I’ll be completely and totally honest with you, I wasn’t a huge fan of Gears 5. The design decisions to make the game feel more “open-world-like” didn’t really work for me. As a longtime Gears of War fan, it felt like the series was making an attempt at change but one that ultimately took away from the Gears experience. I know I’m in the minority here. Gears 5 was a pretty game to look at with quite a few fun moments that I enjoyed, yet I missed the older style, linear Gears games. With the Gears 5: Hivebusters DLC, I was initially a bit hesitant. I loved Gears but didn’t want a repeat of Gears 5′s open-world-like style. Thankfully, Hivebusters did exactly what I wanted and brought about an amazing experience I cannot recommend enough. Gears 5: Hivebusters is an absolute must play!
Gears 5: Hivebusters is a separate campaign than Gears 5, taking place before the Gears of War: Hivebusters comic book series. In Gears 5: Hivebusters, you play as Lahni, Keegan and Mac (you choose which character you want to play as) in their first mission as part of the secretive Hivebuster program. Thrown together as the Scorpio Squad, they’re on a suicide mission to the volcanic Galangi Islands to destroy a Swarm hive that holds the key to saving Sera.
First, let me just say how good this game looks. WOW, WOW, and WOW. Playing this game on my Xbox Series X really showcases what the Series X can do, and oh boy, it’s beautiful. I really can’t describe just how good the game looks. Character and environmental details are unbelievably detailed, and the Galangi Islands showcase unbelievably beautiful environments. The lava looks pretty, but I’m really talking about the green, lush, Pahanu Island. I took the picture below on my Series X (and yes, I stopped to take a screenshot because of how blown away I was):
The other thing I really loved, besides the visuals, was the actual Hivebusters campaign. It goes back to the older Gears of War games style of linear, focused storytelling. I loved dropping into the action and knowing exactly the path (or branching path) I should take. Admittedly though, the campaign starts in a “here ya’ go” style. It tells you nothing, instantly cranks the action to 11, and you have to put the pieces together as you start. Who are you playing as? No clue. Why are you doing this and where are you at? No idea. However, this is cleverly used in Hivebusters’ campaign as an actual story element. You don’t really know who you are or who you’re with until the campaign gets going and things take a turn for the worse. Then, everything becomes very clear. The characters start to become endearing as you slowly learn why they took this suicide mission. In the end, it’s an absolutely wonderful story that was worth telling.
In all, Gears 5: Hivebusters will take you about 3 hours to complete (at least according to Microsoft). I was able to get through the camping on my own in 2 hours and 1 minute (according to my save file). Ultimately, you can replay the campaign again and try the other characters out (each character has different abilities unavailable to the others). Replaying the campaign is more for achievement hunters as there isn’t anything meaningful that you get from a second playthrough. Don’t get me wrong, the campaign is worth playing more than once. There’s just nothing meaningful about jumping back in immediately after you’ve completed your first playthrough.
Which leads me to what I think is going to be the more divisive part of Gears 5: Hivebusters: length. It took me 2 hours to complete the whole DLC, and if I really wanted to, I could have spent another hour trying to earn all the achievements. For me personally, I loved my time in Hivebusters and wanted even more. The story builds to an epic moment, only for the credits to start rolling. Yet part of the reason why I enjoyed it so much was that it was a quick, self-contained story (which hopefully they follow up on considering the ending). The problem is if someone were to spend the $20 to buy the DLC (provided they don’t have GamePass, where the DLC is free), you might feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth. If you’re not after all the achievements, then you’ll probably only want one playthrough and that’s it. It’s hard to argue against that feeling, and even now, I feel a little let down by the campaign’s length. Don’t get me wrong, I 100% recommend everyone should play Hivebusters. Just know before you go into it that the experience will likely be over sooner than you think it should be.
Developer: The Coalition
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 15th December 2020