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Gears 5 Review for PC and Xbox One

Gears 5 Review for PC and Xbox One

Gears of War is back for a fifth main-series outing, and it’s a rather surprising and appreciable entry.

Gears 5 Review for PC and Xbox One

It’s always difficult for a studio to take over development on an existing franchise, especially when it’s one of the most testosterone-fuelled series the world of gaming has to offer. Epic Games may have handed over control after three episodes, but Microsoft certainly intended to exploit one of the most beloved — and lucrative — franchises on the Xbox. 

When The Coalition released Gears of War 4, we needed a smooth transition. We’d already seen some patterns emerge, such as more mobility, more colour and more feeling, but those were superficial. With Gears 5, the change is more distinct, and we can clearly see a willingness on the part of the developers to evolve the series.

  • Genre: Third-Person Shooter
  • Release Date: September 10, 2019
  • Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
  • Developer: The Coalition
  • Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
  • Price: $59.99 (Standard Edition), $79.99 (Ultimate Edition)
  • Review Version: PC & Xbox One X

The beginning of the campaign is classic Gears, with James Dominic “JD” Fenix, Kait Diaz and Delmont Walker accompanied by series old hands Marcus Fenix, Damon Baird and Augustus “Cole Train” Cole. 

Our veterans are greying, but we’re always happy to hear their voices. JD and his friends have also changed a little, both in their faces and in their tone and state of mind — they’re definitely more serious and less innocent than in the previous episode, understandable given what they went through in Gears of War 4.  

This is especially true of Gears 5 protagonist Diaz, who is of Locust descent. Forced to kill her own mother in the last game, she now suffers a curious mix of migraines and visions, destabilizing her daily life. 

However, our merry band must move on, as the Swarm continues to progress and the Hammer of Dawn no longer works as intended. They must travel to various locations linked to the COG in order to put satellites into orbit, restoring the Hammer of Dawn.


Gears 5 offers a captivating story which answers a few outstanding questions — even on events that happened well before the first Gears game, and which offer a few plot twists.

It also provides a great opportunity for our heroes to travel, with a wide range of locations covered. This is something The Coalition attempted in Gears of War 4, but they go further in trying to change up the scenery in this episode.

Orchestral music accompanies the action and is often epic, sometimes dramatic, and the color palettes on offer diversify as we go from ice blue to red sand.

As we know, the planet is not doing so well, and gigantic storms break out causing damage. Badly implemented in Gears of War 4, they have added significance here, especially in Acts 2 and 3 as you move into open areas.


That’s right — Gears 5 has open areas, such as in Metro Exodus or Dragon Age: Inquisition. They’re not huge areas, but big enough to slow down the pace for some narration or a few sidequests.

These quests can be summed up quite easily — knocking down Swarm to recover an item or free civilians, nothing particularly revolutionary. 

On the other hand, these quests bring a lot of depth to Gears’ lore. Act 3 takes place in a desert which hosted a war between the UIR and COG, another quest has you looking for Palduk from Gears of War Judgment.

They also offer a chance to better understand the conflicts that have taken place, and to meet the nomadic Vasgarians.

Finally, these side quests will give you access to upgrades for Jack, your robot companion and now full member of Delta Squad. He is able to taser enemies who approach too closely, bring you ammunition, activate switches — but also has offensive and defensive capabilities that will need to be unlocked.

Other abilities will be unlocked as the story progresses, and interestingly, he is also playable. The main campaign can be undertaken by three human players, either locally or online, meaning one player can act as a support to their allies.

This is a great idea, and may allow those less familiar with Gears gameplay to still participate in the eradication of the Swarm.


Although Gears 5 has that familiar cover-shoot gameplay we’re used to, you can see where The Coalition are trying to make the pace more dynamic and push long-time Gears players out of their comfort zones. 

It’s a successful tactic, thanks to a series of smarter enemies that encourage you to move instead of just shooting and ducking for cover.

They evolve over time, too — becoming more resistant and intelligent. If you’re not careful and don’t use all the tools available to you, they’ll push you into a corner that makes it difficult to escape.


As for weapons, new additions are minimal. We have flashbangs, a Lancer with a grenade launcher instead of the chainsaw, machine guns, an automatic pistol and even a two-handed mace. 

For the curious, ‘legendary’ weapons are hidden on different maps, and come with passive abilities or additional damage. These are mostly just ways to blow up your opponents with more style, and Gears 5 still excels in spectacular gunfights where you can use your shooting skills alongside your ability to assess a situation. 

When you arrive in an arena, you often have little time to spot explosive crates that can bring down walls, knock out snipers or get rid of bugs quicker.

However, you can also spend some time ‘infiltrating’, catching out enemies here and there to gain a small advantage. This is less useful on normal difficulty, but is much more relevant in higher difficulty modes.


All these gameplay additions have an impact on the multiplayer side of the game. There’s little variation in this regard in Gears 5, and the many modes on offer will appeal to both fans of the series and newcomers alike thanks to solid networking and a fairly well-thought-out player search function. 

However, it’s the co-operative mode that really stands out, especially in the Left 4 Dead-style Escape mode.

Four players are tasked with escaping a hive, picking up weapons along the way. In addition to the three hives on offer, players will be able to design their own and upload them for a global audience. 


We tested Gears 5 on PC, on a fairly solid rig — i7 4790, 16GB RAM, GTX 1070, SSD — without being spectacular, and it must be said that the game was very well optimized with a range of options for each configuration.

There was even the option to change the field of view and remove motion blur, and at 1080p resolution we reached a maximum of 90 fps — which we limited to 60 fps for more comfort.

We also attempted three players on the same machine, and while split-screen means players’ views are quite small for this type of game (even on a 43” screen), the PC struggled to keep up — suffering frame rate drops in combat.

With a few changes it was more comfortable, but still, the experience was affected.

PC: Ultra settings at 1080p resolution - Millenium
PC: Ultra settings at 1080p resolution

The game is less graphically pleasing on Xbox One as it is on PC, with less depth in the ambient occlusion and lighting, longer load times, and above all, a fine white veil that appears and gives the feeling of being shrouded in dust. However, it maintained 4K at 60 fps with no real problems when played solo. 

It is a nice technical achievement, given that as soon as you add players the frame rate will drop — even struggling to reach 30 fps with three players — but that isn’t a problem when you play online. It must also be noted that no video options are available to change resolution at whim.

We’ve had some feedback on the Xbox One S version of the game, only available at 1080p and 30 fps when played solo, but without the console at hand we’re unable to talk about it in depth.

Also to be noted is the quality of the Xbox Play Anywhere service, which worked perfectly and was without problems when transferring progress.

Xbox One X: 4K resolution - Millenium
Xbox One X: 4K resolution

The Coalition continues to pursue its goal of maturing the Gears of War series. With more lightness in the gameplay, a slightly harder tone, and a deeper expansion of the universe, Gears 5 could well be the best in the series. It's beautiful, it's fluid, and it tries to say something than just 'another war'.

There's no doubt that even the most sceptical fans will be won over by this new episode, while new players to the franchise will also find what they are looking for — as long as they like a style of gameplay so particular to the series.

If the story is not enough, the game can be played with friends — whether co-op or competitive, there's plenty to do in Gears 5.

A deep, replayable campaign
Technically astounding
A more colourful artistic direction
More flexible and refined gameplay
Jack, the super robot
The most developed Gears lore yet
Co-op campaign for up to three players both local and online
Exemplary optimization on PC
4K @ 60 fps on Xbox One X
Competitive but classic multiplayer
Horde and Escape modes promise fun games between friends
A little short
Few side quests
A rather ‘classic’ story
Killing robots in Gears is still bad
30 fps on Xbox One S
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Written by Xavier "Howler" Larrey. Translated from the French by Millenium.

Millenium Rédaction

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