After a decent but ultimately underwhelming debut with Gears of War 4, The Coalition will shake things up with Gears 5. The first order of business is in the title itself, which drops the “of War.” Everyone has been referring to the series as “Gears” for years now, so the simplified moniker makes sense. Gears 5‘s shortened title marks a new age for the franchise.
With Gears 4, The Coalition took over the reins of popular third-person shooting franchise that has been one of Microsoft’s tentpoles since the dawn of the Xbox 360 era. Now The Coalition will give the franchise its first real makeover. Ahead of Gears 5‘s September 10 launch on Xbox One and PC, here’s everything you need to know, from story to gameplay changes to new modes and more.
The story is centered around Kait
Gears 5‘s story picks up where Gears 4 left off, but Kait Diaz will take center stage. Kate was first introduced in Gears 4, as an Outsider turned Gear soldier with a mysterious connection to the Locust. In the nightmarish story trailer shown at E3 2019, we see that Kait is currently going through something fierce. Squad mates like JD Fenix and Delmont Walker pop into her mind, and they don’t look like they are doing well either. Then Kait’s face turns chilly and unsettling. She resembles the Locust. And if that isn’t enough, we see the Locust Queen Myrrah’s face over Kait’s.
Kait’s having visions that are connected to her grandmother’s Locust necklace. This leads to a mission to ground zero of the Locust formation. Only Kait, Marcus and Delmont go — at least at first. Gears 4 protagonist JD doesn’t want to help. This would seem to suggest that Gears 5 will have a secondary narrative starring JD, but it’s unclear if you’ll play as the Gears 4 protagonist throughout the campaign.
Microsoft and The Coalition have understandably kept much of the story details under wraps thus far. But Gears 5 will dive into Kait’s connection with the Locust and the origins of the terrifying villains of the franchise. The Coalition has said that Gears 5 will feature the biggest story in franchise history.
During our time with Gears 5 at E3 2019, we got to experience Gears 5‘s combat overhaul firsthand. It’s still the cover shooter you’ve known and loved since 2006, but several tweaks make it feel more modernized. Damage numbers pop off of enemies when you shoot them, clueing you into weak points and areas of resistance. Enemies also have health bars, so you know exactly what you’re up against. Shooting has more authentic recoil, which creates more aesthetically pleasing and nuanced bullet patterns in the air.
Gears 5 is introducing a brand new cooperative mode for three players called Escape. We played Escape at E3 2019 and came away thoroughly impressed with the loop. Escape mode stars three Hivebusters who are dropped into a Hive and tasked with clearing it out of Locust presence. So far, The Coalition has revealed the starting trio: Mac, Lahni, and Keegan.
Each Hivebuster has an active and passive ability. Mac can trigger a portable shield, which makes him temporarily invulnerable. Keegan can conjure an area that will replenish ammo for him and his teammates. Lahni has an electric blade that stuns and damages enemies. This is the first time Gears multiplayer has featured character classes. As you level up, you can unlock more loadout options in terms of weapons and, conceivably, skills. Skill cards, which appeared in Gears 4’s Horde mode, will also be available in Escape.
Escape emphasizes quality squad play. Hence the unique character abilities. Each Escape level tasks you with working through a series of rooms. The map we played felt like a condensed single player level. Rooms are crawling with enemies and unlike Horde, you want to be on the offensive to secure the best Escape times and vault up the leaderboard.
A few areas in Escape are dubbed safe rooms. These rooms let you replenish ammo and grenades and also save your progress should your team fail to escape the first time.
One of the cooler aspects of Escape is that you can alter the difficulty through modifiers, such as doubling enemy damage or adding more enemies to the map. Unlocking additional modifiers requires you to complete Escape with the starting three modifiers turned on.
You’ll also have the chance to create your own Escape maps with a 2D map builder. Then you can upload the map to the server for others to play — provided you complete it first yourself. Just like Super Mario Maker 2, you have to prove it’s possible before inviting players into your hellish gauntlet.
Escape mode can be played both online and locally via split-screen on both Xbox One and PC.
Gears 5 will have the popular Horde mode that lets you and your friends take on wave upon wave of increasingly challenge Locust. The mode includes several additions to fundamentally change how Horde mode is played. Characters now have unique Ultimate abilities that can be used against enemies, including JD’s airstrike and Kait’s cloak. Jack can even hijack enemy vehicles and turn them on their former allies for devastating effect.
To encourage mobility, power taps will change location over the course of a match, and are used to improve your abilities. This means you will have to continuously shift positions and set up new fortifications instead of staying in one spot all game. You will also have the power currency distributed evenly among teammates when one of the possible five players picks it up, and your cards’ power will increase over the course of a match as you do this.
Alongside the cards, you will also have perks, and these will progress over multiple matches so you can feel like you’re improving your character outside of individual games. The huge Swarm monsters you will be fighting will demand your best, as well — one seen in the trailer uses two giant hammers and is covered in armor. We definitely don’t want to get in their way, but the weapons at our disposal mean that we’ll at least have a fighting chance.
Versus mode beta
Online multiplayer has always been a major feature in Gears and that won’t change with Gears 5. Microsoft hasn’t announced all of versus modes available at launch, but the upcoming technical test confirms three modes: Arcade, Escalation, and King of the Hill. Arcade is the newcomer, and it’s billed as a casual versus mode.
The technical test will be available for all Xbox Game Pass member subscribers on Xbox One and PC, as well as anyone who pre-orders a digital copy of the game (or physical from participating retailers).
Microsoft is hosting two technical tests throughout July, each of which start at 10 a.m. PT:
- July 19-22
- July 26-29
You can pre-load the tech test starting July 17. Heads up: It will take up 15GB of hard drive space.
Along with checking out the three game modes, you can visit Bootcamp, Gears 5‘s new training mode. You can work towards earning medals in “Tour of Duty,” which will give you exclusive weapon skins for the full game as well as an exclusive banner if you earn all three medals.
Gears 5 will also have split-screen multiplayer on both Xbox One and PC.
PC system requirements
Alongside the tech test announcement, Microsoft outlined the PC system requirements and recommendations.
- CPU: Intel i3 Skylake/AMD FX-6000 series (or better)
- GPU: Nvidia GTX 760 or 1050/AMD Radeon R9 280 or 560 (or better)
- RAM: 6GB
- CPU: Intel i5 Skylake/AMD Ryzen 3 (or better)
- GPU: Nvidia GTX 970 or GTX 1660 Ti/AMD Radeon R9 280 or RX 560 (or better)
- RAM: 8GB
- CPU: Intel i7 Skylake/AMD Ryzen 7 (or better)
- GPU: Nvidia GTX 2080/AMD Radeon VII (or better)
- RAM: 16GB
- Terminator crossover
Chalk this up as strange but true. If you buy and play Gears 5 before September 16, you’ll get to play as Sarah Connor and T-800 Endoskeleton from Terminator in Gears 5. The crossover was likely conceived to promote the upcoming movie Terminator: Dark Fate, but we’re not complaining. Game Pass subscribers will also get the Terminator character pack by playing Gears 5 before September 16.
Xbox Play Anywhere and cross-play
Gears 5 is part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program. That means you can buy one digital copy for access on both Xbox One and PC. Gears 5 also features full cross-play support, so if you’re playing on Xbox and your buddies are playing on PC, you can all play together.
Release date and special editions
Gears 5 launches September 10 on Xbox One and PC. Xbox Ultimate Game Pass subscribers can start playing four days early on September 6.
If you the pre-order the standard edition ($60), you’ll get the Terminator character pack, seven days of level boost, and access to the multiplayer technical test.
For $80, you can get the Ultimate Edition, which comes with a steelbook case (physical only), Gears 5 sticker (physical only), four days early access, 30 days of level boost, and the Terminator character pack.
If you want to go all out for Gears 5, the GameStop exclusive Collector’s Edition comes with an assortment of goodies and a Gears-themed drone. It’ll set you back a cool $270, though.
- The best Xbox One exclusives
- The best multiplayer Xbox One games
- The best co-op games for 2021
- The best Xbox One games to play right now
- Mastering the gauntlet of gore in Gears 5: A Horde mode guide