projectiles. Jack's gradual improvements have a significant impact on the quality of the game, and they're not just a fanciful addition to use during a few, scripted moments.
The increasingly powerful Jack is a valuable member of the squad. Furthermore, in coop, one player can play as the drone and infiltrate the battlefield from a whole new perspective. At the same time, the development of the drone's skills is done through a few simple technological trees that can be completed with components found around the world. That's a very cool, and well implemented idea.