The Coalition’s Gears 5 has been a recurring example of Xbox Series X’s graphical capabilities, but The Coalition isn’t just improving the already impressive visuals of Gears 5 for the console launch. When Gears 5 makes its way to Xbox Series X and Series S on November 10, it’ll get a big campaign and multiplayer content update to go with it.
IGN chatted with members of The Coalition to get a detailed look at what’s coming with Gears 5’s New Game+, the big multiplayer update, the development process of the visual upgrades, and a tease of what’s coming next to Gears 5.
Gears 5 Campaign New Game+ Details
To put it simply, Gears 5’s New Game+ is a more customizable experience coming to all versions of Gears 5 that won’t need to be unlocked regardless of where you’re playing. Here’s a rundown of the new features you’ll find for the campaign on November 10:
- Two new difficulty modes (Ironman and Inconceivable)
- Character Skins for Kait, Del, and JD
- Weapon Skins
- Jack upgrades carry over
- Mutators (Big head mode, etc)
- New achievements
Zoë Curnoe, principal lead producer of Gears 5, told IGN that Inconceivable is one level of difficulty higher than what Gears 5 originally included, but Iron Man is a special challenge.
“If you’re familiar with that in games like XCOM, [which] maybe is the best example where you don’t want to die ever — you’re trying to play through with one life [in Ironman mode]. That’s really challenging and that’s where bringing over your OP Jack is going to help you get through that. Or certainly playing through co-op if you’re both in Ironman, that would be a really fun thing to challenge as well. So we certainly loved the couch co-op challenges for Gears,” Curnoe said.
Then, as for skins, Curnoe said you’ll be able to use any you’ve unlocked. The one anyone will be able to use, though, is a special skin for Marcus Fenix.
Batista Joins the Campaign
Batista, Dave Bautista’s WWE persona, made his first appearance in Gears 5 multiplayer. After plenty of support and enthusiasm from Bautista and the community, Batista is getting his Gears 5 campaign debut as an optional skin for Marcus Fenix complete with a new voice over.
“He had his fan campaign on Twitter, vying to be the star in the much talked about movie ideas and things like that, but this is a great way of delivering that to fans,” Curnoe said. “And of course he was super excited to participate when they did the skin for multiplayer. I think doing this in the campaign was just a natural evolution to say, okay, well the fans and him have said they want Batista as Marcus, so let’s actually make it happen.”
To feature Batista in the campaign, all players need to do is choose to equip the Batista skin for Marcus when starting a new game. Then, any instance you’d see Marcus, you’d instead see and hear Batista.
Operation 5 Brings Versus Changes
Gears 5’s multiplayer has had a number of large updates called Operations since launch, and Operation 5 features a change that came directly from player feedback.
“What we’ve really done there is try to make a lot of the game more accessible, not only for people coming back, but also the people that are new to the game. We’ve done things like separation of characters in classes, which were funny,” Alex Grimbley, Gears 5 executive producer said. “When we first launched the game, certain characters were tied to certain classes, which was a really cool system for us and there were a lot of people that really liked that system. But if we thought about how we want to kind of move forward, just giving players more choice was one of our key things. Giving the players the choice to choose which class they want to apply to which character is I think really powerful.”
In past Operations The Coalition also introduced an earnable currency for the store, a new ranked system, and plenty of other maps and changes. Going forward, though, Grimbley said The Coalition has aspirations to make their Operations have stronger themes to tie any new content or maps together as an added bonus for fans of the franchise. They’re also committed to developing more maps for each Operation.
But if we thought about how we want to kind of move forward, just giving players more choice was one of our key things.
On the tech side, multiplayer on Series X and Series S hits 120 FPS and supports cross-play between the Xbox One and PC. However, unlike how players on Xbox One were able to opt-out of queuing with PC players who’d likely have a framerate and other technical advantages, Xbox One players can’t opt out of playing against others on Series S or Series X who will have similar advantages to PC players. Mike Rayner, studio technical director at The Coalition, isn’t concerned about there being too much of a competitive advantage though. Even still, The Coalition did look at opportunities to improve Gears 5’s performance on the Xbox One version.
“We’ve actually worked on improving the latency response on both the base Xbox version, as well as the Xbox Series X and S. We look at it in terms of the internal latency of the game engine, how quickly we’re responding to those inputs. Of course when we’re running at a higher frame rate, yes, it’s definitely going to be an even lower latency. In the PC space we’ve always had this. If you have a higher-end machine you can run it at higher frame rates. You can get the best hardware in the world, but ultimately it’s player skill, that’s ultimately going to dictate how well you’re going to do,” Rayner said.
Xbox Series X Visual Upgrades
As a game developed in the Unreal Engine, Rayner said the team effort of getting Gears 5 up and running on the Xbox Series X only took a short time to test, polish, and demo features on the Xbox Series X.
“When we first showed that demo in March, at that time, we had already lit up a whole bunch of high spec, PC ultra spec features that we already support on the highest end [PC] hardware. We were able to light those up and turn those on and the [Xbox Series X] just sort of absorbed it and it. There were no performance issues. And then we went beyond that. I think even at that time, we didn’t enable some of the new features we’ve added, like contact shadows and screen space global illumination, which really just increased the quality of the lighting and shadowing in the game. So yeah, that was about a two-week effort,” Rayner said.
Rayner said the speed of the Xbox Series X also enables a visual quality in an open-world, even when you’re zooming past the details on, say, a skiff.
“We have some open-world elements in our game where we’re streaming high-res textures and, you know, we have geometry streaming in and out. And so what you see is you see the highest-quality version of the assets as you kind of fly around the world as fast as you can, whereas before, especially at some of the lower-spec hardware, like the base Xbox One, you might see a little bit of popping or text or popping. These types of things are just a non-issue. In the future I think you’ll be able to see – not that I should talk too much about future stuff – you’re going to see the types of open-world games that just simply wouldn’t have been possible on earlier hardware.”
Another spot Rayner said players will notice a difference is in Gears 5’s cinematics. They’ll now run at 60 frames per second rather than 30 frames per second as they did originally. Rayner said this is just one of the many other visual upgrades they’ve been able to make on the hardware for a more seamless performance and a generally higher level of detail.
Excluding the visual upgrades specific to the Xbox Series X, all content updates are planned for all versions of Gears 5. They’ll also get a DLC expansion later this year, which you can read a little more about in IGN’s announcement story. For more on all the games coming to the Xbox Series consoles, be sure to visit IGN’s Xbox Series X guide.