As I have played through Gears 5 for review purposes, and then carried on playing because it is quite frankly awesome, I got thinking about how the whole package hung together. I found myself thinking about my favourite parts of Gears 5, the highlight reel if you will, and wondered how my list of memorable moments would compare to those of others. Would it be the stunning story? The intense multiplayer? The Horde mode for being, well, Horde mode? The more I thought about it, the more the germ of an idea for an article was born, and here I present my best five moments of Gears 5.
Now, for the avoidance of doubt, I will be discussing big story moments, and you should treat this as a SPOILER WARNING: if you haven’t finished the story, then please do not read on until you have. With that out of the way, here are the bits of Gears 5 that blew me away, in reverse order.
5) The Skiff
This is a real departure for Gears, giving the player the freedom to go and explore. A little bit of freeroam never hurt anyone, except when I used to run into angry dragons in Skyrim, and seeing it in Gears is a step in the right direction.
The maps in Acts Two and Three are massive, with plenty to find and explore, including crashed Condors and mines. With the points of interest marked by yellow flags, flapping in the wind, exploring is rewarded with upgrades and components for Jack, our lovable robotic chum. Finding all the parts in the various side missions gives Jack new abilities, such as freezing enemies or a bullet deflecting shield, which as you can imagine comes in very handy.
The visuals on display in these levels are beautiful, with wonderful mountains to sail through, and in the desert of Act Three a gigantic wind flare provides a terrifying counterpoint to just sliding through the sand! These levels, with their feelings of freedom, are a complete contrast to the usual gameplay from the Gears series, and you can do as much or as little as you wish.
4) The Boss Fights
There are memorable set pieces all through Gears 5, but the ones that stick in my mind are the boss fights, especially those of Act Two and the Kraken from Acts Three and Four.
Fighting the Matriarch in Act Two has been an amazing experience, as she is basically a Berserker turned up to 11! With a cool (sorry) mechanic that involves breaking ice, aggro-ing her and then attacking while she is frozen, this is a great fight on all levels. Trying to get behind her to do damage without falling into the water, and getting away before she defrosts and goes mental, certainly sees the sweat come on. With a co-op buddy it isn’t too bad, as we could take turns trying to get her attention, but with an A.I. Del “helping” me, I seemed to die. A lot.
As for the Kraken, this was an intense vertical fight the first time we met, battling our way down a launch tower as it attempts to throttle the rocket we are trying to launch, and having survived that, to then see it tearing a city to pieces in the set piece battle at the end of the game was breathtaking. Fighting it off, shooting its tongues and rescuing any buddies before they could be munched was hard enough, but trying to get a little breathing room to shoot it in the face with a rail gun was a real challenge.
The end of the fight did bring a lump to my throat, and while it’s weird to have developed feelings for a little hunk of tin, when Jack took the Kraken out I felt like we are going to miss him in the next game.
3) Escape Mode
The introduction of a whole new PvE mode to Gears is a big deal. The whole setup is great, with three dedicated “Hivebusters” introduced, and an intriguing premise.
Playing as either one of Scorpio Squad, as Sarah Connor out of the Terminator films, or possibly one of two Halo characters, you start the match by being captured by a Snatcher. Snatched, if you will. Once you have been caught you then have to get out again – after planting a bomb containing Venom, which I’m going to assume isn’t very good for the old breathing tubes.
So, get out, as fast as you can, while being armed only with a sidearm, as anything else wouldn’t make it through the podding process. Of course, you have a knife as well, as ammo can be somewhat short. Finding supply caches can help, as they contain either ammo or weapons, but not usually both. Thankfully killing Swarm does let you take their weapons, and taking down a drone, taking his Enforcer or Hammerburst, then giving his mates the good news with it is genuinely good fun. Killing the Warden that spawns near the end lets you grab his Breaker Mace, and if there’s more fun than smashing a group of Juvies with a well timed hit, I’m not sure what it is.
With the Venom spreading through the Hive at a rate of knots, the balance between trying to hide and stay alive, and keep moving so you don’t choke, is brilliantly balanced, adding a real sense of urgency. And if you throw in the chance to design and upload your own maps, this really is a fantastic addition to the multiplayer side of Gears.
2) Kait’s story
The story of Kait, her mother and the medallion from her Grandmother was explored a bit in Gears 4, but the real bombshells come in Gears 5. Again – spoilers if you haven’t got this far – but seeing where they took her, and how the writers of the game explained Kait’s apparent connection to the Swarm was masterful. Meeting a returning AI from Gears 1, believing what he says about Kait’s background does not lead to anywhere fun, and finding out that not only was Myrrah, Kait’s Grandmother, human once, and a willful little girl at that, then seeing that she was Reyna’s mother, and then the lie descend to Kait, blew me away.
Linking Kait to the Matriarch, causing not only it to awaken, but Kait’s own mother to awaken and assume the role of Hive Queen, was a jaw dropping moment. Fighting the Matriarch was made a lot harder with the constant interruption of the Swarm attempting to gain control of Kait, and added to the drama.
To then escape all that, and have Jinn attempt to force Kait to commune with the Hive and the Swarm to find out their intentions really ratcheted up the drama. With a defined baddie to fight against, and the way the new Swarm Queen acts, even with an abrupt ending to the story in Gears 5, it looks like the story arc has now been set…
1) The Hardest Choice
In Act 4, a choice has to be made so as if I haven’t warned you enough, there really, really, are some spoilers ahead now.
Having come across Reyna, now fully Swarmified and transformed into something that looks like a cross between Kait’s mother and an octopus, she grabs Del and J.D., and Kait is left with an unenviable choice. She can only save one, by throwing her knife to sever the tentacle that is holding her friend by the neck. Who to save? I have to admit to saying it was J.D. in my playthrough, as I couldn’t face having to tell Marcus that his son had died. Marcus, having been so strong for so long, would be crushed by J.D. popping his clogs, and so I sacrificed Del. This was a wrench, I’m not going to lie, after spending so much time with him in the previous acts, but I played it as I see it. J.D., with the injuries he sustained and the revelations about his conduct in the past when it came to crushing some dissent and protests, made me have to really consider which way I went. But for better or worse, in my Gears universe, Del is no more, murdered by Reyna.
So, these are my personal top 5 moments and features from the utterly brilliant Gears 5. What are yours – I’d love to hear them, you know, as these articles are meant to stir up debate. Did you feel the story came to an abrupt end? Who did you save? Is Horde better than Escape? Chime in by dropping yourself into the comments section below and letting me know. And don’t forget, you can grab a copy of Gears 5 from the Xbox Store right now.