Gears 5 continues its hot streak of free content updates and meaningful additions with their latest drop, Operation 3: Gridiron, and it's easily their most well balanced and complete package to date, with a fantastic new mode.
The Coalition's approach to post launch support in Gears 5 has, on balance, been a winning formula. Free maps and modes, a whole slew of earnable through gameplay cosmetics, and tweaks to the meta that directly address community feedback. Thankfully, there has been no Season Pass nonsense; for a multiplayer title, this has never made sense to us, given its potential to fracture the player base with segregated content.
A lot of classic maps from Gears 4 and further back have made welcome returns, spruced up for this current iteration, and although premium cosmetics feel overpriced (as they often do in many games), there has been a consistency to these updates that is very much appreciated.
That being said, Operation 2 didn't get everything right , with Free For All bringing with it a procession of relentless spawning issues and ultimately a fairly miserable experience. All eyes are therefore on Gridiron, the new single life, end zone flag orientated mode that we're happy to report is a smashing good time.
Despite being built with an emphasis on teamplay and cover flanking, Gears can often feel like a solo experience, particularly if you're playing alongside folks determined to embrace a lone wolf play style. Gridiron addresses this head on; co-ordination is vital, as you either push for a squad wipe, or hang back to guard your endzone from a sneaky flag delivery. The stakes feel high and the round speed is tuned just right, meaning you're never too far from the action should things go sideways earlier than expected.
Returning map Canals is a welcome nod to legacy multiplayer, but it's new arena "Pahanu" that is the true highlight. Sight-lines are much clearer than you'd expect, but don't think this will become a sniper's paradise; as with all asymmetric Gears maps, heavy weapon pickups leave you massively exposed, and there's plenty of cover to bunker down should you come under fire.
Visually, it's stunning, particularly on Xbox One X, and a dramatically different vibe to the heavier industrial focus from the initial launch offering.
One extremely welcome change is a tweaked Tour of Duty, which sees you able to contribute towards unlocking coveted executions and rare cosmetics through typical actions (such as kills with a particular weapon) across all game modes. You won't have to devote time to a particular slice of Gears that doesn't take your fancy, lending a sense of satisfaction to the process without it feeling cheapened.
The only thing that feels slightly undercooked is the re-purposed maps in 2v2. It would be nice to see bespoke smaller maps being thrown into rotation, ensuring a healthy dose of fresh murder boxes without the need to simply recycle and scale down existing content.
Nevertheless, fans of Gears 5 should be extremely pleased with this update, and there's enough here to justify sinking more time into its ever evolving multiplayer.
Gears 5 is available now, for Xbox One and PC.
Operation 3: Gridiron is live, and free to all players.