Shortly after the Xbox briefing at E3 2019, I sat down to play Gears 5’s new “Escape” mode, a three-player co-operative challenge mode. The three playable characters in the mode, who are named Mac, Lahni and Keegan, are Hivebusters. This means they get captured by the enemy Swarm on purpose, then fight their way out once they’re in deep in the middle of a well-populated hive.
You and your two teammates wake up in a hive together and shoot your way out, leaving a trail of poison venom in your wake. You scour the ground for weapons and ammo; supplies occasionally feel scarce, but in a fun way. If one player grabs an ammo box, it’s not available to anybody else, which means you’ll need to figure out if your teammates need those bullets more than you before you rush in and pick them up.
The mode has some role-playing game elements as well. Each of the three characters has different equippable skills that can be unlocked over time, such as increased ammo capacity. In addition, they each start out with a special skill that recharges over time and can be enacted by pressing the Y button. Mac’s special ability is an invulnerable shield that lasts for a few seconds, Lahni gets an electrically charged knife, and Keegan can give his teammates ammo, provided they’re standing close enough to him. It’s a little bit Left 4 Dead, a little bit Overwatch.
The difficulty settings of the mode can be extensively modified. You can change the number of enemies, their variations, and their health. You can change the amount of ammo you receive from the boxes you find scattered around, just to make bullets feel even scarcer. I didn’t get to check out all of the difficulty modifications in action, but in looking at the menus describing them, I can imagine how those settings and the potential for different unlockable skills for each character would make for a highly variable experience.
I played the mode twice, first as Lahni and then as Keegan, and I can already see how much it will rely on tight teamwork with your two pals. That’s especially true with special abilities; no point dropping down an ammo regeneration field if your buddies have run on ahead of you. I’m excited to play the mode again with some good friends once it’s actually out on September 10.