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E3 2011: Towers vs the Horde in Gears of War 3

Epic has thrown in the kitchen sink and more in their awesome upgrade to Horde.

From IGN:

How do you fix something no one thought was broken? Gears of War 2’s Horde mode was such a success that it propped up the game while its competitive multiplayer floundered under online matchmaking issues. It’s also one of the most imitated game elements since third-person, cover-based shooting became the standard for shooters, starting with the original Gears of War.

While the general cleanup and improvements Epic has made to Gears of War 3–in the form of more responsive controls, retweaked weapon balance, and newly-colorful visuals–go a long way to making “Horde 2.0” (as Epic is calling it) a more enjoyable experience, there’s more to it. It’s said that life needs more to it than survival, and Epic is taking that to heart, injecting Horde 2.0 with objectives, goals, and benchmarks. They’re adding a point beyond “struggle to survive.”

They’re also adding tower defense. And Brumaks.

You’re reading that right. Gears of War 3’s Horde mode is taking a page from half the games on your iPhone, adding the ability to purchase sentry guns, turrets, barriers and more between matches. There are also weapons and ammo caches for purchase at various points of each map. But you start by purchasing your team’s command post, which dictates where your emplacements spawn.

Once the match starts, you’ll earn money by killing Locust because, let’s be honest, that’s what Gears of War 3 is about. Except, it isn’t just about killing them this time around. At various points during your Horde session, one of the randomly generated waves might also launch with a challenge. These challenges range from the simple, like “nobody on your team dies,” to more complicated-to-orchestrate, such as “get eight executions in a wave.” Between these new objectives and the now completely randomized spawn patterns for every wave, Horde has become that much more interesting–and that much more addictive.

As my teammates and I blew through wave after wave, clearing shotgunners and Kantus priests and various boomer incarnations, I felt motivated in a way I never before had in Horde. The economy Epic has introduced with the addition of fortifications and purchasable items has added value to kills beyond the bragging rights of tick marks next to your gamertag at the end of a round. Every kill contributes to new stuff. Also, Epic has enabled the ability to give money to other players, which encourages working toward a common good in ways that Gears hasn’t seen before. Mainly because you might earn 2,000 credits in a round, and the Silverback mech is 12,500 credits to purchase.

The economy also adds a constant sense of escalation to your teams combat-readiness in parallel to the constant ramping up of the Locust you’ll face, unlike Horde in Gears of War 2. One of the many reasons Horde 2.0 in Gears of War 3 is more fun is because you’ll progress just as much as the Locust do. This doesn’t make the game easy. While your offensive abilities will improve, a frag grenade from a grenadier or a boom shot will still down your character at best or gib him at worst. But Gears of War 3’s Horde is all about facilitating forward momentum–you can even buy your way back into the game if you do die during a wave.

This is a good thing given the Boss waves. Every 10th wave in Gears of War 3’s Horde mode, the “Boss” enemies from the game will spawn, often en masse. You might fight reaver after reaver, for example, while chasing off boomers and grenadiers, or face the almost invulnerable Berserker while searcing desperately for a flame-based weapon (which will spawn in the level if it’s needed–a nice touch). Or, if you’re unlucky, you just might get kicked across the level by a Brumak. Here’s hoping you saved enough coin for a Silverback and some turrets.

Speaking reductively, Horde 2.0’s biggest reason for success seems to be Epic taking their good idea and removing its tendency to punish players for enjoying it. The new Horde retains challenge and demands on the players while rewarding them for play and constantly feeding new incentives to continue on. It’s a bigger, better, more… friendly Horde. And I can’t wait to play more of it when Gears of War 3 launches this September.



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