I haven't played a Gears of War game since the original came out in 2006. It's no surprise, then, that I would be hesitant to grab an Xbox One controller and play the latest instalment of Microsoft's legendary franchise, Gears 5. But I did it, particularly because I wanted to check out Escape, a new co-op mode that you can play with three friends online or locally. Look, I'm a simple man: You tell me I can kill some aliens and I'm in.
Microsoft says that Escape is designed to be "aggressive and high stakes," and that's exactly what you'll experience when you become part of a suicide squad working together to take out enemy hives. The first thing I noticed when I started playing Gears 5 is how gorgeous the game looks, thanks of course to its 4K HDR graphics running at a smooth 60 frames per second. Again, since I hadn't played Gears in years, I opted to play Escape on the beginner's level. The good thing is that if you have a friend who's more experienced than you, they can choose their own setting.
Once I actually got going in Escape, it was time to start smashing aliens, which you can shoot or slash with different guns and knives -- some of which you'll collect as you go through your mission. You'll come across humanoid creatures as well as flying ones, and your job is to take down as many of them as possible until you get to a boss fight and, if that goes well, escape in an army helicopter. I, for one, only faced real troubles when I was running low on ammo, so you'll want to be mindful of wasting any bullets. That's where communicating and strategizing with your teammates will come in handy.
All in all, my Escape mission lasted about 12 minutes, and I can see why people will enjoy playing this new mode -- even if they're not hardcore Gears fans. For me, the closest comparison is Call of Duty: Zombies, because who doesn't love a good survival shooter that you can play with friends?! Gears 5 will, of course, also ship with a campaign mode, which Microsoft says will take players "back to where it all began" and reveal the origins of the Locust Army. And there's a new female character, to boot.
While Gears 5 doesn't officially launch until September 10th, you'll have a chance to get it a few days before the masses if you pre-order the game's Ultimate Edition, or have an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. Your choice, depending on how badly you want to play it.