I’ve always been a fan of the Gears of War series. So when I had the chance to try out Gears 5‘s new mode, Escape, I was naturally quite curious. Announced during the Xbox E3 2019 conference, Escape is a new mode that has three players try to race out of a Swarm Hive. Interestingly enough, Gears 5 is the first game in the series to support three-player split-screen co-op, in both the campaign and Escape mode.

Gears 5 – Escape Mode Preview

The mode opens with your different characters awakening in a Swarm Hive, using respirators to survive being abducted. After coming to their senses, they plant venom bombs in the ground, set to go off and release a deadly toxin that will obliterate the Swarm from within.

Movement and shooting feel very similar to Gears of War 4, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. Straight off the bat however, there are some notable changes. ¬†As me and my two squadmates moved through the level, there appeared to be some limited stealth mechanics. Infected DeeBees (robotic soldiers) lay dormant until we got close, changing their eye colors and letting out an alert. If this is an indication that the campaign will be incorporating stealth, I’m curious to see exactly how it’ll be done.

The combat as a whole seems more melee focused, as you can use a knife or melee attacks to cut foes down far more easily than in past games. You can also pick up heavy maces that can be swung with wild abandon and glee, smashing enemies to pieces with every swing, which feels absolutely fantastic. One particular enemy even seemed almost immune to ranged weapons, needing multiple melee attacks to bring him down.

A major new weapon that I instantly took a liking to was the Cryo Cannon. This heavy weapon that sprays a chilling frost which can slow enemies down and even freeze them solid, making them shatter at the slightest impact. Beware, as it’s just as effective against you as it is against the Swarm. Again, this plays into the close range/melee combat loop that seems more emphasized with this new entry.

Interestingly enough, ammo seems to be more limited, though that could be just for this mode. There’s also character abilities that slowly charge up. One character has the ability to put down ammo crates that slowly refill everyone’s reserves, while another can charge her knife with electricity and carve through the Swarm with ease. These don’t seem to be “class-based” so much as simply having a unique ability per character but I’d like to see more details.

Despite our best efforts, we died and failed to escape the hive in our demo, though we nearly made it to the evacuation zone. The main cause of our failure was a new Swarm enemy that took me by surprise – a giant flying horde of worm-like creatures that rip through anything in their path. Overall, it was a great first experience with the new mode and I have to applaud how well the three-player split-screen held up, despite all the action on each separate screen.

Gears 5 will support 4K visuals at 60 frames-per-second with HDR in every mode. There are five modes in the game: Campaign, Horde, Escape, Versus and Map Builder, the latter of which allows players to build custom Escape hives that can be shared with friends.

There’s a lot of questions I have that still need answering: what’s new with customization this time around? How much does customization carry over between modes? How many different Escape maps are there? What’s the extent of the Map Builder mode, will there be any select player-built maps rotated into matchmaking? There’s no season pass listed in any of the game additions, so how much post-launch content will be released for the different modes and will it be free or paid?

Still, I had a lot of fun playing and I can easily see myself putting Escape matches into my rotation of Gears in addition to Versus and Horde. Hopefully there’s more than just these three characters.

Gears 5 releases on September 10th, 2019 for Xbox One and PC (through Windows 10 and Steam). The Ultimate Edition releases four days early, on September 6th, 2019.