BARCELONA, Spain--At last night's X06 postconference "party," we had an opportunity to spend some quality time with Gears of War's warzone (team deathmatch meets last man standing) multiplayer mode. We've since learned--following a meeting with Epic Games' lead designer, Cliff Bleszinski--that the game will ship with a total of three different multiplayer modes, although the specifics of execution mode and resurrection mode aren't being discussed at this time. We can also report that Gears of War will ship with eight multiplayer maps and that (surprise!) postrelease downloadable content is already planned. The aforementioned "Cliffy B" certainly does a good job when it comes to talking about his latest game, but Gears of War is a game that's more than capable of speaking for itself, which is why, as soon as our meeting was over, we headed down to the main floor of the X06 event to get our hands on its campaign mode for the first time.
Both solo and cooperative play was available for Gears of War, and--partly because the lines were shorter and the TVs were bigger--we opted for the latter. On this occasion, we started playing through the demo at the same time as our partner, but in the finished game, you'll be able to jump in (via spectator mode) and out of co-operative games at any point, replacing or being replaced by a CPU-controlled character accordingly. You'll even be able to earn cheap achievement points in this way if you really want to, though in doing so you'll miss out not only on what promises to be a great gameplay experience, but also on other achievements that are only possible to unlock through your continued presence--collecting "COG tags" from fallen soldiers, for example. Co-operative play will be available on a single system using a horizontal split-screen, online via Xbox Live, or using two linked systems, as we were playing on this occasion.
The sequence that we played through was taken from the start of the game, when Dom Santiago rescues main character Marcus Fenix from a prison. We fought our way out of there without too much trouble (we later learned that we were on the easiest difficulty setting) and, just a few minutes later, we were boarding a helicopter at the start of the same sequence that we were shown at the Tokyo Game Show just last week. We were at the controls this time, though, so when the action got underway again, we were able try our hand at tossing frag grenades into Locust emergence holes, moving between areas of cover, and, of course, putting the chainsaw bayonet to good use. We didn't talk to the guy we were playing alongside at any time, but between us we instinctively did a good job of having one guy provide cover fire while the other flanked the enemies. At one point, we heard one of our CPU squadmates order us to "flank left" (you won't get to give orders until later in the game), and when we followed that order, we were pleased to find that it was most definitely the right course of action.
Other memorable moments during our time with Gears of War's campaign mode include reviving our colleague when he got killed, making an awful mess of an enemy by scoring a direct hit with a grenade (if you melee attack with a grenade equipped you can actually shove it up inside the enemy's body), and unlocking one of the game's many achievements--we think this was rewarded for getting a number of "perfect reloads" of our gun consecutively. The finished campaign mode, which it's estimated will take around 10 hours to play through, will tell a story that lasts for approximately 36 in-game hours. Although everything that we've seen of Gears of War in recent months has taken place in the daytime, it seems reasonable to assume that the first footage we ever saw (of the squad desperately trying to stay in lit areas at the dead of night) was taken from somewhere in the middle of the game in between the two days over which the story takes place.
That about wraps up our coverage of Gears of War from X06, save for us letting you know that even grenades that miss their targets will often make your enemies wince for a second, and although the chainsaw bayonet seems overpowered at times, getting hit by a single bullet when wielding it will make you stumble and lower your weapon briefly. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute that we spent with Gears of War in Barcelona this week, and we hope to bring you more coverage of the game in the not-too-distant future.