Short, to the point and a hell of a lot of fun, Gears 5’s latest DLC brings back the feeling of mayhem that previous Gears entries seemed to forget. Hivebusters brings a fast-paced, well-thought-out adventure that includes plenty of big set-piece moments and the classic Gears of War banter to which we’re all accustomed.
In just three hours, Gears 5: Hivebusters presents an optimistic look at the future of the franchise, all while creating a memorable and engaging story that is the best of what the franchise has to offer. Scorpion Sqauad proves they’re more than just toss-away Escape mode characters, standing tall with the best of them. Gears of War is in good hands if Keegan, Kaliso and Macallister are at the helm moving forward.
Gears 5: Hivebusters follows Scorpion Squad, a team previously introduced in the game’s Escape mode. The DLC works as a backstory for the squad, setting up Jeremiah Keegan, Lahni Kaliso and Leslie Macallister as new but familiar-looking faces as they attempt to take out the hive swarm. The six-act story moves at such a blistering pace that you’ll barely notice the three-hour playing time. However, this is anything but bad as each minute of the campaign provides players with what can only be described as Gears of War’s greatest hits.
One of the biggest changes with Gears 5: Hivebusters is the inclusion of ultimate abilities within a campaign setting. Previously, ultimate abilities were restricted to Horde Mode. Each of the three characters has his or her own unique ultimate ability. However, some are far more useful than others. I found myself using Keegan’s ammo-generation ability far more often than Leslie’s shield ability. Until the shield is upgraded, it’s rather useless compared to the variety of cover you’re already given. The final Scorpion Team member, Lahni Kaliso, is equipped with an electric knife that can be used to take down tough enemies quickly and effectively. While Keegan’s ultimate outclasses the other two abilities, it’s a nice precursor to what we may see in Gears 6.
The Coalition is pulling out all the stops with Hivebusters, setting up a grand tale with brand-new characters and paying it off in a way that some twenty-hour games still cannot manage to do. From the opening minutes, Scorpion Squad is likeable and funny with the right amount of “generic action hero” mixed in. All of this works so well in tandem with the DLC’s fast pace and Hollywood blockbuster set pieces. The volcanic Galangi Islands are gorgeous and a refreshing take on what’s previously been a rather bleak, grey palette in previous entries of the franchise. Gears 5 did a fantastic job of brightening up the bleak franchise, but Hivebusters takes it one step further. One moment I found myself journeying through a familiar-looking laboratory, only to dive into a major set piece that required me to ride a door down a flowing river of lava, all while fighting off hordes of Swarm [MOU1] and bickering with my squad mates about whose fault this was. Hivebusters is full of engaging set-piece moments like this, all of which work to build a familiar trust with the new squad and set us soaring through Scorpion Squad’s suicide mission to destroy the Swarm hive. Yeah, it’s easy to forget this is a suicide mission since it’s so much fun.
Gears 5: Hivebusters does an amazing job of utilizing the downtime to expand on the backstories of each character, giving us motivation for the characters to press forward but more importantly, for us to care about them. Themes of depression, loss, remorse and family disfunction are all present within Hivebusters’ short three-hour playtime, and the Coalition knows exactly when to tone down the action and focus on these poignant moments. Gone are the pseudo-open-world sections of Gears 5 in favour of a simpler, streamlined approach. Hivebusters does a great job at not overstaying its welcome while leaning into a linear gameplay flow that feels more exhilarating than detrimental.
Gears 5: Hivebusters is a safe but expertly executed DLC, setting players loose on the gorgeous volcanic terrain of the Galangi Islands. Coalition’s expertly crafted set pieces are paired perfectly with a lovable cast of misfits in the Scorpion Squad, and I’d be sad to see them fade into obscurity with only one DLC. Included with Xbox Game Pass, I cannot recommend Gears 5: Hivebusters enough for new players and existing fans of the franchise.