Reviewed on the Xbox One
As if Gears 5 didn’t already have enough content, The Coalition has decided to drop a brand-new campaign with the release of the Hivebusters DLC. It’s a short, action-packed adventure that only adds to Gears‘ rich lore. Despite some repetitive dialogue, pacing issues, and gameplay that leaves solo players at a disadvantage, Hivebusters can safely hide behind Gears‘ rock-solid mechanics and beautiful environments.
Bustin’ Onto the Scene
The Hivebusters DLC centers around Scorpio Squad, a group comprised of Keegan, Lahni, and Mac. You might remember these three as the main characters of Gears 5′s Escape game mode upon release; now you’ll get to know where they came from and why they’re running these suicide missions. It’s clear from the get-go that these soldiers aren’t friends, with Keegan’s militaristic attitude and Mac’s Outsider background constantly clashing with each other. Lahni doesn’t care much for their squabbles, and her character is rooted firmly within her culture and heritage.
Despite their differences, Scorpio Squad’s journey from rag-tag troops to a cohesive unit happens all too quickly. It’s quite jarring and doesn’t flow with the progression of the campaign very well, given what we’ve heard and learned from our protagonists and how direct the connection is between each mission. Still, they’re fleshed out and have their own identity, staying in line with Gears‘ underappreciated ability to carve out memorable and engaging characters.
One of Gears 5 Hivebusters best qualities is the refreshing change of scenery. Long gone are the city ruins and the Vasgari deserts. They’re replaced with lush, vibrant jungles, a desolate COG outpost, and searing volcanic tunnels that bring back memories of the Locust Hollow. Although the jungles are teeming with life, make no mistake – this is Swarm territory. The previously mentioned COG outpost sets the stage for tight, close-quarters combat. Volcanic underground tunnels are packed with explosive hazards and force you to constantly stay mobile. Attention to detail and a variety of encounters consistently keeps players on their toes.
Lahni’s aforementioned culture plays a key role in forging the path. The only thing that stands in the way of Scorpio Squad and their destination is a Swarm infestation, a fearsome new creature at the root of it all – and doors. That’s right, doors. The amount of time spent watching yourself pry open the next one or break down walls is a serious momentum killer. Thankfully, tense action sequences are delivered in spades to relieve some of the stiff traversal sections.
…Same Old Gears
Gears‘ signature cover-shooter gameplay uplifts the campaign in areas it can’t support on its own. In addition to the classic mechanics, Hivebusters brings Ultimate Abilities to the table. Each character has their own unique ability: Lahni enhances her melee damage with electricity, Mac can deploy a temporary forcefield in front of him, and Keegan can gradually replenish ammo within a certain radius. Finding hidden upgrades throughout missions can further enhance their abilities. For instance, Lahni’s electro-blade can be enhanced to apply a Stim boost upon activation, increasing her damage threshold.
It was clear throughout my solo expedition that the Ultimate Abilities are heavily favored towards co-op play. As a single-player, you’re in charge of activating your squad’s abilities individually. On top of that, abilities like Keegan’s upgraded ammo refuel is more effective with multiple people standing within its radius. However, computer-controlled teammates won’t band together to take advantage of these extra perks. In order to really capitalize on their full potential, I recommend multiplayer co-op with voice communication.
When all is said and done, the Gears 5 Hivebusters DLC is a welcome addition to the franchise. We haven’t been treated to any single-player DLC since Raam’s Shadow was released for Gears of War 3 – far too long of a wait. Thanks to some beautiful new settings and a flawed but well-rounded cast of characters, Hivebusters should encourage The Coalition to keep the content coming.
Grab some friends and jump into Hivebusters on Steam or through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, available now. Follow along with all things Gears and Xbox through our news channel and check out some more reviews here!
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