Short and bloody sweet, Gears 5: Hivebusters pumps out excitement with the urgency of a rattling lancer, rarely slowing down when he hits the mark with his cover-based fights. The troubled open-world exploration that was introduced in Gears 5 is nowhere to be found, and neither can Kait Diaz or the Fenix family. Instead, we see Gears doing what he does best – mulching the flesh of Locus Horde. Players experience this familiar action through the mighty chaos of Scorpio Squad, a group of misfits gathered for a suicide mission.
Scorpion Squad is the team that was introduced in Gears 5’s Escape Mode, and Hivebusters tells their origin story. They must sacrifice themselves to take down a huge Swarm Hive – an altruistic act that could save all of Sera. This narrative moves quickly, but is not short of vision. We have lots of fun and exaggerated jokes from the team Leslie Macallister, Lahni Kaliso and Jeremiah Keegan, who have traveled to the lava rich and beautifully made Galangi Islands. They move through jungles and caverns while hunting down the hive, along with something else that’s big, unexpected, and spitting out a toxin. The story and the narrative go well, making pass the three hours that it lasts.
The team is equipped with a familiar arsenal, but they are without Jack – a flying robotic assistant that previously provided support functionality. To make up for Jack’s absence, each character has a different ultimate ability that works with a cooldown and can be upgraded through buffs. Mac deploys a useful energy shield, Keegan generates ammo, and Lahni has fun with an electrified knife, the best of the three. Ultimates are a game-changer in how often they can be used and how well they help the team.
Most shootouts throw caution to the wind and bombard the player with all types of enemies attacking from all vectors. Grasshopper infantry take cover behind barriers, howling juvies leap from the trees and swarms dance above their heads. The intensity achieved by some of these fights is impressive and developer The Coalition does a good job changing them from moment to moment. One minute you need to crouch down and hold the line as the enemies approach. The next minute you can use the environment as a weapon to melt or crush your enemies. Many of the fights are quite long and reach satisfying levels of chaos. The Coalition’s fingerprint pushes the player to the point of feeling overwhelmed, then goes up a notch by initiating a boss-type encounter at the end.
Given how quickly environments can be explored, boring transitions to other areas where the team must cut through vines, climb a cliff, or open a door are in great abundance and slow the fervent pace, but this are just small imperfections. on an otherwise exceptional Gears of War experience.
Hivebusters doesn’t have the variety or world-building of Gears’ base games, and doesn’t take any chances along the way, but it’s a fun alternative that I wouldn’t want to see more of. It’s good to know more about the characters in this universe, one of which flips the double major in the face of danger, which is perhaps the most Gears of War thing I’ve ever seen.