Gears 5 has received a slew of balance tweaks and bug squashing ever since the early access betas, and to The Coalition's credit, that trend has continued following their full game launch. Operation 2: Free For All is their latest major quarterly update.
This latest instalment in the chainsaw gun franchise, for all its bold strides on the campaign side of things, has managed to define itself with a broad and widely enjoyed online feature set that isn't showing signs of slowing down. The headline addition for Operation 2 is a trio of new competitive modes, each catering to a distinct subset of the Gears fanbase. 2v2 Gnashers reimagines a number of classic Gears maps for constricted, chess game style match ups, with shotguns as your only tool.
This is arguably the best of the bunch, as it distils everything down to focus on tight, cover based gameplay while significantly raising the stakes by introducing one life per round. You'll rely on your partner to read the opposition, flanking and pushing at just the right moment. At the same time, a counter attack can be swift and ruthless, and if you end up in a 2v1 scuffle (where the odds aren't in your favour) it can all go sideways in a moments notice. There are moments of genuine tension here that we haven't felt in a Gears game for quite some time.
Arcade Blitz is all about territory control. The twist here is you can't simply take the designated zone and sit pretty in cover. You have to remain in the circle to score points, and given the broader loadouts and heavier ranged focus of Arcade's base ruleset, this can be a tricky balancing act. While vanilla Arcade still remains the standout, The Coalition should be praised for attempting to mix things up.
Where things fell apart a bit for us is with the return of Free For All, a 14 player cluster...bomb of a mode that presents extremely dense, cover heavy maps and relentless combat. The spawning here felt in need of some tweaking, as we regularly found ourselves popping up in front of another player, and with only 2 seconds protection providing the briefest possible respite, there wasn't much room to breathe.
Conceptually, there's nothing wrong with it, and the increased player count at least provided a wide variety of rivals. But with so many opportunities for folks to dart around like a moron via wall bouncing, it felt too unbalanced and kind of a mess. To be clear, we regularly charted pretty well during our time with this new mode, so our frustration isn't motivated by bitterness over placement. Bigger maps with fewer choke points, and adjusted spawning could make this a winner.
Ultimately, Operation 2: Free For All is another solid update from The Coalition. Free For All (in its current state) is a swing and a miss, but everything else really works. Of course, it's important to note that this update doesn't cost a penny, and with new maps, modes, and cosmetics, we certainly can't complain about the amount of content.
Gears 5 is available now, for Xbox One and PC.
Operation 2: Free For All is live, and free to all players.