WHAT IS A HANDS ON REVIEW?
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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