The Gears 5 Arcade Mode breaks up the shotgun monotony

I didn’t spend as much time with Gears of War 4 as I would have liked to especially after I blasted through the campaign and left the multiplayer untouched. So, when I loaded up Gears 5 (R.I.P. “of War“) Tech Test, I expected a similar reaction. Who would have thought that I’d glue myself to the TV for hours rolling through fools just like the good old days? That’s what Gears 5 Arcade mode brings to the table.

When I initially loaded into the regular modes, I found that same sense of malaise. It’s good that Gears isn’t changing for no reason because there are people out there who still dig it. But I just don’t have the same kind of time to dedicate to something based so much on twitch reactions and map memorization. I have room in my brain now for exactly one set of twitch commands, and Gears of War doesn’t have the Needler. After a few rounds of standard play, I switched over to Arcade mode. I did what I’m sure many have done before me and reacted with cynicism as I thought it was a little late for a game to be aping Overwatch. It only took me two or three rounds to put that all aside and start enjoying Gears again.

Gears 5 Arcade Mode | Revving up

Gears 5 Tech Test

Arcade mode is basically a Gears of War hero shooter, although it doesn’t lean all the way into that subgenre. You pick a character to start, each one sporting unique starting weapons and a pair of perks that don’t affect things all that much. New series protagonist Kait has a Hammerburst to match her assumed Locust origins. JD keeps it classic with a Lancer and a flashbang grenade. Marcus himself is the only character on the COG side to have direct access to the Gnasher shotgun. He doesn’t start with it though and has to earn it with kills.

ALSO: Will Doom Eternal’s multiplayer solve Doom 2016’s issues?

That leads to the best part of this new setup. Arcade mode has an improved implementation of Halo 4‘s ordinance drops. For most of the match, you use your starting arsenal to earn points. Once you reach a certain number, you can choose from one of three power weapons, with the selection determined by your chosen character. For example, Kait can trade in the Hammerburst for a Torque Bow after earning six points. Each character gets bonus points for specific actions like headshots or executions, further defining their style of play. The weapons come with limited ammo, but you can salvage them from opponents if you manage to take them out quickly.

Gears 5 Arcade Mode | Grinding out the kinks

Gears 5 Arcade Roster

This does pose some challenges to the way that Gears multiplayer balances out usually. For one, better players are generally going to have better weapons, especially in the case of the sniper class. Since there aren’t weapons on the map (a choice that might be worth rethinking), you have no option but to try to flank out a good sniper. This can be difficult to organize, especially in a mode designed to attract casual play and random online opponents. There’s also some concern about spawn points on the two maps included in the Tech Test but hopefully the data from this beta smooth will encourage The Coalition to some of that out.

Despite the growing pains that come with introducing a new way to play, Arcade mode has benefits that far outweigh the negatives. A lot of the basic modes of Gears can drag on for a long while due to back and forth rounds. If you’re squashed by the opposing team once, it’s quite disheartening to try and fail to climb the same mountain over and over. Arcade modes games are one long session of deathmatch that’s truly gripping with the right group of players. The mode already provides a lot more close games than seemingly all the other Gears games and that’s probably partly because of its one-round setup.

Gears 5 Arcade Mode | Excellence of execution

Gears 5 Arcade Mode

Weapon loadouts in Arcade mode also force players to rethink their common strategies. It’s fun to run around with the shotgun on full tilt, but Gears is full of amazing weapons beyond just that one death machine. In Arcade mode, you see everything from the underpowered robotic SMG to the new freezethrower and the classic Boomshot. The Gnasher sits as a power weapon and used sparingly, as it probably should be. Players can’t just sit in cover and wait, they have to keep moving as a unit to get things done.

It will be interesting to see how Arcade mode looks in the full Gears 5 later this year. One imagines that there will be more than five characters to use and that additions will come over time. Will those new characters have all-new weapons and abilities à la more traditional hero games? Probably not, but it might be a possibility if enough players latch onto the mode. If nothing else, it’s a great way to experience Gears 5 PvP for players who don’t have hundreds of hours to train with a shotgun.