With Operation 6, Gears 5 is a year-and-a-half old. While not significant in itself, disastrous live services would have sunk by this point. The Coalition's attempts at revitalizing multiplayer through its operations have been mostly successful. Operations 2 and 3 added game modes and cut down on the grind while Operation 4 overhauled currency for the better with a decent chunk of content. Meanwhile, Operation 5 separated characters from their classes, along with providing the largest map rollout to date. Operation 6 isn't as significant, but is it still worth dipping into?
New Gears 5 Content
Operation 6's new content is thin on the ground. The basic rundown includes:
- New King of The Hill variant with larger rings, individual player spawns, and an altered scoring system
- Escape From Kadar
- A 10-wave event introducing locust into horde for the first time
- New Characters
- Queen Reyna
- Locust Zealot
- Armored Hoffman
- A returning Gears of War 4 map
These come in addition to the expected minor balancing tweaks/bug fixes, medal groups, and tour of duty rewards. The Coalition is using Operation 6 as the test bed for drip-feeding content. Operations now have map and character drops on launch with an equivalent drop mid-operation. With operations running five weeks shorter, this should amount to more content more often in theory, as The Coalition is promising. However, this promise doesn't bear fruit with this update. Assuming the mid-April drop matches the launch drop, there will be one more map and three more characters. Operations 4 and 5 added six characters each whereas previous operations have introduced anywhere from two to five maps.
Playing Operation 6
Fans can criticize the anemic content all day, but is the stuff that's been added at least worth revisiting Gears 5 for?
The new Venom Run lacks purpose. Operation 6 isn't headlining this weekly escape hive, but it launched alongside it. Players won't get much playtime out of it as there's a stim pack near the spawn, providing enough boost to sprint through 70% of the hive with no effort. This stim is aided by a tile-set with so much open space and so few threats gating progress through enclosed rooms. Escape already lacked the intensity The Coalition hoped it would instill, but Venom Run saps what little engagement the mode had.
The disappointment continues with the Tour of Duty, only featuring five skins, three weapon skin sets, a single mark, a bloodspray, and two expressions. The remaining ranks are filled out with coins and iron. Admittedly, it further alleviates the grind The Coalition has continually distanced itself from since launch. It's a good-faith alteration made under the false pretense of "more content more often." The medal groups exemplify this. Previous operations gated unlocks behind completing different groups. Of Operation 6's 12 medal groups, only the Escape From Kadar group rewards a skin. All other medal groups dole out gears coins.
Gears 5 has seen many modes come and go, but Control feels like a natural progression. Modes like Gridiron didn't work, but Control is different. Moving forward, it should replace King of the Hill as rather than being a variant offering a different enough experience to justify its existence, it shows up King of the Hill at its own game. The rings, which are two-and-a-half times larger, make a huge difference. The previously claustrophobic rings made sense on maps like Exhibit, but in most cases, they limited the mode's potential. There were only so many players that could fit into a ring before encounters within and surrounding them became chaotic without purpose.
The increased ring size makes each hill feel like a legitimate control point, with teammates deciding where they'll hunker down, leading us to another change. In standard King of the Hill, once teams capture a ring, points continue accruing until the opposing team breaks that ring. With Control, one player must remain inside to continue scoring. The size combined with the altered scoring system incentivizes playing the objective. Whereas King of the Hill blowouts were so common that losing teams would often stop trying after falling far enough, Control provides more equal footing for both teams. Attempting to break into a tiny ring before with a whole team watching step made losing battles feel insurmountable. The larger play space makes breaking a ring more achievable. Furthermore, because teams must stay within the ring, players on the defensive have to be more careful of stepping out of bounds during engagements.
This controlled chaos strikes a balance between off-the-wall intensity and manageable firefights. It's 4v4 as opposed to KOTH's 5v5. The smaller player counts lead to less of the visual noise KOTH is known for, but the spawn timers offset this. In KOTH, spawns come in waves, meaning after death, you might respawn in three or 10 seconds. With Control eliminating wave-based spawns, players spawn more frequently, keeping a consistent sense of flow throughout without becoming overwhelming.
The Escape From Kadar Anomaly
Escape From Kadar sounded like a no-brainer for PvE players. This 10-wave event introduces locust for the first time in horde. By focusing on the franchise's original threat, it could have been an exciting blast from the past. Much like most of the operation, though, it's undercooked. Escape From Kadar only features four enemy types:
- Pipe Drones
- Retro Lancer Drones
Sires and matriarchs already existed. Making matters worse, matriarchs are the event's only boss. Fighting multiple matriarchs is thrilling the first few times as you juggle damaging their weak points while avoiding their devastating pseudo target-locking attacks. By the fifth time, though, you'll come to dread them as Reactor's tight corners offer ample opportunities to circle around and kill them in seconds with a gnasher using bleeding damage. Escape From Kadar is also only played on Reactor, another element that adds to the tedium along with the unimpressive enemy composition.
Pipe drones and sires are a terrifying combination on paper, but in practice, they're not so threatening. Sires and pipe drones get caught on geometry and stand still, staring at power taps in a fashion I've never seen. Glitchy AI isn't unheard of in Horde, but the AI feels especially inadequate here. Even when they are working as intended, their predictable behavior eliminates tension.
Gears 5 Operation 6 - A Misstep
Control is Operation 6's best addition. It improves upon King of the Hill with a mix of large and minor changes. Everything else feels like a crapshoot, though. Escape From Kadar loses steam quickly, and the lackluster tour of duty makes pushing through all 51 ranks feel futile. With an even more unimpressive set of medal groups and just one map, Operation 6 is difficult to recommend to all but the most faithful fans. At this point, you're playing Gears 5 through Operation 6 for the gameplay rather than its additions. There's a chance this operation's massive increase in currency rewards may be The Coalition's way of prepping players for a more meaty Operation 7. Until that hypothetical comes to fruition, Operation 6 leaves a bad taste.