The Gears 5 Tech Test’s first weekend is coming to a close, and with that, let’s take a look at what the demo showed us. We got a glimpse at the full range of multiplayer options for Gears 5. The new, frenetic Arcade mode is front and centre, with classic King of the Hill also an option. To round out the trio, Escalation is here, which has evolved its competitive suite since Gears of War 4. A decent range of character options is also included, with five on offer for each faction. All in all, there’s been a good amount of content available in the Tech Test, but one mode sticks out above all else.
I’m just going to come out and say it. Arcade multiplayer in Gears 5 is the most fun I’ve had on Gears since 2011’s Gears of War 3. The range of viable playstyles and weapons on offer is a real mix-up for the notoriously shotgun-based multiplayer. This variety combines with a unique risk-reward progression system that allows you to make your way towards the big guns. This mode throws out the shoot-and-bounce rules engrained in Gears MP and brings with it a whole new match flow. I also recommend giving this mode a go if you’re new to Gears multiplayer, as it allows you to try out most of the weapons available in Gears 5 online.
King of the Hill is the big returning classic and plays out similarly to previous titles. Each team must win two rounds for victory, by capturing the highest number of ring points. In its current state, the mode is tough to get into, with most players being hardcore Gears fans. That being said, if you get on with close-quarters combat and enjoy fast and frantic online play, KOTH is a good option. It also introduces you to the even playing field of standard Gears multiplayer, with any power weapons being map pick-ups. Bring your Gnasher to this firefight.
The weapons and where to find them
The weaponry is largely carried over from Gears 4, with a few notable new additions. The Talon pistol brings an automatic sidearm option to the table but kicks like a mule. The melee Mace is a new up close and personal option and works like a giant sledgehammer. Finally, the Claw is a swarm-built heavy machine gun that has a slow fire rate but packs a huge punch. Whilst none of these weapons are particularly inventive, all weapons in Gears 5 have a new feel. A new recoil and weapon handling model has been introduced, and the gunplay is somewhat reminiscent of Destiny. Most weapons have a notable amount of visual recoil to contend with, and it makes learning the weapons even more vital. While the system doesn’t completely revolutionise weapon handling, it does a good job of feeling like Gears whilst bringing something new to the table.
The two maps on offer for the first weekend of tech testing are Training Grounds and District. Both arenas have a unique flow, and whilst neither will become classics, it’s a solid start for Gears 5 multiplayer. Training Grounds is the more conventional layout, with most of the action focusing around one raised central platform. District is the more interesting of the two maps, though. While it’s still symmetrical like most Gears maps, it offers a good amount of small rooms, nooks, and crannies to make it feel unique. District also has a certain atmosphere to it, with the visuals giving off a very Bioshock-like aesthetic. Here’s hoping to some new additions to the map roster for weekend two…
A visual showcase
Gears 5 is a technical showpiece, especially running on Xbox One X. The 4k/60fps performance is rock solid, akin to its predecessor, Gears 4. This combines with the new, high-performance 60hz servers to create the smoothest feeling Gears game to date. The new, higher tick-rate servers are in place to create less disconnect between what you see on screen, and what actually happens online, and they do a good job in that regard. The two maps in the current build also offer a nice range in visual style, from the bright lighting of Training grounds to the dark, atmospheric streets of District.
In closing, the Gears 5 tech test is a great showcase for what Gears 5 versus will provide. The returning modes and map styles will please Gears of War veterans. However, it’s the new additions that impressed me the most. Arcade Deathmatch is the most fun I’ve had in Gears for a long time. The mode offers dynamic firefights between typically lesser-used weaponry, and it goes a long way to freshen up the online experience. Arcade and Escape are looking like brilliant additions to the typical Gears suite of game modes. I’m looking forward to digging deeper into Gears 5 when it launches on September 10, or four days early through Ultimate Editions.