The Gears of War series has continued to prove it’s the true action series on the Xbox.

Just as 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved helped put the original Xbox on the map, 2006’s Gears of War solidified Microsoft’s follow-up console, the Xbox 360, as the next-gen platform for rip-roaring action. Boasting some of the best visuals of its time and absolutely relentless gunplay, Gears of War was loud, huge, and bloody in all the right ways. Since its debut in 2006, the Gears of War series has become as synonymous with Xbox as Halo was before it.

As Summer Games Fest is set to kick off this week, rumors have been flying about the possible reveal of the latest entry in the Gears of War series, Gears of War 6. If this turns out to be true, Gears fans will have a brand-new entry to dive into with guns blazing and chainsaws roaring. For players that haven’t joined the ranks of Delta Squad before, this is a concise look back on the Gears series, touching on its fiery highs and troubling lows.

Gears of War

Released in 2006, Gears of War grabbed the third-person shooter by its neck, gave it a massive shot of testosterone, handed it a handy-dandy assault rifle/chainsaw combo, and kicked it right into the fray. As Marcus Fenix, players were tasked with fighting against the monstrous subterranean creatures known as the Locust. With the Locust invasion threatening the entire world, Marcus Fenix and his band of squad mates fought to stave off the extinction of the human race.

Gears of War was notable for a few key reasons: an emphasis was placed on cover-shooting, the gameplay was explosive and to the point, and the characters were built like walking refrigerators. Big guns, big men, and big monsters were what Gears of War was all about, plain and simple. Looking back on it today, the gameplay still holds up, but the extremely heavy grey filter and unintentionally comedic tone of the over-the-top masculinity makes the first Gears of War a playable, if slightly painful experience.

Gears of War 2

In 2008, two years after the release of the first Gears of War, Epic Games plunged players back into the explosive battle against the Locust with Gears of War 2. Delta Squad’s victory at the end of the first game only angered the Locust further who were then determined to sink every major human city deep into earth. Taking the fight directly to the Locust, Marcus Fenix and his comrades race into their most dangerous mission yet.

Gears of War 2 took everything that defined the first game and made it all better. Players were able to explore varied and colorful locales such as snowy mountain villages and subterranean caverns full of bio-luminescent flora. The writing began to poke fun at the egregious masculinity established in the first game (look, wearing helmets is a good idea) which helped open the doors to Delta Squads characterization. Best of all, the multiplayer action was celebrated amongst fans. Bigger and better in every way, Gears 2 is a prime example of a sequel done right.

Gears of War 3

The concluding entry in the first trilogy of games, 2011’s Gears of War 3 was a send-off of the highest order for Marcus Fenix and Delta Squad. With the world overrun with both the Locust and the Lambent (mutated organisms created by the world’s energy source) the stakes had never been more dire. Heroic sacrifices, bitter revelations, and a battle with the fate of the world hanging in the balance were all packed into Gears of War 3, making it a blockbuster experience of the ages.

Gears 3 was the ultimate entry in the series upon its release. Its presentation was top-notch. Its gameplay was refined and perfected. Its story and narrative were expanded and explored, offering deeper insight into the Gears world. As far as trilogies go, Gears of War 3 reset the bar for how to bring an overarching narrative to satisfying and world-shattering close.

Gears of War: Judgement

The first true spin-off and prequel for the series, 2013’s Gears of War: Judgement put players into the boots of Baird, a stalwart ally of Marcus Fenix from the core series. Judgement’s story is presented in a series of flashbacks as Baird is being put on trial in a military tribunal. Co-developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly, Judgement was a competent entry in the Gears series, but one that wasn’t very well liked by fans.

Judgement is in no way a bad game, but simply an underwhelming one. Judgement’s controls were changed slightly from previous games, a simple, but highly divisive decision that rankled many players. Another contentious issue with the game was its brevity. While it looked good and played well, its campaign was considered to be too short. Even with the ability to add difficulty modifiers to each mission for added challenge, Judgement’s content was a bit thin. Comparing it to the dazzling outing that was Gears of War 3, Judgement just couldn’t stand shoulder to shoulder with its predecessor.

Gears of War 4

2016’s Gears of War 4 was important for two reasons. First, it was the first Gears title not to be developed by Epic Games, instead being handled by The Coalition. Secondly, it marked a brand-new era in the Gears of War timeline. Set 25 years after the conclusion of Gears 3, Gears 4 introduced players to a world free of the Locust, the Lambent, and Imulsion. Playing as a young group of rebels, players were tasked with defeating a new breed of monsters plus the tyrannical government seeking to put them under heel.

In terms of presentation and gameplay, Gears 4 delivered. The first title on the Xbox One, Gears 4 looked fantastic, played smooth as peanut butter, and introduced new gameplay features such as shoulder charges, volatile weather, and new weapons to handle. Critics and fans were iffy about the new entry’s writing and tone, however, as the young band of heroes were much more light-hearted and comedic in tone than previous installments. Still, the overall experience with Gears 4 is a solid one and fine return to form following Judgement.

Gears 5

A direct sequel to Gears of War 4, 2019/2020’s Gears 5 was The Coalition’s second stab at the vaunted action series. Playing as Kait Diaz, players were thrust into a story that explored the origins of the evil Locust and Kait’s mysterious connection to their queen. By focusing on a deeper, more character-driven narrative, Gears 5 elevated the tried and true formula of previous entries. Of course, the gameplay was still as good as ever.

Not only did the Story campaign offer open-world exploration for the first time in the series, Gears 5’s multiplayer modes of Versus, Versus Arcade, Horde, and Escape gave players an unprecedented amount of content. However, early reviews were sour over the game’s online grind, and some critics expressed concern for the latter half of the campaign’s story. As it stands, though, Gears 5 is a proud and tall entry in the series that showcased the Xbox Series S/X’s capabilities well.

If Gears 6 is announced this week it’ll be extremely exciting to see what direction the series will take. It’s been proven that new characters can be inserted into the lore of the series, not supplanting Marcus Fenix and the rest of Delta Squad, but complimenting them and giving them room to breathe. Even as far back as the first game in the series had established, there is a plethora of deep lore to cover and dive into for a new installment. Whether it returns to the classic linear-style of previous games or continues to explore the open-world, a new Gears of War game would be fantastic news.

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