Gears 5 is a science fiction third-person shooter developed by The Coalition and published by Xbox Game Studios, a continuation of one Xbox’s flagship franchises. While the campaign deserves its own review, so does the expansive multiplayer mode. Gears 5 offers up to three multiplayer options: Versus, Horde, and Escape. This review focuses on those.
But, before I jump into my thoughts on Gears 5 multiplayer I wanted to give a brief clarification. I’m not good at these sorts of modes. My survival rate in Escape mode, on a beginner, was about 50%. So, if you are looking for an in-depth analysis from a competitive standpoint, this isn’t the review you’re looking for. But, if you’re looking for a review about the fun level and how accessible to less competitive audiences? Keep reading.
Gears 5 Multiplayer: Versus Mode
Gears 5 multiplayer’s classic Versus Mode is everything players expect from PvP. With gametypes like guardian, escalation, and the classic king of the hill and team deathmatch, Gears 5 Versus mode offers plenty of options in the PvP sphere. While I found the controls being just as precise as I did in the campaign, the map design was often frustrating.
The infamous shooter learning curve of map memorizing is definitely in full effect. With lots of open areas, death seemed to always be coming from a place I wasn’t ready for. It might be that I just needed more time with the maps to get used to the many fields of fire, but for the time I did play kills came fast, and I was often frustrated.
Another issue I have with Gears 5 Versus Mode is the baffling lack of a means to select what type of PvP match you want. Quick play is described as “rolling matches across a variety of modes and maps”. However, there is no way to just say put me in an escalation match. There is a custom match option. But there are alterations to gameplay that can be made in those matches, and as I barely know what I’m doing in the stock matches going in there feels fairly intimidating.
Horde mode has been the Gears franchise gift to multiplayer shooters. After it was first introduced every shooter seemed to copy it. My time with Gears 5’s iteration on the iconic mode was very enjoyable. As with any co-op mode, it is better when played with friends you can coordinate with, but just going off mic with some randoms is perfectly fun.
My biggest gripe with Horde mode is its complete lack of any sort of tutorial on how you do the modes signature actions like build defenses. Important information like that fact that only Del can repair defenses at the start, or that energy picked up from fallen foes is spent at the fabricator to acquire things really needs to be clearer. Or like how I spent my first game storing all my energy in the fabricator. Even just the rules around where one can or can’t place defenses would be nice.
While it isn’t too complicated, just dropping into a match and figuring it out as you go is not kind to new players. Especially as you only get a very brief time period between waves to try to piece things together. And the excuse of “well you can just google it” doesn’t cut it. Game designers shouldn’t expect players to use external sources to figure their games out.
Also, for those who haven’t played before, horde mode can take quite a while. With 50 waves of enemies to survive be ready to commit some real time to getting through a match. I myself find horde mode starts to get stale after the first dozen waves or so.
Gears 5 Multiplayer: Escape Mode
Escape mode got its big reveal at E3 this past summer. Tasking a group of cogs with escaping from a Swarm Hive. It promised a very different experience for Gears 5 multiplayer suite of modes, and it certainly is different. The tension in these matches is much higher than during the horde mode. Where horde is constantly giving you breaks to catch your breath, Escape is one obstacle after another. It was some of the most exciting moment-to-moment gameplay I’ve had in quite some time.
I particularly liked the resource management element, specifically the feeling of constantly being low on ammo and having to conserve it. Being forced to make every shot count and frequently going into melee to get that kill that would net me more ammo added a layer of tension to the matches. The only time this feature was difficult was with certain enemies like a warden. The fact that wardens can only be wounded with headshots means that you need to have good aim to not only kill them but also to conserve ammo. This was a struggle for me and my two random teammates to accomplish – and I was playing on the lowest difficulty. That being said, the enemies in Escape mode are procedurally generated meaning that while I encountered a warden every time, you might not.
The only drawback to escape mode in Gears 5 multiplayer is the need to be in communication with your team. While you can get through it without comms it definitely feels like it is the mode most intended for communication. Discovering that one of the team has run off to a far corner of the map doing who knows what when you are low on ammo and the Swarm is closing in is just downright frustrating.
Overall, the Gears 5 multiplayer suite has a lot to offer for people looking to drop into matches and rack up some kills. The various modes allow for lots of variety, even if coming into it as a new player can be a struggle. I just wish there was a little more to help new players get their feet under them. As it is, the place Gears 5 truly shines is in its solo-played campaign.
Gears 5 is available on Xbox and PC.
Gears 5 Multiplayer
Overall, the Gears 5 multiplayer suite has a lot to offer for people looking to drop into matches and rack up some kills.