Update 10/3/19: After a recent patch, Gears 5 now includes an option to toggle aiming. The new feature can be found under the ‘Controller’ subsection of the options menu. As such, the score now reflects this addition. (Note: Despite being located within the ‘Controller’ menu, players that utilize a mouse and keyboard can still enable this option.)
After losing the physical capability to effectively play on consoles, I admittedly abandoned several of my favorite franchises, adopting accessible titles on the PC. With the launch of Gears 5, I was excited to finally return to an Xbox classic, this time on my computer. Gears 5 is an absolute blast, with plentiful examples of egregious violence, compelling character stories, and game modes that enhance the overall longevity, yet minor accessibility issues prevent this title from earning a perfect score.
Published by Xbox Game Studios, and developed by The Coalition, Gears 5 tasks players with uncovering the mysterious backstory of Kait. Aside from the Campaign, the beloved Horde mode and Multiplayer matchmaking return, with the addition of a new game mode called Escape. However, I could not access Horde or Escape without assistance from others, as it requires individuals to press the ‘Enter’ key. This was rather perplexing, considering Campaign and Multiplayer enables players to click the ‘Enter’ option on-screen without needing to press the physical key.
In relation to customizing control options, Gears 5 is relatively accessible for physically impaired players. The option to fully customize controls, except for the previously mentioned ‘Enter’ key is a welcome sight. Gears 5 even warns players of conflicting keys, removing previously bound options at the player’s request. Furthermore, if a key is unnecessary, players need not find a way to bind it to their keyboard. The game even extends these options to standard controllers, as well as the Xbox Adaptive Controller, ensuring that each play style is properly represented. Throughout the campaign, I regularly changed control options to fit my current scenario.
Despite the bevy of key customizations, Gears 5 fails to provide options to toggle certain mechanics. For example, players must continuously hold the sprint, aim, and unique weapon mode keys to perform their respective actions. This is perplexing considering Gears 5 includes the capability to customize nearly every key, as well as featuring a menu labeled ‘Accessibility,’ which includes an option to activate aim-assist on Beginner difficulty. Yet, these options are not necessary to complete the game.
Levels in Gears 5 are relatively close-quartered. As such, players are not required to activate the sprint function. If an individual can simply press the key to roll or dive into cover, each campaign mission can be successfully completed. The entire ethos of the Gears franchise is to utilize cover to your advantage. Fights rarely devolve into run-and-gun scenarios, rather requiring players to strategically hide behind walls, pillars, or boulders to eliminate enemies.
The option to aim is more peculiar. Like sprinting, players need not aim throughout most of the campaign. Gears 5, much like its predecessors, enable the use of blind firing. While you lose the ability to precisely eliminate enemies, guns can function without aiming. In fact, weapons like the Gnasher and Overkill compensate the lack of aiming with a wide bullet spread. While an effective option in Campaign, players will surely struggle in Multiplayer. Your opponents will definitely be aiming, leaving you at a distinct disadvantage.
Aiming becomes problematic when fighting swarming enemies or utilizing Jack on the battlefield. Certain enemy groups, like ‘Juvies,’ attack in large groups, with quick movement patterns. While players can chainsaw them with the iconic Lancer, their attacks usually stun characters long enough to prevent consecutive chainsaw kills. Thankfully, AI companions are surprisingly accurate and effective, meaning that ‘Juvies’ are easily disposable.
Aiming further muddles the campaign when attempting to utilize the offensive capabilities of your robot compatriot, Jack. Jack is an adorable support character that provides temporary invulnerability, stuns enemies with tasers, or activates switches or delivers consumables with the press of a button. While acting on its own, Jack floats around the battlefield like a traditional AI character. When players activate its specific key, Jack deploys a support buff that affects all allies in its vicinity. However, in order to have Jack interact with the environment, or provide offensive support, players must aim at whatever object they wish Jack to target. As such, I rarely utilized Jack as an offense tool, instead upgrading its support capabilities.
Gears 5 should be praised for its vast accessibility options. I can complete the Campaign, challenge others in Multiplayer, and slaughter enemies in Horde and Escape, albeit through the brief assistance of others. Yet, with the inability to toggle specific mechanics, Gears 5 is an accessible anomaly. One must wonder if these options were never considered. As such, understand your specific physical limitations before purchasing this otherwise astounding game.