One of the next-gen trends is the arrival of graphics updates for titles already available on the previous generation, an easy way to show the power of new hardware. Gears 5 is one of the first games to receive this treatment and, thanks also to a new DLC dedicated to history, the impression is that it is about to experience a second launch. One of the most visually compelling games on Xbox One is now even better thanks to a graphics and performance update, with even a few new things on other fronts.

Gears 5 continues to rely on dynamic resolution but, based on the pixel count of some screens, it seems that the average is around 1728p, or 2160p in the least hectic moments. Curiously, it also happens to go down to 1080p as it did on Xbox One X, although now it is much less frequent.

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Playing in multiplayer, the dynamic resolution is more evident as you aim for higher refresh rates (120fps), but still visually the impact is considerable. Quality was already high thanks to Unreal’s temporal anti-aliasing, and now it’s even better thanks to higher average resolution. We don’t have a Series S to test, but Gears 5 should max out at 1440p there, placing it roughly halfway between Xbox One and Xbox One X, but with the same goals as Series X on the frame-rate front.

Speaking of visual impact, the PC version is used as a starting point with ultra-level settings. This means that the volumetric lighting and shadows are of higher quality as well as the level of detail (not particularly evident to tell the truth). Good news also for the best rendering of the effects: The Coalition has increased the quality of the screen-space reflections on several surfaces, bringing them even where they were completely absent on Xbox One X. Now we are in line with the PC version, in short.

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Gears 5 only partially takes advantage of the Xbox Velocity Architecture (the NVME SSD). Hardware decompression, the new DirectStorage API and Sampler Feedback Streaming are not used, but the simple fact of being installed on an SSD still has a big impact on the speed of the data transfer. Load times could exceed 45 on Xbox One X, while on Series X we are often under 10.

So we would already be at a good level, but the developers have decided to implement options not present on PC, on all screen-space global lighting. It is basically software-based ray tracing dedicated to indirect lighting, which therefore does not take advantage of the console hardware. According to The Coalition, it is calculated at half resolution but with eight beams per single pixel, enough detail to capture even small sources of light such as shotgun blazes. Now even the darker areas, previously unreally lit, are enhanced by a higher level of detail and higher shadow quality on Series X. It’s all about subtleties, it’s true, but they’re still steps towards more lighting. realistic. Unlike what we saw in the March demo, however, here we also find a traditional ambient occlusion for details. We also point out that the global screen-space lighting is used only in the gameplay, since the movies use a classic SSAO (with improvements).

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We must then mention the addition of Variable Rate Shading, a technique used to gain performance and resolution during the most excited phases, at the expense of shading precision. Take a look at the image below to see how this effect works in Gears 5, and how various areas of the screen are generated at different resolutions depending on the content. This is not a visible effect during gameplay, or at least not as much as it was in Gears Tactics on PC where it was implemented somewhat crudely.

Here is the VRS in Gears 5. The red areas are at full resolution, the green ones are in half, while the yellow ones sacrifice half resolution on only one of the two axes.

The improvements seem to be due to the Tier Two Variable Rate Shading. Gears Tactics used Tier One, which did not allow for refined shading control, while now it is possible to choose more precisely the areas of the screen on which to act thanks to the division into zones of the frame. Using VRS actually results in a 5 to 12 percent saving in the time it takes to render each frame, which in turn leads to higher average resolution. The VRS artifacts are not completely gone, but with Tier Two we have to say that they are very difficult to spot.

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Speaking of shaders, a lot of work has been done to maximize the use of relaxed cone step mapping. Easy to say, it is a system that adds depth to 2D textures, already present in the original version of the game. On Series X, the team spent months improving the level of detail by increasing the feeling of depth and contact shadows that are now more realistically integrated into the world.

You may have realized that all of these updates look really good, but the most important thing is the feel of the game, of course. By using Dynamic Latency Input, developers have been able to significantly reduce latency, so that commands are recorded much faster. Microsoft’s numbers are on this page, and our tests also gave similar results. We hope this focus on reducing input lag becomes the standard because it really makes a difference. Of course, it’s even more noticeable when playing at 120Hz.

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Input lag on Xbox One X and Series X compared to Gears 5. The improvements are noticeable and you can feel the difference.

In addition to being better looking, and having less input lag, frame-rate is also a front where things have changed. We tested both the classic 60fps, 120Hz and variable frequency. The 60Hz campaign highlights that footage is now at full rate, while on Xbox One X it was limited to 30fps. Great, but the camera changes take 33 milliseconds, which produces some weird hiccups (but there seems to be a fix coming). It’s obviously not a serious flaw, but you can see it coming from Xbox One where it didn’t happen (because the whole scene was running at half frequency).

Returning to the gameplay we find a solid experience. Everything is smoother on Series X than on Xbox One X, with no worrying dips in combat or exploration. Some hiccups were detected while moving into the larger levels, but The Coalition says this is a bug introduced by the interaction between the low latency optimizations and the data streaming system. Here too, a fix is ​​on the way.

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Then we tested the variable frequencies and realized that it allows us to avoid these sobs, or at least to make them invisible to the eye. The impression is that variable refresh rates will be very important in this new generation.

Multiplayer supports 120Hz and the good news is that it works exactly as hoped – the game hits 120fps and holds it for most of the time. Of course we could only play against the CPU, which should be even more complex for the system to manage. A frame-rate at this frequency seems made for multiplayer, and here too we think we have encountered a feature that will be fundamental in the next-gen.

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The Gears 5 update is a great improvement to a great game. We only played the “preview” version of the code, but the progress is already significant. Lighting, shadows, detail and frame-rate are evident and pair up with HDR that was already great before. The only question mark concerns the Xbox Series S: how will it compare with the big sister?

Source : Reddit