The Coalition decorated its testing lab with Gears of War merch old and new during its campaign preview event. The signature piece is this life-sized model of the game's hero, Kait Diaz. [credit: Sam Machkovech ]
VANCOUVER, British Columbia—Gears of War 5, which launches on Windows 7, Windows 10, and Xbox consoles starting on September 6, is not yet in a reviewable state, in terms of how we typically talk about video games' value. But based on what I've already seen of the sprawling game (the sixth of its series), that may already be a moot point.
After a six-hour gameplay event at Microsoft's Coalition studio—and hours more spent testing its online versus options in a July beta test—I've come to a conclusion that I can't shake off. The Xbox Game Pass subscription service now has its official, signature game: the something-for-everyone blockbuster that lands less as a "must-buy" product and more as a no-brainer action game to sample. If you're already paying for Xbox Game Pass ($10/mo on console, or $5/mo on Windows 10 for a limited time), Gears of War 5 arrives with a Baskin Robbins counter of surprisingly varied action options, all easy to try with a tiny, silver spoon.
Start with an open-world twist to the campaign, which hews to the "cover-shooter" formula of old while injecting just enough new ideas. From there, sample a thoughtful expansion of the "Horde" co-op mode. You can also dive into multiple flavors of online versus battling and an admittedly unproven "Gears of Duty: Zombies" option, too (dubbed "Escape"). On top of those, The Coalition has built one of the most compelling new "helper" characters I've ever seen in a shooter, one tailored specifically for people who might otherwise prefer not to play, for both its campaign and Horde modes.