The latest game in the Gears of War franchise may seem to belong in the middle of the original trilogy’s Locust War. The latest game looks to improve on basic elements of the game such as shooting gooey reptilian monsters, exploring ruined labs, and chainsawing other players. The overall features of the series haven’t been tweaked much at all in the sixth entry, but The Coalition brings a refreshing look in its second game after taking the reins on the Gears of War franchise. Gears 5’s story is mostly focused with the past and to some extent, the entire Gears 5 stays there. However, the new add-ons help rejuvenate the series’ best old ideas.
And there are a lot of new features. On the cooperative multiplayer side, characters are given new abilities so that they each play a little differently. Expansive progression systems in competitive and co-op multiplayer have similarities from other games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty to give you a constant feeling of advancement. The story campaign too has something of an RPG-like progression system, and also some wide-open areas that change up the series’ traditionally linear approach.
The Coalition hasn’t taken giant steps forward from the fundamentals of Gears gameplay. This means you still have deliberate moves and have to dive between cover positions behind chest-high walls and other debris to pop out and shoot at enemies with a variety of guns. Importantly, carefully timing your active reloads will give you the most out of your firepower, and you’re always searching the battlefield for new weapons better equipped to the enemies you’re taking down. Gory executions and melee kills are still the key for close quarters.
Multiplayer battles generally down to two people diving back and forth, looking to land that last big shotgun blast to transform their opponent into a pile of meaty chunks. However the game has progressed drastically which is reflected by the free Battle Pass-like system, hero shooter-inspired characters, and other improvements that are all welcome evolutions for a 13-year-old franchise.
While the new elements don’t stop Gears 5 from feeling true to the earlier games in the franchise, at least in its 12-hour story campaign, there’s also a lot of ground that’s being retold. The Locust makes a comeback, but they have a new name: Swarm. You will spend considerable time looking to convince straggly bands of surviving humans to join forces with the fascist COG army to fight the Swarm. However these characters aren’t called the Stranded anymore; they’re Outsiders.
Most of the game concerns bringing a franchise superweapon, the Hammer of Dawn, back online to use against your enemies. Gears is now back in the same territory it covered with the trilogy that wrapped up back in 2011, and while some of the tools in this war have changed, the war mostly remains unchanged. Gears 5 is weakened somewhat by being mired in the past but at the same time there are a plenty of strong moments in its campaign. But again, it struggles to progress in a manner that’s a perfect continuation of the narrative.