Unlike some gamers, Xbox fans and non-fans alike, I was excited for Gears 5.
Since the E3 2018 reveal last year, Rod Fergusson and the Coalition (Gears 5 developers) had only been saying the right things about Gears 5. Lo and behold, the game turned out even better than I had hoped; open-world segment experimentation, a captivating story with a series-high milestone in character development, and the best damn multiplayer modes you’ve ever laid your filthy mitts on.
Gears 5 demonstrates that we should never give up hope for our favourite console. Even if it is suffering from a dry patch.
A Worthy Example
As a Gears fan, but an Xbox sceptic, Gears 5 represents many positive signs for Xbox Game Studios moving forward (the collective of studios owned by Microsoft). The Coalition know what they’re doing with the franchise. Changing it up, making it feel fresh by putting in new modes and story ideas, and all the while improving the formula we know and love in small, noticeable ways.
Making the story and characters feel more fleshed out than ever, whilst answering franchise-long questions Gears fans have been dying to know. Introducing open-world mechanics with optional objectives to test these ideas within the Gears universe. And lastly, improving on aspects which most of us thought were already great: The sound of the weapons and the satisfaction from firing the classic lancer. Horde mode becoming even better than its status of already being one of the best game modes out there.
Gears 5 is an impressive game. It is even more impressive considering that the game was made in basically two and a half years – half of what the typical development time is for a AAA game today. But it doesn’t stop there. They also made Gears POP!, a mobile spin-off based on the POP vinyl figures which – from the reviews and chatter on Twitter – is a success for what it is. Gears POP! launched weeks before Gears 5. But wait… there’s more. Gears Tactics is also currently in development: a PC exclusive Gears RTS game. And ladies and gentlemen, this is while they’ve likely put Gears 6 into pre-production AND continued to support Gears 4 in the few months leading into Gears 5.
This all puts the Coalition at the top of those studios to watch in the coming years, not just because of the workload they can manage extremely effectively, but also because of the execution of their products. Looking further into how the Coalition is able to achieve this level of quality as efficiently as they are, I return to some of the remarks made by Phil Spencer at the Xbox E3 presentation earlier this year – paraphrasing of course – emphasising the investment that Xbox is making in not just new studios, but studios they’ve owned for many years, such as 343 Industries, as well as The Coalition.
It is clear now what Phil was talking about, since Gears 5, and the surrounding Gears spin-off games, could not have been made so quickly, and so well, without much investment to the studio. It’s interesting to take this observation away and apply it to the likes of 343 Industries, Rare, the many other studios Microsoft has acquired, and Minecraft (a Microsoft owned brand) because now I have more faith that the products within these franchises will be of high quality. Moreover, it’s nice to know that Microsoft isn’t just providing a financial safety net for these studios; they are also making these studios better through investment.
So What Have We Learned?
Overall, and simply put, it is nice to receive an excellent first-party game on Xbox because we have so very little. But that is the beauty of Gears 5 – it not only gives me faith that Gears is still very much alive and well, and that we should look forward to the upcoming entries, but that we can have faith that Xbox first-party titles should be getting better as the games slowly release over the next few months and years, with the investments to the studios being made in mind.
That, or we’re back to square one again in terms of no really interesting first-party titles, and I begin to worry again about the vital franchises to the Xbox line-up such as Halo. That said, I’m pretty tired of being worried at this point.