Gears 5 review: The war hasn't gone away
(XO/PC) ★★★★ Age: 18+
What, no more war? As if. The Gears of War series has ditched its suffix for the fifth (er, sixth actually) helping of space marines shooting terrifying narky aliens. Don't be fooled, though - Gears 5 slots its cogs quickly back into a comfortable routine, with barely a shift in tone.
Juggernaut franchises on a roll tend not to pivot dramatically to avoid frightening the beancounters, and Gears of War 4 had the formula pretty much nailed anyway. So Gears 5 was always likely to be a consolidation exercise, albeit one with the needle turned up a notch.
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Set amid snowy wastelands and desert, the Gears 5 story mode flirts with the concept of an open world but resiles from going anywhere meaningful. Instead, the one big innovation comes from a companion bot who acts as a type of Super move - blinding enemies, cloaking you, healing you, etc. It makes for a brisk and engaging series of firefights - always more enjoyable in co-op with up to four players - but no wheels get reinvented here.
Greater longevity more likely exists in other multiplayer modes - including the new Escape, a reverse of the familiar Horde mode as you and teammates rush to flee an alien lair. Whether Gears fans will flock to the reheat elsewhere of Versus and Horde modes is debatable, especially seeing as they all involve some dubious restrictions on progression designed to encourage you to spend real money to speed it up.
Nonetheless, Gear 5 is a bulky package retaining much of the alchemy that has made the series a hit for 13 years.
(XO/PC) ★★★ Age: 18+
A scare-'em-up linked loosely to the found-footage flicks, this Blair Witch assembles the building blocks - disorienting dark forest, troubled protagonist, shadowy wraiths and mysterious videotapes - but can't quite knit them together effectively enough.
It's chilling enough searching the woods for a missing boy, dealing with your own PTSD demons and relying on your pet dog for directions. Yet too much screen time is devoted to wandering hopelessly lost along samey, shifting pathways to the point where the jump scares become not just predictable but welcome.
Blair Witch drip-feeds enough psychological horror to pacify franchise fans but to others, it's likely to be just frustrating.