It's a safe assumption that Gears 5 will continue the ongoing narrative of the continuing Gears series. While there are still plenty of story points to pick up on from Gears 4, there's also room for some new ideas. Microsoft and The Coalition debuted one of those at E3 2019, unveiling the series' newest co-op experience called Escape.
Escape is just what it sounds like. There are three different characters stuck in a Hive chamber. The object is to get away before the hostile Swarm creatures within the Hive manage to kill everyone. It's a simple task, one that Shacknews was happy to attempt at this year's show.
There are three different characters to choose from in Escape mode, each with their own distinct abilities.
- Lahni: She's the aggressive character, meant to take the lead and fire off the first shots. As the Scout, she has a better base speed and is more adept at melee battles. Her active is Electroblade, a charged knife that stuns enemies when struck. Her passive ability will offer additional drops for every five executions.
- Keegan: He is the Support class and his active Ultimate ability is essential. Resupply deploys a small barrier where players can replenish their ammo. Different guns have different recharge rates, so if you're looking to recharge something like your EMBAR sniper rifle, that might take a little longer. His passive recharges his Ultimate ability faster whenever a marked target dies. Because Resupply is so critical, Keegan's passive should be put to frequent use.
- Mac: Lastly, there's the Tank. Mac isn't quite a bullet sponge himself, but his Ultimate ability can be. Barrier deploys a shield with the ability to absorb enemy fire. When Barrier is ready, it's best for him to take the lead and set up shots from his teammates. Even if Barrier wears off, any hits he takes afterwards will recharge his Ultimate faster, thanks to his passive.
One of the major elements of Escape is that the stage itself is a maze. While the idea is to move forward and wipe out anything that moves, it's entirely possible to go through corridors and take a wrong turn. My team hit dead ends more than once, forcing us to backtrack. While time isn't entirely of the essence, there is a leaderboard element to Escape, so score chasers are encouraged to stay on track.
Enemies are often patrolling certain corridor areas, many of which will take cover and fire at you, in the typical Gears manner. Some enemies will try and get the drop on you with sniper rifles, just as they would in a standard campaign or Horde mode. Things can get a little tougher because ammo pickups are scarce. Teamwork is key, with Keegan's Ultimate ability in particular proving to be a critical ingredient for success.
Where the difficulty starts to ramp up is after the halfway point. The halfway point is noticeably marked by a safe room. Here's where players can stock up on ammo, different weapons, or grenades. Once everyone exits the safe room, more dangerous enemy types start to come out. An army of Juvies will quickly greet teams, overwhelming everyone with great numbers. To top things off, one last straggler strolls by at the end, strapped with explosives capable of taking out team members in a single blast.
Players will also be confronted by various boss characters. A hulking Scion will prove to be nearly impossible to kill, with only shots to the face affecting his health. He can knock players down and kill them in seconds. While teamwork is useful here, there's also another helpful strategy that can be employed: RUN! Yes, it's entirely possible to simply run away, since the object isn't to kill everything inside the Hive, it's to escape with your life. Of course, more enemies were waiting ahead, putting further pressure on the team to dispatch them before the Scion could catch up.
With the pressure to get to the end mounting, I made the mistake of running ahead a few corridors down, in an effort to find the exit. I quickly turned around and yelled into my headset, "Run! Run! RUN!" My partners quickly found out why, as a Swarm Flock came flying in. For the uninitiated, a Swarm Flock is a gang of flying Swarm Leeches. If their numbers overwhelm you, they will dig into you and kill you.
After running from the Flock, the exit was in sight. This is where things get interesting. There are blast doors that can keep the Swarm at bay and triggering them will send the cue for extraction. However, if there are any stragglers on the team, it's possible to close the doors on them and abandon them entirely. While we all escaped, we can only assume there's a penalty for leaving players behind.
Escape is certainly not easy, even on the easiest difficulty. I made the rounds a second time later in the day and attempted to try Escape on Intermediate, at which point we were all defeated by the Scion. Of course, that's mainly because one guy decided to hang out a few rooms away, which makes this a good time to note that teamwork and staying together is a major component to Escape.
Those ready to plan their daring Escape won't have to wait much longer. Gears 5 now has an official release date and is set to hit Xbox One on September 10.