The Coalition’s newest entry in the Gears of War franchise, Gears 5, released recently and with it came a bit of change to the old Gears formula. The Coalition’s first Gears work was in 2016 with Gears of War 4, which was a solid game that largely stayed true to the core gameplay that Gears of War 1-3 was known for while with Epic Games. With Gears 5, the studio wanted to finally put their own stamp on the Gears formula, while maintaining the core gameplay fans know and love. This mix of old and new mostly works, and delivers a great story and multiplayer in one great (incredible, if you have Game Pass) package.

So, what’s new with Gears 5? Well, let’s start with the story and campaign gameplay. The story continues where Gears 4 left off. Kait has joined JD and the gang as COG soldiers in the new fight against the swarm, the enemy in Gears 4 that killed Kait’s mother and wreaked havoc on the new “outsider” settlements. The game opens with Delta team heading to find plans for a hammer of dawn device and the rocket needed to launch the satellite into orbit. I won’t get deep into the plot here, but I find I enjoy the Coalition’s approach to the Gears story and characters more than I did with Epic‘s run. You get much more depth to each character and backstory while trying to unravel the mystery of Kait’s family, and learning more about JD’s & Marcus‘ as well.

Many characters from Gears 1-3 make their return in Gears 5 and you’ll visit some locations that were mentioned in previous games. On the gameplay side, The Coalition made their mark on the series by adding open “hub” worlds to the campaign. I have likes and dislikes about these. They look great and are fun to drive around in (using the new vehicle, a sort of windsurfing transport) but there is not much to do in the world. You’ll run into a handful of side objectives that give you upgrades to Jack (your robot buddy) but that’s about it. No enemies roaming, no random mysteries, just a few clearly-marked side missions, and the next main mission. I’d love to see the studio take this concept further in the next game and make the hub world a bit more like the recent Tomb Raider games, or even like Halo ODST back in the day. Add some collectibles to find, roaming enemies, missions, exploration areas, etc.

Gears 5 First Impressions Final Thoughts:

Overall, I’m not completely finished playing Gears 5 and the multiplayer is something I need to dive deeper into (spoiler: the multiplayer, including a refined horde mode, is great), but the game is outstanding. Some gripes with the open-world hubs aside, The Coalition has made one of the best looking games of this generation (it hits 4K 60 on Xbox One X, 1080p 30/60 on Xbox One) and on top of the great visuals, has stayed true enough to the Gears formula while adding much-needed character depth and creativity that you keep thinking about Gears 5 even after you’re done playing. It’s a great game to end the Xbox One generation on, and a technical showpiece for the consoles (including an incredible PC port that is on Steam) that keeps you wanting more and more.