How Gears 5’s Arcade mode works, and why it’s important

The technical test for Gears 5 starts Friday for those who pre-ordered the game and for subscribers to the Xbox Game Pass. With it comes an all-new game mode called Arcade. Polygon sat down with Ryan Cleven, The Coalition’s multiplayer design director, to chat about the design goals and what fans of the franchise should expect when they boot the game up for the first time on Xbox One.

Traditionally, the Gears of War franchise has had a very different style of gameplay from other multiplayer shooters. There’s the cover elements, of course, but stylistically the game relies on close-quarters engagements more than some others. Arcade is intended to ease in fans of multiplayer shooters who just might not otherwise be ready for that.

“‘Gears is that kind of game that, whenever I go into it, I get shotgunned in the face and I don’t know why,’” Cleven said, mimicking the complaints of a traditional FPS player. “Arcade is an experience that might be more familiar to you, as well as being something that players who have played the series their whole life will also enjoy.”

Cleven describes Arcade mode as a combination between a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive-style weapon buying system and a more traditional hero shooter like Overwatch. Before a match, players will be able to take on the role of one of several iconic characters, including Marcus Fenix, and an assortment of comparable locust enemies. Each one will have their own different loadout, their own passive ability, and a weapon tree.

The Coalition/Microsoft

Each one will also have an associated bounty, which provides a bonus for playing to type. Kills and bounties will earn skulls, which can be cashed in to advance up a given character’s weapon tree. Skulls carry over after death, and upgrades can be purchased at any time. Videos show players leaving cover with one weapon and arriving in front of the enemy with a completely different weapon, so expect bluffing to play a key role in the evolution of each match as players feel each other out.

“With Gears 5 we feel comfortable that we’ve proven ourselves,” The Coalition’s Cleven said, “and we want to make our own mark on [multiplayer] and do a bit of a departure from what Gears has traditionally done, and this really manifests inside Arcade, which is to try to de-emphasize just the singularly shotgun play to bring about a much more diverse combat experience.”

In the end, this is a test after all. Arcade mode might not be for everyone, especially fans of the traditional double-tap style of shotgun play or the new Escalation game type that is the hallmark of high-level play. But Cleven and his team are hoping fans give it a try regardless.

“If you’re a campaign player and you hate PvP, this mode isn’t going to convince you to love PvP,” he said. “It’s our take on a hero shooter [that still relies on Gears’] core of intimate violence.”

The Gears 5 tech test starts July 19 at 10 a.m. PDT and goes until July 22 at 10 a.m. PDT. A second technical test begins on July 26 at 10 a.m. PDT and runs through July 29 at 10 a.m. PDT. Expect status updates throughout the test on social media, and on the official website. Gears 5 arrives for Xbox One and Windows PC on Sept. 10.

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