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Gears 5 release date, gameplay and editions

In these times of great uncertainty, it should be a great comfort to know that very soon, we will all have the opportunity to grab yet another gun with a chainsaw attached to it and kill a whole lot of lumpy subterranean meatheads for great justice. These are the things we can fall back on in relief.

Yes, indeed, Gears of War is back, albeit with 100% less of War this time around. And while there's still plenty of that old-time Locust-killing to go around, quite a bit has changed since the days of Marcus Fenix. New kids J.D., Del, and Kait have a little bit more on their minds than the old Gears did. Thankfully, we've got your back, with a full rundown of what to expect when Gears 5 finally hits Xbox One consoles and PC this fall.

Gears 5's release date

Gears 5 hits on Sept. 10 for Xbox One and PC. Whatever bloodbath ends up happening onscreen while Kait and her boys go all-out on some Locust is nothing compared to the video game releases Gears 5 will be dropping into. Catherine: Full Body, Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne, NBA 2K20, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2020 all hit within a week prior. Borderlands 3 and Daemon X Machina both hit Friday that same week. The next week is RPG remake armageddon, with Link's Awakening, the Ni No Kuni remaster on Switch, and the Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 Enhanced Editions dropping within days of each other.

Still — and this cannot be emphasized enough here, people — only one of these games lets you kill giant orc dudes with a gun attached to a chainsaw while curbstomping another one into a pulpy mess. We're about 50/50 that's not a thing that happens in the Studio Ghibli game.

The trailers for Gears 5

We got our first look at Gears 5 at E3 2018, with a surprisingly gentle little trailer showing Kait coming to grips with that real screwy lineage of hers. There's constant flashes of her mom, her Locust grandma, her and Marcus Fenix in tentacle peril, and just an overall vibe that maybe Kait's not going to like what's at the end of this road she's walking on. If it makes you feel better, those who prefer a little more Gears of War in your Gears of War sequel, she also goes jet-skiing on ice and stabs a toothy squid monster in the mouth. That's always delightful.

For those looking for a bit more artsy, though, there's the trailer from this year's E3, which takes a bit of a different approach. Come for the Billie Eilish track, stay for the kind of trippy visualization of a character's inner conflict usually reserved for ten seconds before somebody's head explodes in a Cronenberg movie.

The story of Gears up to now

There's four main games and a spinoff in the Gears franchise, and it's more intricate than you'd expect from a series with enough armor to invade Poland. But the nutshell version is that humanity's settled on a planet called Sera, which goes to hell when a subterranean humanoid species dubbed the Locust crawls up and makes mincemeat out of our species. Refusing to take this lying down, humanity unleashes court-martialed soldier Marcus Fenix on the horde. He, along with his infantry buddies, the titular Gears, take the fight to the Locust with extreme prejudice, eventually taking down their hive leaders, including a strangely human-looking Locust Queen. 

Fast forward 25 years, and things on Sera seem to have settled down, despite the fact that Marcus' son J.D. and his buddies, Kait Diaz and Del Walker, have a habit of pissing off humanity's current government by choosing to live as exiles. Things get hairy again when they find out that the Locust didn't exactly die out 25 years ago, but underwent a sort of voluntary evolution that turned them into a newer, deadlier form called the Swarm. J.D., with an assist from grizzled dear old dad, manages to find the Swarm's source of knowledge: Kait's mother Reyna, forcibly plugged into the hivemind. After giving her the merciful death she deserves, Kait discovers she may have a deeper, more disturbing connection with the Swarm.

So, what's going on in Gears 5?

As it turns out, Kait's mother is the daughter of the Locust Queen that Marcus Fenix took down in Gears of War 3. See, there's some experimental madness happening before the first Gears even starts, and some of the scientists involved managed to get a little too close to the Locust than any sane person should. Kait's mother, Reyna, is the Queen's daughter, and after saving mom from a fate worse than death, Kait seems to be having some serious problems keeping her head together. 

And so, with J.D. and Del at her side — maybe, since the relationship's looking a little strained in parts of that first trailer — she heads off to get some answers. Some of those answers are likely heart-rending revelations about her mom and gram-gram; others are likely, "Kill everything in this area with fire." Whatever they are, Kait's certainly capable enough of fighting like hell to get them.

What else is new in Gears 5?

Quite a bit, actually, especially from the gameplay side. For starters, The Coalition have stated they've finally made full three-player co-op a thing this time around, so Kait and her whole squad are playable by actual humans. The chainsaw function has finally been remapped to one of the shoulder buttons instead of "B," so you can comfortably use it while turning the camera. 

Overall, though, there seems to be a renewed focus on accessibility for less hardcore players. Gameplay's being tuned for a heavier focus on finding and destroying enemy weakpoints, which should mitigate a bit of the bullet-spongy nature of a lot of the gameplay. Enemies will also have visible health bars which should also go a long way to that end. In addition, the lower difficulties of the game will have lock-on targeting. They'll even be renaming the difficulty levels, going from Casual, Normal, Hardcore, and Insane to Beginner, Intermediate, Experienced, and Insane. No doubt, that's gonna rankle some of the "git gud" crowd, but in general, the more people who get to have a good time with this, the better.

New modes in Gears 5

If we're talking new modes, that's a whole different story. The usual modes reappear, of course: the campaign, Versus mode, Horde mode, and all that good stuff. No big surprises there, though there is a new thing called Bootcamp that will actually pit you against robot opponents to teach you some basic principles to raise your game in competitive modes.

The new belle of the ball, however, is a mode called Escape, which may very well count as its own little side game; there's a whole series of comics about it, in fact. The lowdown is that you play as a whole new squad of characters whose mission is specifically to get captured by the Swarm, fight their way through a slew of the ugly suckers, plant a bomb deep in the hive, and escape before the bomb goes off. The whole thing has a very Left 4 Dead vibe from the trailers, and that could be just the shot in the arm that Gears' multiplayer needed.

In addition, while new official hive maps will be uploaded every week, you'll also be able to create your own using the game's new map-builder function. If it works out anything like Halo's Forge maps, folks could be busy with Gears 5 for years to come.

Are there microtransactions in Gears 5?

Good news everyone! Microtransactions will be kept to the absolute minimum, it seems. No loot boxes, no season passes, no in-game storefronts or any of that Gear Pack nonsense. All the downloadable maps will be 100% free. And the crowd goes wild.

What you'll be getting instead is a new mode called Tour of Duty, which is kind of a daily/seasonal challenge mode where you can earn XP and character customization items. Your XP also goes towards earning Supply drops, which will award new customizables as well. You'll also earn Iron, a special currency where further exclusive content can be purchased. Yes, you can purchase Iron with real-life money, as well as a special Boost item which increases the amount of XP and items you earn, but it looks like you can just flat out earn your content the old-fashioned way just as well, and you can't outright buy Supply drops with real money. This sounds an awful lot like how Overwatch currently does things, and that's a very good model to emulate. 

What kind of special edition content does Gears 5 have?

Obviously, you can just buy the standard game if you want. Nothing special there, though if you play the game in its first week, you get that Terminator: Dark Fate character pack they were talking about during E3. If this means we get Linda Hamilton with a chainsaw gun, we're already looking at a GOTY candidate, sight unseen.

The Ultimate Edition includes that too, but also gives you a second non-Terminator character pack, 30 days of Boost, as well as access to the game four days early. The physical edition also nets you a Steelbook case and a sticker sheet.

For the fancy folk among you, there's also a GameStop-exclusive $270 Collector's Edition, which not only includes a whole bunch of swag branded by Damon Baird Industries, but also includes an actual working drone. For $270, you can get a game where you mow down mutants with a chainsaw gun, and a fully working surveillance robot. The 21st century rules.