I have a confession to make — despite working with desktops, laptops and all kinds of high-end gaming hardware all day, I still do most of my gaming on a console. Or at least I did, until I sat down with Gears 5 on my new gaming PC and had a revelation.
I had been content to bounce between PC and Xbox One S during my first few hours with Microsoft’s new blockbuster shooter, but after a weekend playing through the campaign on my rig, I simply can’t go back. If you have the hardware to push it to the max (in my case, a Core i7, GTX 1080 Ti-powered desktop and a 1440p Dell 24 Gaming Monitor), Gears 5 is a technical masterpiece on Windows, as if it arrived from a future console generation to let Xbox One owners know what they’re missing out on.
The gap in fidelity really hit me during a dramatic cutscene in which I could see every single freckle on protagonist Kait Diaz’s face, and every tiny pore and piece of stubble on her buddy Del’s. The detail on an aging Marcus Fenix’s scarred, bearded mug convinced me that this iconic video game meathead could actually be a real person.
Gears 5’s environments are gorgeous no matter how you experience them, but sailing through the striking red-sand desert of Vasgar while avoiding deadly streaks of yellow lightning was especially enrapturing with everything kicked to ultra. The game also just runs so smoothly — taking out chunky Swarm soldiers in 2560 x 1440 at upwards of 80 to 90 frames per second is more satisfying than Gears has ever been. I can only imagine how Gears 5 looks for folks with 4K monitors and beastly RTX 2080 cards.
This isn’t just me geeking out over a pretty game as a fairly new PC gamer. The performance wizards at Digital Foundry have declared Gears 5 to be one of the best PC ports of all time, thanks to not only how great it looks, but also due to its robust settings menu that lets you tweak everything from motion blur to shadow quality to your liking.
I should stress that the game still looks impressive on my Xbox One S and old 1080p TV, and its Xbox One S and Xbox One X performance got similarly high praise from Digital Foundry. This thing is just optimized across the board.
I’ve been a console gamer all my life — there’s just something about curling up on the couch with a controller that feels right to me (not that you can’t do that with the right PC setup). But after the eye-opening experience I’ve had with Gears 5, the PC has officially become my main platform for everything not made by Sony and Nintendo, and I can’t wait to experience upcoming releases like Doom Eternal, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, and Halo: Infinite in their full glory.
And if this is the kind of experience that Xbox is targeting with Project Scarlett? Well, console gamers are in for a big treat next year.
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Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.