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During our recent visit to Microsoft to try out the competitive multiplayer in Gears of War 2, we got a sneak peek at one other mode in the upcoming game, horde. Once Epic's Cliff Bleszinksi ran through the competitive modes we covered previously, he gave us a sneak peek at some other multiplayer elements and talked co-op. We're finally able to spill the details on the new mode and other choice bits on the Gears 2 multiplayer experience.
Horde is essentially a cooperative survival mode that lets you and four friends work together to deal with increasingly difficult mobs of enemies that come in waves. In addition to the new mode we had a chance to check out two new maps, avalanche and day one, which added a new wrinkle to the multiplayer experience.
So, first of, horde mode. The new mode lets you and four friends test your skills against waves of enemies. Basically every wave will be made up of a set amount of enemies. Once you clear the wave you'll have a few seconds to prep and collect ammo and whatever pickups have been left by your foes or gear that respawns. The first waves are totally manageable and are made up of familiar enemies. However, as the levels progress things get crazy as new enemies such as the mauler boomer, butcher boomer, grinder boomer, and the flamer boomer. Each variation comes packing new weapons and gear that bumps up their threat and irritation levels to new heights.
However, you might look back fondly on the new boomers when you hear about what else is coming. The bloodmounts are new and exciting enemies which find locust riding mounts that bring a world of pain. If you're fast you can take out their riders, but these new foes are something else. At the moment the mode is being tweaked for balancing so specifics on the number of waves, right now Epic is thinking 50 or so, and exactly how things will play out are still being determined. We got pretty far in our play time, but things got pretty brutal. The biggest challenge is keeping your ammo stocked by collecting what's handy before enemies spawn in. The best way to survive is teamwork as your group can revive each other if everyone's attentive and fast on their feet. If you can't be revived before something horrible happens you'll respawn in time for the next wave if one of your team members survives.
One of the cool new twists to the mode is the stage interactivity on the two new maps we saw, day one and avalanche. Day one is set in a city center and paints a disturbing picture of how things went down on emergence day. Basically the stage is made up of a downtown city street, complete with movie theater. At its center is an emergence hole that offers an unpleasant surprise every so often: a rampaging worm that reaches out and chomps on anything that's unlucky enough to be close by.
However the avalanche level featured an even crazier interactive element, an actual avalanche that changed the layout of the level. Before the mighty rush of snow hits the level is a simple mountainside town. The boxy level is bordered by structures you can go in and explore with a center area that has a gazebo like structure with weapons to collect. The problem with the center area is, when the snow hits, you don't want to be there as you'll instantly die. While the snow is dangerous, there are some nice perks to it. The biggest perk is that the level layout is changed by the snow and you'll be able to access different weapons, including some from the new weapon class being introduced in the game, the heavy weapon class. We got to see two, the mulcher and the mortar, from the new class which is essentially an incredibly powerful but challenging to aim firearm. The mulcher is a chaingun like weapon that is a powerful close quarters weapon with so much kick it's tough to be too accurate with. The secondary fire to it lets you actually plant it in the ground and create a mobile turret with a limited range of fire. The challenge is that the weapon uses a heat system which will lock up the gun if you use it too often. To help you balance usage you can manually cool it by flushing heat. The new mechanic is called active cooling and works like the active reload system.
The mortar follows the same logic and lets you fire a cluster of powerful explosives that present a danger to anything around, including you. However, if you plant it in the ground you'll get a range finder and be able to take out foes at a far range which is incredibly handy. The downside to both weapons is that you'll move slowly with them and using them on the fly isn't super effective.
The visuals in horde mode and the new maps are obviously along the same quality lines as what we've reported. We would like to call out the visuals for the avalanche which are very cool. The heavy weapons are a little nutty but feature some impressive effects that sell their raw power.
Based on what we played, horde mode is a slick new addition to the Gears experience. The five player support is cool, although we do still wish for some two plus player co-op, and a lot of fun. Another cool tidbit we didn't get to see too much of was bot support in the game which sounds like another cool touch that Epic's adding into the game. Look for more on Gears of War 2 this week when Microsoft demos it live on our stage show Tuesday afternoon. The game is slated to ship this November.
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