Gears of War 3: who put all this strategy in my shooter?

, | Game diaries

The first game of Horde mode was pretty confusing. There’s quite a few day-glow green command areas littered throughout the map and a new window on the right side full of icons that are greyed out. On top of the new window is a timer set at 30 seconds, waiting to begin its countdown. I wander around the map, Checkout, for a bit before I grasp what’s going on. This would be the round that seals me in to playing countless hours of Gears 3. Horde is a good time.

For the horde, after the jump!

Horde 2.0 works a bit differently than the last one. In this iteration, you must first choose a base. Once the base is chosen the counter begins to wind down and the game begins. You have 30 seconds at the beginning of each wave to repair or set up defenses. The defense spots are outlined in a color to indicate whether you have enough money to afford it. Green means you can easily afford it, yellow is close and red is negative. The defenses all cost varying amounts from cheap to “gots ta save up some,” and do different things as well as improve as you level. You have the choice of barriers, decoys, turrets, sentries or silver backs. Before anyone asks, a silver back is the Gears 3 version of a mech.

Well, I say you have the choice, but that’s not exactly true. Each time you play Horde mode you gain experience for your character that stays persistent with your account. Sound fun? It is! However, don’t expect to jump into Horde 2.0 and unlock everything in the first few rounds. The unlocks do not come cheap. As of this writing, I have still not unlocked the silver back. The game requires you spend 170,000 on barriers before you unlock the silver back line of fortifications and I’ve played well over 100 waves of Horde.

The only time you can place fortifications is in the 30 second setup window at the beginning of each wave. Once fortifications are set up the monsters start filing in and the party begins for real. This is where the game travels familiar ground for most Gears players. The biggest difference being the inclusion of a few new bad guy types including the lambent monsters and the Boss waves that occur every ten rounds.

As mentioned above, the waves are very similar to Gears 2 – you kill all the monsters to reach the next round – but this time you gain money per kill to bolster your defenses. Once you’ve built a fortification you’ll need to maintain it via repairs and upgrades. You earn experience towards your different defense choices by spending money on them. Each time you repair, build or upgrade something, you’re closer to the next level. The rewards vary depending on the level. Some levels only give you a discount to building or repair while others give you actual upgrades.

What this provides is another level of the game when it comes to Horde. You can’t just run off and hunt down enemies like you could in Gears 2. With the inclusion of the Boss wave, you’ll want to beef up your defenses as much as possible before getting hammered.

The Boss waves pair standard monsters with a few bigger ones. You’ll see brumak, berserkers and reavers as well as a few new lambent bosses. Each Boss wave has a few boss monsters, depending on what it is, and they’re very challenging. I joined a party of friends for a run and we only managed to make it to round 20 before dying repeatedly.

Repeatedly dying sounds bad. Most of the time it is bad, but somehow Horde mode provides me with more awesome memories than frustration. Last night, in the party of five I joined, everyone but me and one other guy died while being chased by a lambent berserker. This boss chased us all over the map, knocking us out one at a time, until we finally fell to one well-timed charge. In the end, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to play the hero and take out the boss, but it was one hell of a ride.

Horde is, hands down, the reason I love Gears of War. The first Gears was different enough to keep me interested, but after that, Horde captured my heart. The feeling of team work and comradery against wave after wave of AI enemies is, as all feelings are, intangible and impossible to describe – drawing me back, time and again.

Click here for the previous Gears of War 3 entry.
Next up: Versus mode. No, not the one where we discuss Pearl Jam albums.