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Prepare for the Gears 5 campaign with this Gears of War 4 story recap: the Swarm and Kait's necklace explained

(Image credit: Microsoft Studios)

Whether it's been three years since you last played through the Gears 4 campaign or you’re new to the series and just want to jump into Gears 5 with your friends, GamesRadar+ has you covered. Here you will find a Gears of War 4 story recap and the Gears of War 4 ending explained on the eve of The Coalition’s latest entry to freshen our memories, relive some of its most exciting moments, and look ahead to what’s in store for the Gears 5 characters

Fair warning: as this is focused on the Gears of War 4 ending explained, we’ll be talking spoilers. So if you haven’t played the last couple games in the series and plan to do so soon, don’t read any further.

Broken world

(Image credit: The Coalition)

Peel back the roided-out Heavy Metal look and chainsaw bayonets, and the Gears franchise is really a family soap opera. Gears of War 4 is a story about the disappointments between fathers and sons; the shared regrets between mothers and daughters; the children of yesteryear's bloody wars picking up the pieces of the broken world they've inherited. In the Gears series, humanity was born and lives on the planet Sera, a kind of hollow-Earth world where beings called the Locust once dwelled deep underground – until Emergence Day, when they rose to the surface and began a nightmarish, seventeen-year-long war.

Picking up twenty-five years after the events of Gears of War 3, humankind’s still clawing its way back from the brink of annihilation. Sera’s ruined climate brings apocalyptic storms. The Coalition of Ordered Governments (or COG) has replaced its armed forces with cold, unthinking machines ("bucketheads"). And the failures of the Locust War's aging heroes are about to come to light.

Chrysalis in detail

(Image credit: The Coalition)

When we first meet Kait Diaz (Laura Bailey) – not just an important character in Gears of War 4 but also the playable protagonist of Gears 5 – she's studying a butterfly chrysalis. "Inside, it destroys and rebuilds itself, changing its color, its shape," she reflects. "It gets wings, claws. It slashes its way out of its cage, and then – and then it’s new and beautiful." This would be a lovely introduction for any character, but it’s thematically significant in ways that will echo well into Gears 5's story, and Kait's journey especially.

JD Fenix (Liam McIntyre), son of original Gears heroes Marcus Fenix (John DiMaggio) and Anya Stroud (Nan McNamara), is found living in the small Outsider village led by Kait’s mother, Reyna (Justina Machado). JD and his best friend, Del Walker (Eugene Byrd), defected from the COG six months prior to the start of the game following a botched mission. After getting caught stealing a COG fabricator to aid the Outsiders' village, Kait, JD, Del, and Kait’s uncle, Oscar (Jimmy Smits), are also accused of "taking" COG citizens who have gone missing in recent months.

The reality, it turns out, is far worse: the Locust Horde that nearly wiped out humanity decades earlier is back, and they’ve evolved. Now consisting of a multitude of new forms, many of them truly alien, the Locust have become a hive with a shared consciousness. They abduct human beings, such as the villagers Kait grew up with, and place them inside organic "pods" to be mutated and made a part of the hive, a.k.a. the Swarm. When the Swarm first strikes, both Oscar and Reyna are abducted.

So how did the Locust survive the war? After their defeat, many of them were sealed away in a number of subterranean burial sites. ("There were dozens of them," says Marcus. "Maybe even hundreds.") Kait offers a solid explanation: "All this time, the Locust weren’t dead. They were cocooned. Transforming."

Rescues and revelations

(Image credit: The Coalition)

There's of course a lot of shooting and mayhem and bringing power generators back online over the course of the game's plot. But the biggest conflict in Gears of War 4 involves JD's father and Kait's mother, and the disparate fates that await them. After a superb sequence in which our new generation of younger soldiers is reunited with the estranged Marcus – and a stop at the gravesite of JD's mother, Anya – the elder Fenix agrees to come along on the quest to save Reyna and put an end to the Swarm.

Naturally, a lot of large monsters appear at inconvenient moments along the way, and Marcus, too, is snatched up by the Swarm, carried away in the belly of an armored beast. JD makes a tough call: they'll go after his dad first. After all, they'll need Marcus’s help if they’re to have any hope of rescuing Kait's mother from the hive.

The game's primary antagonist, the Speaker (Fred Tatasciore), makes for a thrilling boss fight, but isn’t terribly consequential from a narrative standpoint. It's implied that the Speaker is one of the few surviving warriors of the original Locust Horde, now a "Scion," and he's broadcasting his thoughts and perceptions to all members of the hive. Is he responsible for all the death and destruction the Swarm has caused? It would seem so; he’s the one who seized Reyna, Kait's mother, when the Swarm first appeared. But once you've slain him, there's still more to be done.

Gears of War 4 ending explained

(Image credit: The Coalition)

Following some fan-servicey appearances by more of the old-school Gears cast, and some fun action involving giant robots, you're at last reunited with Reyna Diaz in the heart of the Swarm hive. Her situation is hopeless; the monsters have seen to that. She has been permanently fused and entwined with the Swarm’s tissue, and therefore with its network of remaining minds. Freeing her from the Swarm will kill her, which is exactly what she asks Kait to do.

After they say their goodbyes, Reyna gives her daughter the necklace she'd been wearing in earlier chapters. Kait tells JD it "was my grandmothers. I never knew her." On the other side of the pendant, unseen until the game’s end, is the symbol of the dreaded Locust Horde. According to Xbox.com’s official Gears 5 listing, "Kait hasn’t told anyone about the Locust necklace her mother gave her before she died, and the pressure of this secret is eating her alive. These tensions bubble under the surface as the squad fights off the Swarm and learns about Kait’s past."

As all but confirmed by Gears 5’s box art – and long theorized by devoted fans – it seems that Kait’s grandmother was indeed Queen Myrrah, leader of the Locust. What will this connection mean for Kait’s future? Time will tell, but it’s a safe bet that Reyna's necklace is more than just a family heirloom.

Now you're all caught up with Gears of War 4, why not check out our On The Radar: Gears 5 coverage hub for all of our exclusive info about the upcoming game from The Coalition. Or you can read our Gears 5 campaign hands-on preview here.