Hands on: Gears 5 review

Hive mind – we test out Escape Mode

What is a hands on review?
Gears 5 review
Image credit: The Coalition

Early Verdict

Gears 5’s Escape Mode is a labyrinth of fun gun blazing chaos but risks becoming tedious due to a lack of maps and characters.


  • Stunning visually
  • Fun co-operative chaos
  • Complimentary character classes


  • Only three characters at present
  • Map wasn't very long
  • Could become repetitive

"Hands on reviews" are a journalist's first impressions of a game based on spending some time with it ahead of our full review. In this case, we played 15 minutes of Escape Mode at the Microsoft E3 2019 Showcase. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to enjoy, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee

Microsoft announced Gears 5 during last year’s E3 conference with a story trailer and 2019 release window, but it was only during E3 2019 that The Coalition started to drip feed us details on what the latest addition to the Gears of War series would actually look like in terms of gameplay.

Unfortunately, The Coalition is choosing to keep Gears 5’s campaign under wraps as long as it possibly can; instead opting to divulge information on the game’s various other modes in the run up to its September 10 release date.

While Horde mode will be unveiled at Gamescom in August and Versus mode will debut in July as part of the Gears 5 Tech Test, we were able to get our hands on Escape Mode during Microsoft’s showcase at E3 2019. 

New recruits

Gears 5 review

Gears 5 Horde Mode (Image credit: The Coalition)

The premise of Escape Mode is fairly straight forward: work in a team of three players (online or local co-op) to battle through an enemy hive map as quickly as you possibly can, striking down anything that gets in your way and avoiding the poisonous gas that is creeping behind you.

For this particular run, I played as the no-nonsense Keegan who essentially acts as a support. His special ability spawns a circle that regenerates ammo for anyone within it for a limited time – super useful for when the team inevitably runs out of ammo during the run. 

Alongside Keegan there are two other new characters: Lahni, a scout class character whose special ability summons an electro blade which stuns and devastates enemies for a short time; and Mac, a tank class whose special ability can summon a large invulnerable shield to protect himself and his teammates for a limited time.  

Currently, these are the only three characters available in Escape mode, but others Gears characters, such as Kait, are due to make an appearance at a later date.

Escape tactics 

Gears 5 review

Gears 5 Versus Mode. (Image credit: The Coalition)

From Escape Mode alone, it's clear that Gears 5's 4K HDR graphics at 60 frames per second have made for a visually stunning title. Even watching Keegan break out of his fleshy cocoon is impressive – if not mildly disgusting.

From the moment you break out, the race begins. A timer appears at the top of the screen – a feature for the competitive among us – and it's up to you and your team to get the heck out of there. The game was set to easy by default, probably so we could actually get through the level, but enemies did feel a little porous. Grunts were easily gunned down, while a lack of ammo proved to be the biggest hindrance – lucky for Keegan's ability, right?

While myself and my stranger teammates initially stayed quiet as we lone-wolf attempted to work out a way through the hostile labyrinth, it quickly became apparent that it's considerably easier to work together in this multiplayer game – who knew? As my Lahni flapped about in distress at a lack of ammo, we were able to smugly explain down the mic that our character could spawn the much needed ammunition – "don't worry, I've got this."

While beginner mode seems perhaps too straightforward (as expected), we could definitely see potential for a much more intense firefight in the hive's tightly packed rooms at a higher difficulty level. We found ourselves quite glad we had been defaulted to the easy mode.

The run took roughly 15 minutes (which flew in), with a safe zone placed halfway for the team to recuperate for the next phase. If you're worried about that timer, don't fret, the clock stops while you take a breather.

Early verdict

Gears 5 review

Gears 5's Escape Mode is great fun. While we only got a taster of one map, it was a thoroughly enjoyable co-operative experience.

However we worry that without a wide selection of characters to choose from, maps to navigate and worthwhile rewards, Escape Mode could grow stale quite quickly.

  • E3 2019 is the biggest gaming event of the year. TechRadar is reporting live from LA, telling you all about the biggest announcements of the week, from epic game trailers to shocking release date reveals. Follow our expert analysis of the keynotes and what we see on the E3 show floor. 

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.