Reinventing A Mad World: Why Gears of War: E-Day Represents the Future of the Series


  • Check out the brutal new trailer for Gears of War: E-Day, unveiled today during the Xbox Games Showcase  
  • Gears of War: E-Day is an origin story that depicts the horror of Locust invasion on Emergence Day through the eyes of Marcus Fenix 
  • Developers at The Coalition share further details on how this long-awaited origin story is being built from the ground up in Unreal Engine 5 

Gears of War: E-Day was unveiled in a surprise announcement during the Xbox Games Showcase today, alongside an explosive trailer that takes us all the way back to Emergence Day. The trailer introduces us to this defining moment in the Gears of War series that sees the fearsome Locust make themselves known with a brutal ambush from below against the world of Sera. Here, we’ll follow younger versions of the series’ original heroes, Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago, as they begin their fight against the Locust invasion. This event is the catalyst for everything we know and love about Gears of War, and I caught up with developers at The Coalition to find out why now is the perfect time to tell that story.  

Speaking to Creative Director Matt Searcy and Brand Director Nicole Fawcette, I find that the vibe inside The Coalition is ecstatic – the team is absolutely thrilled to finally be sharing E-Day with the world. Over the last few years, the studio has remained purposefully quiet but continuously busy, wrapping up Gears 5, shipping its Hivebusters DLC and Gears Tactics, all the while adapting to the Covid pandemic and its changes to how studios are run. During that time, the shift in rhythm allowed the team some time to reflect, figuring out what they, and fans, were truly passionate about in order to find the next great Gears story.  

“We realized that a lot of the words we use to describe the franchise were what our fans also use, phrases like brotherhood, brutality, pathos, awe,” says Searcy. “Why E-Day?  That’s the moment it all comes together. It’s the heart of the Gears universe. Everything that happens is shaped by this day.”  

Fans of those mainline Gears of War games can expect to feel at home with how Gears of War: E-Day feels. The Coalition is working to recreate and improve the series’ trademark third-person action, charging between cover in life-or death situations, all set within an explosive campaign that combines satisfying gameplay and emotive, character-led storytelling. However, all this is told through a modern lens, and rooted in groundbreaking technology, giving The Coalition room to really build out those elements. It’s a careful balance – a classic Gears of War game that feels authentic next to the original, but with truly next-gen tech behind it. 

“It’s going to feel like a new Gears game, because that’s what it is,” Searcy says. “It’s us revisiting the tone and the feeling of what makes Gears great, but we’re tapping into new techniques, new processes, and new technology that’s going to make the gameplay feel better than ever. It’s going to be awesome, a game that feels both truly new, and authentically Gears.”  

Bringing the Monsters Back

Gears of War: E-Day is set 14 years before the events of the original Gears of War and tells the story of the first Locust emergence on Sera. As the game unfolds, we’ll get to see how an ill-prepared world responds to a threat like the Locust. The Coalition are being very intentional to recast the Locust not simply as foes but as living nightmares. These aren’t your typical alien or zombie videogame antagonists; they’re mysterious, formidable creatures that dwell beneath the earth, tapping into our deepest fears. “The design brief was pretty simple,” explains Searcy. “Locust are the ‘monsters under the bed.’ What would happen to the people of Sera in seeing this overwhelming army of monsters and trying to figure out…what are you going to do?” 

Studio Art Director Aryan Hanbeck explains further, “When players experience E-Day, they see the monsters through the eyes of those encountering them for the first time.” The design team prioritized redefining the Locust Drone, which had slowly become mere cannon fodder as the series progressed. “We transformed the drone into something fearsome, physically intimidating, and utterly brutal,” Hanbeck notes, highlighting its enhanced status just behind Marcus and Dom in the announce trailer. “Getting the drone right was crucial; everything else with the Locust we’re scaling up from there.” 

A Tale of Origins

  The E-Day reveal trailer wastes no time in reintroducing us to Marcus, as he engages in a brutal struggle with the aforementioned Locust Drone. However, unlike our previous outings with him, this is the first time that the seasoned horde-sawing soldier we all know has faced off against an enemy like this. You can feel the strain and helplessness as he jousts with this inexplicable monstrosity – before finally fending it off not with his Retro Lancer, but a nearby television set. It’s this flavour of raw, personal brutality and desperation that The Coalition seeks to capture in Gears of War: E-Day – Marcus, and the world around him, are not yet equipped for this level of threat.  

The eagle-eyed fans among you may have also noticed that the MK 1 Lancer that Marcus briefly wields in the trailer features a detachable bayonet – it’s not the chainsaw-equipped gun we know from the wider series.    

Fawcette confirms to me that E-Day is a “story of many origins,” including the Chainsaw Lancer, but opts to keep the specifics of those stories to herself for now. Suffice it to say, we’re not just learning how Marcus and Dom came to be the heroes we know in E-Day.  

“[The Chainsaw Lancer] doesn’t currently exist in that period… but it’s not a Gears game if you’re not chainsawing Locust!” Fawcette laughs. 

Fans will also immediately recognise the trailer’s inclusion of ‘Mad World’, the Tears for Fears track famously covered by Gary Jules and used in commercials for the original Gears of War games. Composer Adam Lastiwka has masterfully reimagined the iconic “Mad World” track for the Gears of War: E-Day trailer, crafting an original instrumental that enhances Gary Jules’ haunting cover and aligns perfectly with the game’s darker, grittier themes.  

This instrumental cover plays out as Marcus and Dom gaze out into the Locust-decimated ruins of the city – a callback to the profound emotional depth of the landmark 2006 commercial. Unlike typical video game promotions of its time, this ad stood out by portraying its hero as vulnerable and isolated, sharply contrasting with the over-the-top marketing norms of that era. 

“Re-licensing the music was just the beginning,” Fawcette remarked. “The original Mad World commercial resonates because it portrayed a heroism rooted in vulnerability, not invincibility. We wanted to explore all the elements that made that ad memorable and impactful.” This reflection shaped the approach, ensuring the trailer did more than just evoke nostalgia. “Our goal was to explore and reinvigorate the foundational ideas of the series.” 

As Marcus teeters on the edge in a fierce close-quarters battle with the Locust, he swiftly outsmarts the Drone by planting the Lancer into the wall, disengaging the bayonet and downing his foe with a kill shot. He takes a moment to recuperate, before plummeting through the floorboards to what would presumably be his death at the behest of a giant emergence hole. We’ve not seen E-Holes since Gears of War: Judgement and watching this cavernous void swallow up an entire building with ease is particularly terrifying. However, in this moment, we see the reveal of a young Dom Santiago reaching out to help him up, and for longtime fans, it’s an emotional homecoming like no other.  

The Beginnings of Brotherhood 

This story is of course, told from the perspectives of a much younger Marcus and Dom. While the pair are seasoned veterans of the Pendulum Wars (the human conflict taking place before the series begins), this is a wholly new threat for the pair to navigate: “The best Gears games have these super emotional themes around shared burden, belonging, trust and loyalty, and Marcus and Dom have a really interesting relationship going into E-Day,” Searcy says.  

 To give some background context leading into the story of E-Day, Marcus and Dom are connected through Dom’s older brother, Carlos, who died on the battlefield with Marcus. The pair were best friends, so Marcus and Dom are in the early stages of forming a kinship over a shared loss and navigating those emotions together.  

“We’re telling the origin story of Marcus and Dom and their bond… this is the bond that defines the franchise,” Searcy adds. “They’re not the characters we know from Gears 1 to 3. They don’t have 10 years of fighting the Locust between them. When the game opens, there’s supposed to be peace on Sera, and they’re trying to figure out life without this person they both loved.”  

“People are going to see the formation of this brotherhood that is so iconic to Gears.”  

Dealing with the new Locust threat becomes the more pressing concern for the two friends over the course of E-Day, but those emotional beats will still course through the story as you play. Fawcette says this is particularly exciting:  

“They are a lot more vulnerable, and I think that’s a really modern take on those two characters,” Fawcette explains. “There’s a weight they carry between them, and that creates a really interesting tension as they navigate their own relationship.  

“You have this intimate story set amid this wider backdrop of what’s happening on this apocalyptic day. I think, for fans, it’ll be really compelling to dig deep and explore their bond and how it changes over time.”  

From The Ground Up

 Key to The Coalition’s vision is that, in another nod to the original game, E-Day won’t just be a marvel of gameplay and storytelling – but of technology, too. Game development has come a long way since the first Gears of War game and The Coalition, equipped with Unreal Engine 5, is prepared to take full advantage of this evolution to set new standards in technical prowess.  

When the original Gears of War launched, its “Mad World” trailer was nothing short of a revelation. Rendered entirely in-engine, it set a new benchmark for what gamers could expect directly from their gameplay experience—a rarity at a time when the chasm between cinematic trailers and actual game graphics was notably wide. Epic Games’ use of their own Unreal Engine not only showcased their confidence in the game’s visual and performance capabilities but also boldly declared the engine’s power.  

The Coalition is honoring this legacy with the Gears of War: E-Day reveal trailer, powered by Unreal Engine 5.  

“With the advancements in Unreal Engine 5, the leap in technical capabilities is tremendous,” explains Kate Rayner, Studio Technical Director at The Coalition. This includes over 100 times more environment and character details than Gears 5, hardware raytraced lighting, reflections and shadows, next generation destruction and gore, and cutting-edge animation technology, to name just a few of the countless improvements that will make Gears of War: E-Day an unrivalled visual experience.  

“Our ambition is to, once again, set a new standard in technical excellence,” Rayner adds. “We have fully modernized Gears from the ground up, infusing the DNA of Gears with the full capabilities of modern gaming technology. Every character, environment, and animation in ‘Gears of War: E-Day‘ has been completely rebuilt in Unreal Engine 5, allowing us to portray the Gears universe with unprecedented detail and fidelity.” 

 “The original ‘Mad World’ trailer made a real statement by using in-engine footage. We’re pushing that even further with Unreal Engine 5,” Rayner continues. “Our goal with the announcement trailer was to highlight our commitment to pushing the boundaries of both storytelling and technology in gaming.” 

Fawcette adds: “When you look at Marcus and Dom from the original games, they’re big beefy tanks, exaggerated in their design. As you’ve seen in the trailer, you can see how these guys have really come to life as human characters [in E-Day].”  

The Future of Gears  

  Of course, this isn’t the end of other ongoing stories in the Gears series – the team is content with the stories told in Gears 4 and Gears 5 and is by no means abandoning them, but the collective passion for such an iconic origin story was simply too great to ignore. The story of E-Day and the origins of Marcus and Dom are such powerful, pivotal events that The Coalition couldn’t wait to tell it.   

“We’re super proud about Gears 4 and Gears 5 and the stories that were told,” Fawcette adds. “We’re not retreating from that storyline in any way. But in [this] moment, we had an opportunity to write our next step, and this one just felt too good to miss.”  

It’s also important to note that E-Day is not a spin-off, it’s a completely new entry to the mainline series, set earlier in the timeline. The events of the game not only serve as an exciting origin tale of two beloved characters, but it also adds detail and context to this period that will resonate through stories that will follow. In E-day, the Locust are not foes that our characters are accustomed to fighting. They are mysterious, formidable and overwhelming – an unforeseen horror that Marcus, Dom, and the rest of Sera must learn to deal with before it’s too late. Everything that happens in E-Day will shape the future of Gears of War for the better.  

This is the Gears of War story you’ve always wanted to hear, and it’s going to be incredible. To keep up to date with ongoing news about Gears of War: E-Day, follow @GearsofWar on X.