Interesting... I wonder how much time is covered during Gears 5. Or is this just a special animation made to introduce this new guy who will, hopefully, grow as a character over the course of the game.
I find it utterly baffling really. Rod said in a tweet that they showed campaign last year, uh no, that wasn't showing it. That is what we call a glimpse. They wanted to show the other stuff at E3. Thing is, you CAN show the other stuff and also give us a good deep dive into the campaign of which they claim is their biggest yet, new direction etc. I'm baffled. And worried.
Gears 5 Escape mode preview: Bite-size violence never felt so good At E3 2019, we had the opportunity to go hands-on with Gears 5's new Escape co-op mode, bringing a hint of Left 4 Dead to the big-budget third-person shooter. Early impressions are very good indeed. Jez Corden19 Jun 2019
E3 2019 gave us the opportunity to go hands-on with Gears 5's new co-op mode, dubbed Escape.
In Escape, The Coalition has created a bite-size gauntlet-style experience, where teams of three players battle through randomly-generated Swarm hive maps, after detonating a gas bomb deep within. Escape also features various character archetypes, each with an Overwatch-style "ultimate" ability that charges as you play alongside other unique supportive measures atop a complex-looking progression layer.
The Coalition fielded a few of our burning questions as we played through, in what seems to be an extremely promising addition to the full Gears package.
Gears goes big
Battle the Swarm
Explore Sera. Skim across glaciers, sail over deserts and descend into sunken ruins to discover what could be the largest and most diverse Gears world ever created.
Gears 5 Escape delivers bitesize battles and progression
Gears 5 Escape matches are designed to last around 20 minutes, as opposed to a full Horde run which can take anywhere up to an hour or more, depending on the difficulty. The Coalition told us that they're designed to be less hectic and time-intensive as Horde, albeit with a strong emphasis on tactical class-based co-operative play.
For our playthrough, we played as Lani, an aggressive scout character that comes equipped with an electrified blade. We didn't get time to try out some of the other characters, but Keegan had the ability to spawn and share ammunition − a scarcity in Escape − while Back was able to pop a shield for the team when the need for moving cover is particularly important.
Gears 5 only enhances Gears of War's trademark combat.
The whole premise of Escape revolves around a new Gears unit called the Scorpio Squad, who essentially sign up to suicide missions to drop Venom Bombs deep within Swarm breeding hives. Once the bomb is detonated, the "Escape" begins, and the map progressively fills with toxic fumes forcing you to move towards the extraction point, fighting waves of randomly generated threats along the way.
The movement still retained that heavy Gears feel, but felt ever so slightly refined. Perhaps this was due, in part, to Lani's abilities, which allow her to slide into cover from a greater distance than her fellow teammates. Gears 5 Escape, like Gears 4 Horde, also features customizable character traits from cards, in addition to levels. You'll be able to see damage numbers in Escape, a first for the franchise, although you will be able to turn them off too if you're not a fan. As you strengthen your character deck, you'll be able to undertake more challenging missions, for even greater rewards. Where Gears 5 Escaped shined primarily, like most Gears games, is in its combat violence, which is every bit as satisfying as it has ever been.
Gameplay footage via PS360HD.
Using Lani's ultimate ability, which charges as you play, sends a cascade of lightning spraying from every melee swing. By default, she wields a combat knife and can stun lock enemies in an area of effect for the duration. Using this ability I was able to rescue downed friends from even some of the larger heavy enemies, all of which succumbed to the blade.
Where Lani's ultimate got even more interesting, however, was using it in conjunction with one of the Swarm's melee weapons. I was able to get my hands on one of the huge two-handed maces from the original Gears 5 reveal trailer, obliterating huge enemies in a wide arc of electrified giblets, which was equal parts hilarious and satisfying. Some of the new executions as well are simply insane. The two-handed mace can scoop up enemies and hurl them across the room like a gory missile. Gears 5 only enhances Gears of War's trademark combat.
Gears 5 drops one of Gears 4's most controversial aspects, that being the dreaded loot crates. There's still a degree of randomness when it comes to character progress in Escape, but nothing will be purchasable with real money. As your character levels up, you'll unlock new skills along a linear progression path, and at the end of every Escape dungeon run, you'll get a pool of card upgrades specific to abilities you have unlocked. You'll be able to customize and tailor your playstyle for each character using this system, but unlike Gears 4 Horde mode, you won't be funneled into purchasing loot crates to maximize your progression, simply because you won't be able to.
The Coalition didn't tell us how monetization would work further down the line, but it's easy to imagine that they might include bonus heroes and classes to purchase, similarly to games like League of Legends. Those who pre-order Gears 5 or play it during launch week on Xbox Game Pass will unlock the Terminator as a playable character for multiplayer, for example (seriously). Additionally, there also seems to be a "Boost" mechanic which allows you to accelerate the number of rewards you get at the end of Escape matches, although we're unsure, at this time, whether this will be purchasable outside of the pre-order bonus.
Although we only got a very brief taste of what Escape represents, it was a frenetic and visceral experience that should serve fans of Gears 5 Horde mode well, particularly in those instances you want a briefer, more rapid pace of violence in between bigger gaming commitments. That said, Gears 5 Escape will also come with its very own robust mapping tools, allowing players to build much larger, much more complex dungeons if they so choose. Gears 5 Escape packs a constant stream of new content
Speaking of the map tools, The Coalition told us that they would require no previous programming or 3D modelling experience. Instead, they will be tile-based with drag-and-drop style elements, allowing you to rapidly build maps and share them with the community. The Coalition will also be dropping content on a weekly basis, they told us, owing to the rapid iteration afforded by these new tools.
The maps offered by The Coalition will hover around the 20 minute mark, however, there's no reason a community member couldn't make a vast, hours-long Escape dungeon if he or she chooses.
The maps aren't randomized, per say, or procedurally generated. However, there will be room for A.I.-generated enemies, loot locations, and other events. Players and The Coalition will also be able to add specifically placed enemies, and bosses. The Coalition told us that each hive starts with three acts separated by safe rooms, similar to Left 4 Dead. Players will also be able to chose difficulty levels and mutators, which add dynamic modifiers to each map. Gears 5 Escape seems like a great addition
While Gears 5 Escape seems to be a great addition by itself, the most intriguing aspect is arguably the map editor. User-generated content could keep Escape fresh for years to come, depending on the complexity and freedom offered by the tools, with players able to create all sorts of dungeon-like experiences as they see fit. I just hope The Coalition can keep it fresh at their end with regular character drops and new ability cards, similar to how they handled Horde mode in Gears of War 4 (but no loot crates, thanks).
Gears 5 should launch on September 10, 2019, with five days early access for gamers on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. It's heading to Xbox One, Steam, and the Microsoft Store.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cosmetics are fair game for that kind of stuff, but executions are not simply cosmetic. Hopefully these are at least be alternative animations and not simply the basic weapon specific ones. Like it should be a 2nd, alternate longshot execution you have to buy / grind for, not the base longshot execution, every weapon should have a default execution...
Gears 5 campaign mode promotional shotImage: Microsoft
Microsoft’s head of all things Gears of War, Rod Fergusson, says his team is playing it less safe with September’s Gears 5 after feedback that the series’ last installment didn’t go far enough.
“We felt like we had to prove ourselves,” he said of the team’s previous effort on 2016’s Gears of War 4. It was the first Gears game made by the then-new Microsoft-owned Coalition studio, which included just three people—including Fergusson, he says—who’d made a Gearsgame before.
“We really went out going, ‘Okay, we’re going to stay true to what Gears is, and [not] mess with it too much,’” he said during an interview with Kotaku at E3 in Los Angeles. “We really didn’t want people going, ‘Well they don’t know what they’re doing.’
“And what we got instead was like, ‘There’s not enough innovation here.’ We sort of took that feedback about, ‘We trust you, please go push it.’ And so we really brought that to Gears 5.”
The promise of bold but careful change is common during the promotional cycle for a sequel, but it also fits with where Gearshas been and where it seems to be going.
Gears of War 4 was the first main Gearsinstallment not made by Epic Games, where Fergusson used to work. It did play traditionally. Its campaign offered more of the series’ familiar third-person cover-based shooting, pitting a small team of heavily armored (but helmetless) heroes and their giant guns in room after room and zone after zone of firefights against beefy enemies. Its biggest change was its focus on a largely new cast, putting players in control of J.D. Fenix, a soldier for the ostensible good-guy faction COG and the son of the series’ longtime protagonist Marcus Fenix. Backing him up were a COG soldier named Del Walker, an older Marcus, and Kait Diaz, a somewhat mysterious woman hailing from the dissident anti-COG Outsider community.
Gears 5 moves Kait into the lead playable role, though in an interview with Kotaku, Fergusson declined to clarify if we play as her for the whole game. The campaign supports three-player co-op, up from two in the previous game. And while we’ve seen barely anything of the campaign in the year since Gears 5 was announced, Fergusson says it’s different. “We’re really trying to find new ways to play with the formula, and not just being a hallway shooter,” he said, pointing to a moment involving a skiff from the game’s 2018 debut trailer that he said involves more player choice.
Cover-based shooting is still the focus, but Fergusson promised more options for close-quarters melee combat. He also described tweaked controls, with the series’ signature melee move—the slicing of an enemy with a chainsaw bayonet—migrating from a hold of the Xbox controller’s B button to a hold of the right bumper (tapping is still a reload). That allows a player to keep their right thumb free to turn the game’s camera while revving the chainsaw with their press of their right pointer finger. This should make it easier to turn to chainsaw enemies, Fergusson explained.
He also said Gears 5 will encourage a greater combat focus on targeting enemy weak points and scoring headshots, noting that the game’s aiming reticle will display as white for body shots, red for headshots, and gold when players have done a perfect reload, super-charging their gun.
Even more radical is the addition of health bars to the series’ enemies, something Fergusson thinks will help players decide when to take risks to down nearly-defeated enemies. He said health bars can be turned off.
At the game’s lowest difficulty players, will even be able to lock onto enemies, a feature the series had previously avoided.
The developers are renaming the Gearsdifficulty levels from casual/normal/hardcore/insane to beginner/intermediate/experienced/insane. Fergusson credited series’ new director of production, Christi Rae, with changing his thinking on the names. “At some point, everyone’s a beginner,” she’d written to him on a post-it note in the middle of a meeting. That resonated. Why pigeonhole someone as “casual” if they might simply be new to the series and starting easy?
Gears 5 horde mode promotional shotImage: Microsoft
Fergusson hypes Gears 5 as five games in one. He’s counting the campaign, the series’ signature player-vs-environment co-op Horde mode, and its player-vs-player Versus mode. He’s also counting the new three-player PvE Escape and a map-builder mode that lets users build and share Escape levels using pre-set room tiles and a slew of customization options. He said Gears players typically play the campaign (and most of them play solo, despite the series’ long support of campaign co-op) and then either focus on Horde or PvP. Sometimes those modes even cross over. The Gears of War 4 campaign used Horde systems for several encounters in its campaign, but it doesn’t sound like such a thing will happen in the sequel’s story mode. “I think it was an interesting experiment,” Fergusson said, “But I think the crossing the streams is not as important to me this time around.”
Horde is cool as its own thing, but matches can last hours and involve connecting with four other people. Escape is designed for 20- or 30-minute sessions with just three players as they start deep in an enemy base and low on ammo, set a bomb that emits poison gas and then try to rush out ahead of it, past enemies, to get outside and escape.
Escape uses health bars and shows damage numbers sweating off enemies as players shoot them. This is because Escape involves players leveling up their characters for that mode and equipping numerous collectible card-based modifiers that will, say, increase weapon damage by a certain percent. Fergusson argued that players would want to be sure their upgrades are having their intended impact.
The game’s main Escape levels are being made by The Coalition and will be followed by new ones after the game’s release “at a very frequent interval.” They’re designed to be played at multiple difficulty levels, with special level “mutations” (more enemies, less ammo, etc) turned on as players race for faster times. “We’ll reward players who are in the top X percent,” Fergusson said. “They’ll get cosmetic rewards for doing the fastest run and proving their mastery. So I shorten it down to: get good and then get fast for both bragging rights and cosmetic unlocks.”
The powers that be at Xbox are unveiling all these Gears modes slowly and very close to release. Escape was showcased at E3, as was a video for the Escape map-builder. A multiplayer Versus mode beta test will be made available in mid-July. Horde will be shown at the Gamescom event in August and the campaign seemingly will be held back for the game’s early September launch (the 10th for most people, but the sixth for people who order a special edition or have a top-tier Game Pass Ultimate subscription).
One of the hooks for all players of Gears 5will be its story, which Fergusson takes a special interest in. Despite now overseeing a team of some 300 people and having obligations as a studio director, he still directs the game’s voiceover sessions and edits the game’s scripts.
He acknowledged his team bungled Gears of War 4’s ending, in which Kait holds a medallion passed down to her from her mother that many players didn’t realize was a symbol of the enemy Locust. ”The ending which was supposed to be this sort of a little bit of a cliffhanger, like ‘Where is this going with Kait’s journey?’ and ‘What does it mean with Kait’s relationship with the enemy?’” Fergusson said, though he admitted many players just didn’t know what it was. “That was something we sort of dropped the ball on.” For more clued-in fans, however, it’s been a hell of a tease, suggesting that the seemingly benevolent Kait might be a descendant of the human Locust queen from earlier games.
The game’s 2018 debut trailer showed Kait pondering the medallion, while J.D. and Del say it’s a Locust symbol (that’s the Gears team learning its lesson about being more explicit, Fergusson said). The game’s E3 2019 trailer shows Kait even more tortured, presumably about her place in the world. Her experience is what made her the new game’s main character.
“The story we were writing for Gear 5 was really Kait’s journey of discovery,” Fergusson said. “If you’re going to have a character who’s going to go through something, you want to be that character when you go through it you don’t want to watch it. I don’t sit and watch Kate go through something traumatic. I want to have it happen to the players so they feel it.”
The Gears games have always been designed to hit harder with their story than you might expect from a game full of gunfire and chainsawed enemies, but the intent with Kait’s story feels distinctly ambitious. It’s yet another sign that Gears 5 is a distinctly large leap in a series that hasn’t taken one in some time.