I only play on Insane and Inconceivable difficulty, trying to get my timing perfect so as to take zero damage. Sometimes that works out. I’m also trying to condense all my footage into 2-minute montages per Act for each game. It really pays to know all the animation cancels, how to land frags in a Reaver’s or Brumak’s saddle (or a Carrier’s chest holes), how to use your squadmates effectively, and when to play super aggressively versus when to play defensively.
Gears 1 (UE): Act 3, first fight with Therons. Holy crap what a battle! I have footage of myself deflecting a Theron’s torque arrow with a Longshot bullet. This is special forces versus special forces, with the odds stacked against you, and it’s brutally unforgiving. Very rare to win without your squadmates being downed.
(honorable mention: the Brumak fight is insane, and General RAAM is the highlight of the fantastic train fights… EDIT: but how could I forget the Act 1 fight where you seize a dry fountain, then deal with four E-Holes in quick succession? Perfect arena, perfect depiction of E-Holes)
Gears 2: the last stand of Jacinto might not have the numbers and spectacle of Act 1’s Derrick fights, but my goodness, you are close up and in the thick of it the entire time. Other Gears aren’t just background characters in this battle, they’re finally right alongside you, living or dying based on great AI scripting. Then it’s just Marcus and Dom again, fighting their way into a massive sinkhole, and it’s the single best example of a level with just Marcus and Dom.
(honorable mention: every other fight in this game goes HARD)
Gears 3: the best gameplay in the trilogy! Gears 2 might have had amazingly smooth Lancer mechanics, but Gears 3 allows you all the same precision and control, right down to single shots, while also allowing you to hipfire accurately when walking. The single greatest firefights are, I think, tied between Dom’s death and the infiltration-by-storm of Azura. The former mixes Locust vs Lambent and is extremely taxing, because you’re always surrounded, plus it ends with the most climactic death in the series. The latter doesn’t include Lambent until after the storm, but it uses the vast majority of Locust types across a series of increasingly hostile environments, culminating in the destruction of the Maelstrom tower, and every weapon in the game (from heavies to Silverbacks) is included. In both examples you either fight like brazen commandos and use overwhelming firepower to turn enemies into messes, or you die by the skin of your teeth.
(honorable mention: the battle of Anvil Gate is frigging incredible and quite open-ended, and my clips of the near-last stand in the garage will probably outdo the Gears of War movie… But my goodness, every setpiece in this game is a mastercraft)
RAAM’s Shadow: the final battle against RAAM and his troops is legend. It would’ve only been improved if Recruit Clayton made an appearance outside the evac chopper. This DLC is one of the GOATs in gaming.
Judgement: honestly, several of the levels are still fun, but the gameplay changes always frustrate me. I have the most fun during the endgame, fighting my way out of the courthouse and reuniting with Loomis. But the best fight is definitely the boss fight versus Karn, because holy crap, it has everything, and Karn’s dialogue feels like a badass commander actually invigorating his troops with some kind of epic speech. It’s just impossible to beat Karn without taking lots of damage, which is due to the design of the arena.
Gears 4: the prologue goes harder and harder and harder, and should always be remembered as a highlight of the franchise. I’m not a fan of how the Deebees were used, but the firefights against them are incredibly well-balanced and have great combat bowls, especially during storms. Two levels separate the wheat from the chaff: the Act 3 fight at the bottom of the catacombs versus juvies and pouncers, and the Swarmak bossfight at the end of the dam in Act 4. But the most thrilling firefight, for me, takes place inside the Pendulum Wars museum in Act 3. Gears 4 incentivized hyper-aggressive play in most fights, even on Inconceivable difficulty, and that fight exemplifies it by forcing you to assault the fortified museum’s machine gun nest, breach and clear the top floor, then defend it against overwhelming odds.
(honorable mention: the drone elites are Therons without torque bows, and their lancers are the deadliest in the franchise, so I love overcoming them. The mech levels are also brilliant and invigorating. Overall, this is actually my favorite Gears campaign when judged by gameplay, and it even tops Gears 3’s gameplay… I love that you can use the Dropshot on an enemy in the distance, Yank & Stab another enemy, and drop the dropshot through the distant enemy’s skull at the same time)
Gears 5: this game manages to be “second-best” in a lot of categories, but it’s also the best in a few. The recoil mechanics make gunplay more interesting if you can master them, and each enemy type (especially the new ones) get implemented in combat arenas that demonstrate their strengths and weaknesses. The JACK mechanics are so fun and good, I was left screaming at the TV when the Del/JD choice cutscene forgot to include JACK. The best fight overall is when you link up with Marcus near the end of Act 4, because you’ve just been gutpunched by a pointless death, you’re surely low on ammo with all guns if you’re on Insane or Inconceivable, and you need to rely on Marcus and a Redshirt lady to cover you while you kill and loot. That firefight has Marcus as an NPC, with a scripted kill versus a Pouncer, and then he proves why he’s the best dang Gear in the franchise. Enemy variety is also strong and deadly in that fight, but you can play equally aggressively or defensively depending on how good you are in melee.
(honorable mention: the end of each Act has an incredible fight, and the self-destruction of New Hope lets you shoot snipers while sliding down a slope. If we judge based on tension, options, and variability, then two of the best firefights are the centrifuge battle in Act 3, or the one early in Act 4 where you link up with a Gear squad to flank a Swarmak, fight a Warden, and drop the Hammer)