Without doubt Gears of War is one of my favourite game franchises of all time, but does the sixth entry into the series - Gears 5 - do it justice?
When Gears first launched on the XBox 360 nearly 13 years ago back in 2006 it set a new benchmark and not just for third-person shooters.
Gears set a new benchmark on a raft of fronts. Graphics, sound, gore, storyline, atmosphere, gameplay, multiplayer - you name it Gears nailed it and then some.
So it is tough to live up to that when the rest of the industry has spent over a decade catching up.
Ok so advancements elsewhere mean Gears 5’s graphics don’t leave your jaw on the floor as they once did. But they are still superb with 4K and 60fps for campaign mode on Xbox One X really popping on a big TV.
That tangible sense of atmosphere that Gears has made its USP over the years is still there and - in my opinion - remains unrivalled in video gaming.
Gears 5 Ultimate Edition comes with the usual pre-order bonuses as well as the Ultimate Edition character pack, 30 days of Boost and four days early access to the game.
There has been some criticism among gamer friends that the latest release - which launched last week - spends too much time looking to the past both in terms of story arc and gameplay.
But when you have such a monolithic reference point why wouldn’t you?
This is The Coalition’s second Gears effort since taking over the franchise from Epic Games and they have introduced enough of the new to more than complement the old.
Gears 5’s new open areas (remember Gears has been famously rigid and linear in it’s approach in the past) and abilities help keep things feeling shiny and new as the campaign follows the tried and trusted style of its forebearers in producing a gritty, intense, engrossing and generally superb campaign story mode.
The crowning achievement, though, is surely co-op mode where your individualistic role makes each player feel more valued and crucial to the overall effort. As a result Gears 5’s co-op is the best yet, finally becoming greater than the sum of its parts.
Multiplayer is improved immeasurably by a well-devised progression system adding much greater depth than previous titles.
The key in Gears 5, though, is the story and there is more story here than you can shake a stick at. With some of the best story telling to date you can forgive the fact much of Gears 5 feels very much like treading old ground.
The rebirth of the cover shooter can be directly traced back to Gears of War. But time has moved on and some argue Gears has failed to do the same. My counter argument is why does that matter? When you have such depth to a gaming universe so lovingly crafted over a decade and such a wealth of characters, each with their own worthy storylines, then you embrace that and run with it.
Yes Gears 5 is more of the same. But that is certainly no bad thing. And there is plenty here to breathe new life into a series that continues to win our hearts.