When I started writing this short preview, the name of Gears of War 5’s new mode had already slipped out of my head. I had to Google it. I also had to Google which number Gears of War we’re up to now.
It’s not just the mind violence of flying across the world that made me forget. We’re just at that stage with Gears where it’s simply hard to care.
Of the handful of games at Microsoft’s showcase - one of which is Halo Reach - there were only two upcoming first-party titles to play: Gears of War [number] and that new Ninja Theory game that’s basically ‘what if Overwatch but swords?’. So I pulled up my trousers, cursed myself for not bringing any water, and queued for an hour to play that new multiplayer mode, which I’ve forgotten the name of again. It’s called Escape (just looked it up again), which is also what I wanted to do about halfway around the queue.
Escape is a new three-player co-op experience where you work through a map as a team, taking out enemies with big guns, all while being chased by a poison cloud that somehow makes you explode upon death. Sometimes you open doors. You have a map so you can see where you’re going. It’s pretty basic stuff, and it was immediately apparent why Microsoft decided to showcase it with a CGI trailer rather than gameplay during the livestream.
In a new twist, you each have an Overwatch-style ability that you can pop out. I had a shield, another guy had ammo, and the other guy on our team apparently didn’t know how to trigger his (or it was something so useless that it’s imperceptible).
Once you reach the end of the map, you burst some heads while you wait for some blast doors to close and… that’s it. That’s the mode. It’s fine.
Don’t get me wrong, Gears of War feels great to play. It’s just as enjoyable as it was when the first one came out in around 100BC. It’s a competent, weighty, tactical shooter with a flanking fetish. The weapons are iconic. Everyone is massive. Grenades are attached to fucking chains and you swing them around before tossing them in a wide arc. It’s a pretty good time. However, this isn’t quite the revelation or innovation you’d hope for a series that’s barely evolved since its conception.
Of course, there is a chance Escape will turn into something cool. After all, it comes with a map builder, allowing the community to get in and create new scenarios. Failing that, there's always the campaign.