Gears 5 arcade mode impressions – Brutal, bloody and polished multiplayer mayhem

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It has been too damn long. Too long since I took cover from a barrage of bullets and began crapping my pants the second I heard a chainsaw rev and idle as it got closer to my safe zone. While the video game scene may be crowded with live service shooters and plenty of first-person action games that are all vying for the top spot on the charts, it’s safe to say that there’s no other game that comes close to Gears of War when you decide to sit down for a few hours of online competition.

For anyone who did a tour of duty all the way back in 2006 and through several sequels, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That hunkering down behind barriers, coordinating with teammates to flank the opposition and those mishaps where you discovered that a pink shotgun could easily beat your face in a gruesome game of rock-paper-chainsaw.

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Oh man, the memories. And blood, so much blood. The last time I properly engaged in Gears of War’s delightful multiplayer mayhem, was way back in the Xbox 360 era for Gears of War 3. Those were the nights when the only way I could even hop online, was to MacGuyver my laptop and 3G dongle through my Xbox 360 and pray that the connection didn’t trip just as I was about to get a gruesome finisher in on a downed opponent.

Many years later, and what has changed in Gears 5? Not much, but just enough.

If you’re stepping back into the comically-oversized muscles of the COG forces or the new Swarm threat that has popped up in the years since the Locust were routed, Gears 5 plays exactly as you remember it. You can still roadie run into cover like a Naruto fan on September 20 when they try and raid Area 51, the weapons are chunky with deliciously violent options and maps feature chokepoints that will force your squad into meat grinders.

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Within that familiar system of duck and cover gun violence, Gears 5 is aiming to create its own take on the hero shooter format with its arcade mode, which creates an intriguing bridge between proper competition and having some actual fun. The core idea lies not only within the character you select, but the progress you make with them. While everyone starts with a loadout of Lancers, Hammerbursts and shotguns, making some headway in Gears 5 means that you’ll earn Skulls.

A currency that allows you to grab better weapons at the mere drop of a hat instead of risking your wellbeing to get your hands on instakill options by wading deep into a map where the contest is amplified by everyone else with the same idea. Struggling to get some decent kills with a Lancer? Swap that blue-collar weapon for a hard-hitting Marksman rifle or a Longshot sniper rifle and start dialling in the headshots.

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Prefer something bigger? Save your skulls, get a Boomshot grenade launcher and go wild. The point is, is that when this system is combined with character perks and a bit of teamwork, it levels the playing field immensely. Sure, some scrubs will still blindly lone wolf their way into the revvy bit of your Lancer, but they only need a few lucky kills to get a few Skulls and the chance to unleash some chaos of their own in the process.

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It all creates not only a tense environment but a fun one as well that boils the sheer lunacy and essence of Gears of War into a complete package of carnage and mayhem. There’s still that layer of sadism present, as you can knock enemy head’s clean off their bloody torsos, bury explosives in their chest cavities and help them lose weight by sawing them in half, gory gameplay that I can never get too much of. It also helps that the entire product runs like a dream, with nary a drop so far in online connectivity.

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There are still a few edges to sand down, such as the cover system being a little too loose for my liking and nowhere near as sticky as a cinema floor as I’m used to, but tastes may differ. Come September 10, I think I know where I’m going to be spending the majority of my time as this mode is simply too much fun.

Last Updated: July 22, 2019

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