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In our first hands-on look at Gears of War 2's multiplayer, we explored the new competitive multiplayer modes that are being introduced to the franchise. A variety of gameplay refinements and assorted enhancements to the engine's visual capabilities have resulted in a Gears experience that looks and plays better than the original, one of the best games of 2006. Now that E3 is in full swing, we can finally fill you in on the rest of what we saw during our exciting multiplayer play session.
First, we'll start with the bad news. Following up on Halo 3's four-player co-op campaign, the rumors were that Gears of War 2 would include its own four-player campaign. Instead, the campaign mode will be a two-player co-op game that focuses on the relationship between Marcus Fenix and uber-sidekick Dom, and on Dom's search for his lost wife.
Now, on to the good stuff. Five-on-five multiplayer is going to be the new standard, but Epic has also confirmed that bots will be available and fully supported in the multiplayer modes. Short a couple players but still want a larger scale game? Gears of War 2's got you covered.
In addition to the Scorcher flamethrower that we detailed in our last preview, there are two heavy weapons for players to obliterate the Locust with. The first of these weapons is the Mulcher, a large multi-barreled chaingun that unleashes a nonstop spray of bullets at anything you point at. It's not very accurate at long range, but it'll turn anything close to you into swiss cheese. The best way to use the weapon is to mount it onto cover, which provides it increased stability and turns it into a very formidable machine gun emplacement. The second heavy weapon is the Mortar. It's a long range indirect fire weapon that could be used for suppressive offense against incoming forces.
We got to first look at the new heavy weapons on Avalanche, a map that takes place in the icy terrain of a mountainside village. There's a central gazebo where a flamethrower can be picked up, and the map's outer reaches are a collection of small wooden structures. There's not a lot of cover provided in the central area, but it's a good place to pick up the powerful weapons, like the Mulcher.
Environmental hazards in multiplayer maps were shown off here for the first time, with an avalanche triggering at a given time during a match, where the center of the map would become a killing field as the snow poured in. Getting caught unawares in the middle of the map during an avalanche would result in players getting smothered and covered like a plate of hash browns.
Perhaps the most exciting revelation from our hands-on play session was a multiplayer mode that hasn't been unveiled until today. This new mode is called Horde, and it's been referred to by Lead Designer Cliff Bleszinski as a Gears of War take on Geometry Wars or the arcade classic Smash TV. The premise is that a team of up to five players will get together to fight off wave after wave of Locust, with each wave getting progressively more difficult. Here's where we got to see some of the dangerous new enemies that make their debut in Gears of War 2. One of these baddies is called the clicker, and it's a small creature with what looks like a propane tank strapped to its back. As it gets closer to its prey (namely you) its oversized teeth click and chatter more loudly. It's an early warning system, but also serves to unnerve players and create tension.
We also saw some impressive creatures called Blood Mounts. You can take out the mounted Locust up top to diminish its offensive potential, but even unmounted, these giant spider-like beasts can rear back on their hind legs and pierce through an unwary soldier with their razor sharp forelegs. They absorb a great amount of punishment, but if you shoot at their underbellies, they go down a little easier.
We had a great time setting up groups and battling legions of Locust. We played on a map named Day One, which was a city four-way intersection, with buildings on every block. We split up our four-man team into groups of two, and took vantage points on the second stories of buildings that were opposite each other, so we could support each other when enemies would duck for cover. In between waves you automatically replenish some ammo, but breaking from cover to pick up new weapons and ammo drops was a key part of the game.
Gamers will probably love this new Horde cooperative mode, which is quite the consolation prize for those who were looking for a larger-scale cooperative campaign. We still haven't scratched the surface of the campaign mode, but the multiplayer options in Gears of War 2 are already shaping up to be something to look forward to.
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