Whatever you do, don't look down/up. (Why 2D design?)

No better opener than “what’s the deal with…”, but I’m asking about the (lack of) vertical gameplay in Gears multiplayer. In my perception, there are very few maps where there’s even potential of an exploitable height advantage.

It’s gnawed at me to the point that it almost feels like there must be engine limitations-- like we’re back in Wolfenstein/Doom 2.5D engines where you can’t have parts of the world on top of others. And I don’t just mean in the Escape tile map editor, where it’s somewhat understandable.

Clearly there are some exceptions, like River’s bridge, or how Forge’s control panel is above a nook. But ‘overlaps’-- or really any kind of serious height differentials, even if not overlapping-- don’t seem common. Or tested well… in Horde I’ve been inside Dawn’s center tower and a Matriarch outside in front B.S. grabbed me through the walls/floor, and of course there’s the omnipresent melee/chainsaw bugs on stairs.

I’m not suggesting Gears should get a jump button (let alone rocket jumping, grappling hooks, wing suits, etc.) or change its style/design choices to be other franchises, I’m just wondering aloud why everything seemingly ended up being fairly flat? A half-flight of stairs up here, a few steps down there. (Not counting the GoW 1/3 map made almost entirely of stairs, ‘Escalation’.)

Yes, care has to be taken by map creators regarding architecture/flow such that high/low locations with a tactical advantage are balanced for gravity-impacted and/or “vertical” weapons like the Digger & Dropshot, for sniper sightlines, etc., but balancing isn’t unique to verticality. It just seemed like “3D” is a missed opportunity for additional gameplay depth (pun intended) as I’ve debated Nomad’s “Rain Down” card & Tactician’s Resupply dome’s height, gotten annoyed when I’m prevented from looking up vertically enough to get a shot at an overhead Kestrel or Wakaatu (are my Gear’s neck muscles that 'roided out?), and cursed having only like 5 double-height Escape tiles in the editor (solution? delete ALL your tiles without warning, of course!).

Do Versus people routinely do anything tactically clever with, say, the various stairs in Regency? Or Nexus? Non-novelty plays with the Clocktower “grenade hole”?

Any Horde map strats that aren’t just a function of “height” usually being synonymous with “arbitrary impassable wall/chokepoint”?

My questions here kind of grew out of a different “missed MP map opportunities” thread, where one example I’d have loved to have seen was a map involving the UIR rocket hanger. During the campaign flow, I liked its change of style to the interior, but still massive, environment with long, vertical sightlines and the UIR Soviet-esque “boring” yet distinct aesthetic. I think it potentially could have been fun to fight in & over the covered “bunkers”, corner lift/elevator towers, high crossing catwalks, etc. here:

Or other examples I had of symmetric “bases”, if there were additional multi-level bridge lanes and sightline blockers (must preserve the sacrosanct gnasher play for Versus folks!). But I’ve seen posts on leveraging campaign locations in old threads (e.g., here and here) so it didn’t make sense to rehash that overall aspect much.

Instead I’m focusing on trying to uncover what’s behind the Flat Sera conspiracy. Is it just because verticality isn’t immediately conducive to PvP gnashers and wallbouncing?


Asylum - Over/under bridge at the North of the map.
Bunker - The whole center and towers are on two levels, going from grenades up the hill… is a hill.
Exhibit - Almost has two maps on top of each other with the second level.
Forge - Whole overlook.
Foundation - Torque side is made of ramps with the wall that overlooks mid, Boom spawn is down from grenades.
Icebound - has the bridge across the map, raised cover watching Torque.
Vasgar - Each sniper has a raised element allowing them to see the whole map minus a few broken sight lines.
Reactor - The whole center ring that’s a step down from the rest of the map.
Nexus - It kinda narrows in the center, like a big canyon with spawns up higher than the middle.
Regency - The pit in the middle flanked by Sniper/Pistols.

Other maps might not have a lot but there’s some verticality. I can definitely see a lack compared to maps like Drydock, Gold Rush or Overpass but honestly I don’t think height plays as big a role in Gears. Unless you have a team fortified with Lancers or snipers I don’t see a reason you’d need the height advantage when Gnasher is the meta.


I’m not sure how much influence it may have had on Gears 5, but Gears has experimented with verticality before. Judgment had lots of vertical maps, and while sometimes fun it was a definite departure for the series and had a mixed reception. I’m not saying that directly influenced TC, but it likely influenced the fan base (either for or against). The push to make Gears 4 and 5 eSports heavy probably also sought to maximize gnasher battles while keeping the power weapons as supporting, which would then naturally limit verticality.

Those are just my observations tho, not sure if they hold up. Interesting thread tho.


I thought of this too. Judgement’s free-fall mechanic definitely made it feel less like Gears and more like other Arcade shooters.

It was a departure from the “grounded,” cover system and I think it’d be hard to implement vertical maps that didn’t obstruct the flow of the standard movement, considering the only ways of traversing vertically is to hop-up in cover, stairs, a ladder or maybe an elevator. Would be interesting for Horde/domination modes but often I feel like it’d get cluttered/halt the flow of gameplay.

This ultimately is what it comes down to. Gears verticality just would serve as a function the same a choke point or wall, making it harder for enemies to get to you while you shoot freely. In MP, that works not nearly as well as in PvE. Say like Overpass in Gears 3. If there’s an objective at the top, you’re not getting it when the commanding team has full Lancer/Retro coverage over most of the map from the high ground, plus an impassable choke point. One could get past this by adding two/three ways to the top, but either way you’re taking a lot of steps just to further complicate the development process for a matter of “style,” or design. Not inherently a bad thing but serves no justifiable positive either, in my opinion.

Thanks for the observations. Lots of truth in “it’d just be for decoration”… after all, this started from me finding the rocket hanger interesting visually. But I bet a lot of what goes into maps is a dance between form and function.

Take Ritual, for example. It’s flatter than a month-old open can of Hammer Thirst, and the handful of stairs it has are purely artistic… less meaningful than choices of cover walls. (Oscar voice: “Boooring!”) FWIW, I bet Village is probably more level if actually measured, but it feels slightly less so to me personally… probably because the outside lanes are more visually separated and have certain style choices (they could’ve chosen any kind of barriers/confined path but chose the hanging bridge look on that side).

Part of what I think I’m still trying to discover is how much farther beyond art it goes for any maps? What if you squashed Blood Drive’s sides down completely? Obviously it wouldn’t be the same iconic map, but beyond that, what would it do to gameplay?

You’d likely lose the one-way spawn windows (are those regularly used?) and might have to get clever with new walls/windows/peek-a-boos in your design to preserve the same cross-map lines, but was the height itself something? I think the grenade room windows were meant to encourage throwing grenades down, but I almost feel like people actually throw grenades in more commonly. And if that window were still unmantleable but now level with the outside, would that be any different?

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Mostly in elimination modes. See it a lot if a team is struggling in TDM/Execution or Guardian.

I think this depends there’s a lot of variables to consider. If the enemy team is pushing with Gnashers, having the height could allow you to see and distinguish them easier, or pick targets further in the back. But otherwise I don’t think it’d be too different.

Like imagine if instead of the staircase, it was just a long walkway. In close battles it’d serve just about the same. The main difference is pushing up or down with the heighted team getting advantage if they’re using range, but normally Lancers or even a Longshot/Embar does little to neglect a Gnasher push with Smoke/Flashes and other grenades, most teams end up folding or just switching to Gnasher v Gnasher which again sorta just takes you back to square one.

I think vertical sight lines would be great and could continue to be some of the greatest maps Gears has, but I feel like the inclusion of it is more for diversity sake (visual diversity) than true gameplay. Like you mentioned the bridge on Village. It offers a sight line with no cover but could be done in a multitude of ways.

My favorite Gears map was always Drydock, I did enjoy the play of the center lane with the two exposed lanes on either side of the bridge, just the stairs up and slope down into grenades is so easy to contest that it makes KOTH games a slog trying to get domination when 5 Lancers are in play. I guess I’m arguing that verticality does have an affect in Gears, but i’d say only when you’re firing from 10 feet away or more. Look at Old Town, is basically one big staircase but I’d argue not nearly as oppressive as Blood Drive/Drydock can be.

Cover was already essentially useless in Gears5 with shots from even a standing height being able to hit a hiding target. With the added wrap-shot exploit cover was fully negated.

If this game had the added danger of opponents jumping down and attacking from a second or third story the player population would have died off even faster than it did with Judgment so I’m glad they avoided going that route again.

I hadn’t thought much about that but that’s true. I guess I didn’t see it making a tactical difference which side you were on. That could be just my lack of PvP experience, though. But certainly I don’t recall hearing the Old Town slope being as polarizing to others’ opinions to something else asymmetric like Escalation. I initially assumed comparisons to symmetric heights like Blood Drive were harder, but thinking more carefully I guess that depends on the game mode/current ring location.

I liked Drydock as well. I thought it was because of the variety of location types, but maybe it was subconsciously about the bridge verticality. :slight_smile: I can see what you mean about contesting those areas. Under my thought experiment, the ramps could’ve been flattened, but there’s no other way to have the same center section lanes other than two heights.

All those changes also negated my interest in Versus. :slight_smile: I like that you call it an “exploit”… as someone who’s terrible at PvP, that’s certainly how I feel.

Yeah, vertical movement like that seems controversial. I was imagining something slightly less drastic, where you could just be at different heights, not necessarily move among them directly. But given it would inherently have to increase the importance ranged combat, even that likely would lose many PvP mains.

I guess to go back to my rocket hanger examples, people would flip their lids at layouts like the below without a bunch more semi-protected bridges/crossing options like I mentioned or a big blocking rocket.

Anything even remotely like that is the kind of map that would only be tolerated in PvP in extremely limited form like for events such as OSOK that already break the gnasher meta. It’s basically guaranteed to be too heavy on the “at least 10 feet” crossing play Buster mentioned.

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Unfortunately it’s an oppressive force that controls Gears. Arcade isn’t bad— just that it isn’t Gears. Or at least what people expect Gears to be.

I have the same issue with COD, in Modern Warfare (2019) i preferred the shotguns or the Kar98… single-fire or slow DPS weapons that required movement, aim or area awareness that just stood no chance against someone with a 1000 round/second SMG from across the map. The meta exists and it’s hard to break from them. Gears 4 felt more balanced between the oppressive Gnasher but I think Gears 5 ironically let it back in after failing to shut it out on launch.