Gears 5 Xbox Series X Impressions

November 6, 2020

When I reviewed Gears 5 last year, I spoke of a game that was incredible to look at but faced the odd hitch that brought it down slightly. It was a visual experience that has stuck with me since, while also playing the game on PC has helped elevate it even further. Now, as part of the push for Smart Delivery, Xbox have brought Gears 5 to the Xbox Series X. This new version of Gears 5 elevates the art and visuals beyond what was present before but doesn’t address the shortcomings I found when reviewing the original release.

As you may have already guessed, Gears 5’s transition to the Xbox Series X is a glow up more than anything else. The Coalition has taken a game that already looked fantastic and bumped the visuals up a few notches further. Which is to say that many of the updates to the game’s visuals are relatively understated, as opposed to being massively noticeable bumps. Still, it does result in Gears 5 for Xbox Series X being the definitive version of the game.

Perhaps the most noticeable graphical change to the game comes in the form of its shadows. They’re significantly more defined than they were in the past, doing away with the blurrier outlines of the game’s original Xbox One X release. This is partially due to the better lighting quality of the game, which uses a form of ray tracing to allow indirect lighting sources to affect shadows and lighting. In the original release, you would have slight sources of light which effectively didn’t make a difference to the overall lighting or shadows of the game. Now, however, those slight sources of light now cast off a noticeable radius of light that directly affects shadows. It’s most noticeable during the darker moments in the game, such as making your way through the tunnels in the first chapter, as they now appear more realistically lit, as opposed to the overexposed areas we’ve become used to in many dark sections of games.

Beyond the shadows and lighting, reflections and textures have both also been upgraded in Gears 5 for Xbox Series X. Reflections are now significantly more accurate than previously, while some surfaces that previously didn’t reflect much of anything at all now working as reflective surfaces. Textures have also been increased in quality and complexity, helping to improve environmental and character graphical fidelity. Overall, these different techniques and improvements combine together to create a version of Gears 5 that is undeniably better looking than its original Xbox One X release, while not looking vastly different.

Outside of visuals, the other technical changes to Gears 5 come from the vastly more powerful internal of the Xbox Series X. Load times are vastly reduced, now taking sub 10 seconds to start a chapter. Frame rates are now more stable, not that they were particularly unstable before, while cutscenes have also been updated to be 60fps. If you’ve got a compatible screen, you can even up the game’s framerate to 120fps in multiplayer. While I was only able to play with bots during the review period, the game always stuck to that 120fps target pretty much perfectly and felt gloriously smooth to play.

While many of the upgrades to Xbox One games on Xbox Series X are purely visual, Gears 5 comes with a range of content updates as well. First is the New Game+ mode, which allows you to carry over your Jack upgrades from a previous playthrough of the game. There’s also a new range of options to try out when you start a new game, with things like Big/Bobble Head mode there for those who want a laugh as they destroy the Locust scum. You can also have actor Dave Bautista take over as Marcus Fenix, although I found that I much preferred Marcus’s voice acting in the missions I played. You can also use multiplayer character and weapon skins in the campaign, giving you some new customisation options. None of these updates are game changers, but they’re welcome additions for returning players looking for something more than a visual update to jump in.

Beyond these changes, nothing else about the game has been changed from the original release. The story is identical, covering Kait’s trials and tribulations with her friends and her own upbringing and lineage, with both the best and worst elements still exactly the same. The gameplay is unchanged, still adhering strictly to the third person cover based system we’ve come to know and love from Gears games. Given how good the game’s gunplay felt last year, there was definitely no need to update it. A few additional quests added to the open-area sections wouldn’t have gone astray however, as they still feel just as lifeless and empty as they did before.

Overall, Gears 5 on Xbox Series X is a good update to an already fantastic game. Visuals get a noticeable, but not particularly flashy, bump in quality, while there’s some nice additional content to give existing owners another reason to return. Whether you’re a returning player or just someone interested in playing a great third person shooter at launch, Gears 5 is an easy recommendation.

Gears 5 was played on an Xbox Series X with a copy of the game provided by Xbox. The game is also available on PC and Xbox One. For more information, check the official website.