Microsoft

Gears 5 (Xbox One)

gears5

The Hammer of Dawn satellite super weapon is Gear 5’s equivalent to the hydrogen bombds of World War II. A visit to an outsider outpost brings derision aimed at the COG military – a small child pretends to shoot them, calling them fascists as he runs away. Later, a mission involves satellite assembly, backed by Cold War fears and distrusting men with Russian accents.

Gears of War does not take place on Earth; it’s on planet Sera. And yet Gears 5 takes this burly, protein OD’d, G.I. Joe caricature into a twisting of real world affairs – one admittedly with chainsaw assault rifles and saw blade-shooting special weapons.

This Microsoft-owned franchise will forever tie itself to frat boy origins. If Gears lets go of its juvenile cool, then it ceases to be Gears. Long term, that may come to haunt these sequels. Not yet though. Or, not entirely so.

“It’s not the weapons I don’t trust. It’s the people who use them,” spouts gruff (former) protagonist Marcus Fenix to the COG leader, pushing hard into conservative pro-military, anti-government talking points. Leaving Fenix in the background, Gears 5 is willing to teeter with liberal leanings. By the end, different nations, genders, and AI work together for a common cause.

Then they drop the Hammer/nuke.

Looking out over a smoldering city. The camera sweeps by key characters, tired, but projecting a sense of victory. Most of Gears 5 considers the morality of such a weapon’s impact, and in the end, finds the nearest garbage can to deposit those words. Gears 5 needs an explosion. It gets one. Big monster goes boom. Never mind any loss.

Without the original team, Gears 5 shows maturation. It’s certainly not adult. Maybe a junior college student, one slowly becoming aware of the wider world, the past, and how that all functions today. Outside of the (excessive and overlong) shooting, Gears 5 takes time for somber ruminations on conflict. There’s acknowledgement of mistakes, and an effort to course correct to help Sera’s future. Gears 5 is hope that maybe, if something this blustery and booming can find time to quiet down, others might too.

4/5

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