Gears of War Co-Op Preview: Four Players, Dynamic Difficulty, Arcade Mode, Beast Mode
Gears 2 introduced two-player co-op to the world of Gears, but Epic is doubling down on that this time around, quite literally, by expanding to four players via Xbox LIVE. This new feature didn’t make things easier for Executive Producer Rod Fergusson and the rest of his team, as he pointed out in our video interview: “One of the big challenges…was trying to write a story where there were always four characters present.” Providing enough cover to go around also proved difficult. Despite these limitations, however, the more collaborative possibilities of the gameplay underscore a main theme in Gears of War 3. Without the military hierarchy holding them in place, the former C.O.G.’s are now more concerned with having each other’s backs: “It’s not a mission,” Fergusson explained, describing the adventure that drives the plot of the game. “It’s about people who don’t really have that structure…this is some way that they’re going to help a friend.”
In an e-mail follow-up, Fergusson gave us the rundown on the game’s many co-op opportunities: “First is the Campaign, which you can play two player split-screen locally on your Xbox, or you can play four-player over Live — privately with your friends or publically through matchmaking.” Familiar conveniences will return: “you’ll be able to drop in and drop out so you can keep playing without having to reload every time someone joins or leaves.”
Newer and more exciting is Campaign co-op’s dynamic, mix-and-match difficulty. “In Gears we don’t really use ‘number of enemies” as a balancing tool, because we don’t want the play experience to change that fundamentally between difficulties,” Fergusson explained. “In the extreme case, you could have a squad in the Campaign with one player on Casual, one on Normal, one on Hardcore and another on Insane (or any variation of four difficulties). This lets players of different abilities play together without having to make it too easy for experience players or too hard for new players.” I can’t say that I’m sure exactly how this works in practice — what if two people, on two difficulty levels, are shooting the same enemy? — but I’m willing to take his word for it.
Speaking of two people shooting at the same enemy, Arcade mode is another one of Gears of War 3′s big rollouts. “Arcade mode is a new feature in Gears 3 where you can actually play the Campaign competitively against your friends for score,” Fergusson said. “You work together to keep your bonus multiplier as high as possible, but it’s cutthroat, since you want to get all the kills first to get the best score and win the chapter.” You can read our account of duking it out in Arcade mode in our Gears of War 3 Act I hands-on preview.
Last but not least comes the game’s two multiplayer-focused co-op modes. Horde mode was the big revelation in Gears 2, and spawned imitations in other games almost as fast as it spawned waves of angry Locust. New to Gears 3 is “Beast” mode, which will flip the script and cast players as the Locust as they try to defeat waves of AI-controlled human enemies.
You can find our video interview with Fergusson embedded below. GameFront also has more coverage of Gears of War 3′s Easter Eggs, adjusted difficulty levels, new mutators, 3D graphics, and it’s shock revelation — the reappearance of Marcus’ father, Dr. Adam Fenix.