If you happen to live in the greater Pittsburgh area, specifically near Washington, PA and you felt the need to go to Wal-Mart today, chances are you got to sink your teeth into part of this fall’s biggest release for the Xbox 360: Gears of War 3.
Safe to say that a majority of Pittsburgh gamers had their chance to try out Gears of War 3’s multiplayer when the Beta was going on a couple months ago, but Beast Mode and Horde 2.0 have been under lock and key until now. Wal-Mart’s game center had a swag truck set up in their parking lot that called to me like a Siren to a sailor. After scoring some free Xbox Live and Gears key chains, I had the opportunity to spend an hour and a half tearing up Stranded in Beast Mode and massacring Locust in Horde.
Beast Mode: The premise is simple – play Horde Mode from the other point of view. A group of Stranded has walled themselves into an area, thick with ground spikes, turrets, and other nasties to slow your attack. You play as the Locust and your main objective is to end the Stranded. You are given a preset amount of time to storm the defenses and kill them all. As you destroy objects and kill Stranded, you are awarded money. This money is used to then purchase which locust character you will spawn as each time you die. If you are dirt poor, you’ll be stuck with Tickers and Wretches; save your cash and storm weak Stranded as a Bloodmount!
As waves increase, the Stranded numbers will be bolstered by “Heroes,” in the form of characters from the game. Since they are COG soldiers, they are better shots and take more damage to dispense. Also, as the levels increase, you have access to better Locust to do your damage with. The best you begin with are Drones and Butchers, but by just wave 2 you can use Kantus, Bloodmounts, and Maulers.
Everything has a catch, however. Beast Mode is almost unplayable unless you have a crew of people playing. The resources needed to tear down defenses and kill a whole crew of Stranded in about a minute is more than one person could handle. Granted, I didn’t have hours and hours of play, but even with this new and fresh mode, I was bored after 20 minutes because with no one to watch my back or help me, AI would just take cover behind rows of ground spikes, leaving me to helplessly watch the clock count down or be filled with bullets as I try to crawl over the ground spikes. Have three people crawl through / tear down the ground strips while the fourth gives covering fire and this mode is primed for endless hours of fun.
Horde 2.0: Two point zero indeed! This almost feels nothing like the original Horde Mode debuted in Gears of War 2. The biggest change is what was discussed in the Beast Mode section: you now earn money and how you spend it determines how long you live. Between each wave, you are given a small period of time to spend your money on various defenses. These include ground spikes, decoys, and turrets (mentioned before), as well as unlocking weapons and erecting numbered towers. The weapons are where you start to realize you have to play the game smart. No longer can you just pick up a Gorgon Pistol or Mulcher at key points, you must first buy the right to pick them up. As for the towers, I had no tutorial, so I honestly have no idea what purpose they served…
Here is where things get tricky: Ammo crates also cost money. That’s right kids, gone are the days of selfishly amassing ammo; every time you open that magic box it costs your team $500 big ones. Refill too often and pretty soon your friends may stop sending you invites to play Horde Mode! This adds a whole new element to the game. Now you must strategically consider where you will hold up and if you can somehow create a funnel to drive the locust into your trap. More so, you must also start to choose between cold cash money and switching weapons to save for later. Lean too heavily on your Gnasher or Retro Lancer and you will face the decision yourself.
Because you have the ability to surround yourself with ground spikes, decoys, and turrets, the waves you face are no joke. Remember popping 5 Wretches and moving on to wave 2? Sorry, but that’s a no show here! Waves in Horde 2.0 are massive; sometimes leading me to forget that I even had an end in sight. I didn’t keep a tally, but I’d say wave 1 and 2 featured about 10-15 Drones, 15-20 Tickers, and 3-5 Butchers. By wave 5, those numbers probably doubled or tripled and featured Boomers as well. As with Beast Mode, you are going to need a full crew to enjoy this because there is just too much going on for one person to go wave after wave. All I wanted was to see the new Boss feature on wave 10, but on Hardcore difficulty I was having some serious issues at wave 7 before the demo event ended.
New Hotness: Granted everything here is new, but two things made me smile that didn’t fit into a category. First is a new enemy called Wild Tickers. The original Tickers are still prevalent, but Wild Tickers are without the Imulsion tank on their back. They lack the big boom from shooting them, but if they manage to stay alive for a while, they begin to turn Lambent and will be explosive on their own. More important than that is the fact that because they are wild, they travel in packs! Sure Tickers always came at you in twos or threes, but Wild Tickers can travel 5 plus deep. Watch your back or drown in Ticker claws…
On the weapon front, we saw some goodies from the Beta, but Horde 2.0 gives another instrument of destruction: The Butcher Blade. Oh baby, when you pick up this clever and start swinging it around like a baseball player warming up for a swing it brings an evil grin to your face! Most drones will simply be decapitated or sliced in half and it’s not even out of the question to bring down a Butcher or Boomer with this lovely. Trust me, when Gears of War 3 drops on September 20, look for this puppy in Horde, it will make your day!
If you were not one of the lucky few Pittsburghers who got to whet your appetite today, don’t fret too much; Gears of War 3 is less than a month away! Sure to be one of the greatest titles this year, all of Pittsburgh will see Gears in its glory at the stroke of midnight, September 20.