E3 2011: Gears of War 3 Horde Mode 2.0 Preview

Horde mode is back but not without changes and new additions to the popular cooperative mode.


Gears of War 3

There's more Gears of War 3 news coming your way, even though we just saw a demo earlier today regarding the single-player campaign. After the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Epic Games and Microsoft held an event in the evening to highlight the new mode, Horde 2.0, but it was also a party where rapper and voice actor Ice-T came onstage to perform with his band, Body Count. GameSpot was there as well, speaking to executive producer Rod Fergusson and creative director Cliff Bleszinski, as well as the voice cast from the game.

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This was our first opportunity to get some hands-on time with the new mode, and after spending a good amount of time in the competitive beta, we found Horde 2.0 quite enjoyable. Competitive Gears of War multiplayer required a lot of teamwork to be successful, and in Horde mode that teamwork is mandatory if you hope to fend off 50 waves of locusts and the glowing lambents. In a team of five, you have to defeat the oncoming rush, and at least one person must survive. However, during some waves, our objective was to keep everyone alive.

One major change that you'll notice right away is that now there is the ability to build fortifications on the map. The map we were playing on was called "Hotel," so the once-ritzy hotel lobby made a great base for us to fortify and defend. Between each wave you'll have 30 seconds to walk around and add barricades, turrets, decoys, and sentry guns to help in the next round. There is a currency system now, so in order to repair, build, revive yourself, or even pick up certain weapons, there's a fee. You'll earn cash by killing enemies and helping your teammates, and the more you play this mode, the more cool items you'll unlock--one of them being the silverback, a mech suit which we saw in the campaign demo. We didn't get to play with the silverback, but a new weapon that we came across was the cleaver, a ridiculously large sword that drags along the ground when you run, leaving sparks. It's not the most efficient weapon, especially when it's a bit slow and you're swinging pretty wildly with it. But it makes short work of locusts when they're right in front of you.

Given that it is a cooperative game, you can always help your teammates out by sharing ammo or swapping weapons. You can even be a mooch and ask for money. This changes up the strategy quite a bit, as each wave gets progressively harder. But your base will slowly expand over the course of 50 waves as well, so you can upgrade and secure a larger perimeter. Every 10 waves you'll face a boss wave, where instead of drones and the not-so-bright Boomers, you're likely going to have to fend off the larger Brumaks or the shrieking Berserkers. It'll be an intense round for sure, but what keeps you on your toes is that in each wave, the enemy types are randomized, so sometimes you'll need to change up your strategy a bit to be more efficient.

The hotel map was a nice change from the maps that we've grown accustomed to in the beta, and the layout was clearly designed for this mode in mind. Even though it's clear the city has seen better days, there was some foliage decorating the streets and hotel interior to give the map some semblance of life. The environment was more colorful and vibrant thanks to the lavish hotel interior and extra palm trees. It was even easier to identify teammates in the distance because the blue in their armor was bright and stood out more.

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Another feature that has been added to Horde 2.0 but that we didn't see is Mutators, where you can adjust the difficulty in private matches and customize the game types. If you've messed around with Big Head mode during the beta, you can do the same here and give the enemies giant heads and squeaky voices. One last thing to point out is that there is host migration, so in the event that the host quits, the match will continue. As always, there will be plenty of ribbons, medals, and weapon skins to unlock, so you can get in on all of this when Gears of War 3 is released on September 20.

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