Gears of War 3

E3 2011: Gears of War 3 Horde Hands-On Preview – Fortify This!

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When I say “Fortify this!”, if you can just imagine that I’m grabbing my groin and thrusting my pelvis, then we’re on the same page, as it’s with Epic’s reinvigorated Horde mode in Gears of War 3 that it does that to anyone who says that you can’t innovate upon innovation. Yes, it was Epic that did such a fine job with its Horde mode in Gears of War 2 that I suspect after seeing Gears of War 3’s, there’ll be more copycats waiting in the wings. Improved, refined, reinvigorated, reinjected with awesome… this is Gears of War 3’s new Horde mode and it’s set to dominate your lives once again this year.

So, how do you reinvent a mode that you originally invented? Although, that being said, Horde didn’t really invent the survival mode, but made it cool, which to us, is as good as inventing. The answer is straightforward: you add tons of cool stuff and you change the formula just enough so that it doesn’t alienate old fans and puts the tenterhooks into new fans. Consider this job done then.

Epic’s way of doing this is simple: fortifications. Now, instead of going through the motions of just killing stuff, players must work together to first set up a base-point and then allocate money that they earn from killing foes into fortifying that point. We jumped into the hotel level to give it a go.

This symmetrical map has everything that a good Gears of War map has – an interior with tight corridors, a vantage point at the top of a few flights of stairs – which is a great place to fortify around – as well as a huge and open outside area, littered with cars and all the waist-high cover you’ll ever need. Choosing one of the five points to fortify around is your first port of call, making this not only your centre of operations, but also a point on the map where the Locust can’t spawn.

Your next job is then to spend your cash on either power weapons, ammo or fortifications as you progress through the waves, getting cash for every kill. While it might seem a little harsh to charge for power weapons and ammo, the fact that the Locust you down will drop more than you’ll ever need seems to render that point moot. Plus, they’re not all that expensive either.

The majority of your money though will be spent on one of 5 fortification classes: turrets; barricades; mech-suits; decoys; and sentries. Each of these can then be upgraded even further after the initial purchase. So that means that the first barricade will be a spiked barricade, with its upgrade being a barbed wire fence, then a laser fence and then an even more powerful laser fence. These will then whittle away at the Locust hordes as they pass through them. Work as a team for long enough and you can prop yourselves in a corner while sentries, barricades and someone on a turret does the majority of work. It’s a simple, but effective tactic and will be needed on the harder difficulties. Don’t think you can just buy the mech-suit and dominate the wave either, because it’ll cost you a cool $12,000, which could take you a good 7 or 8 waves to save up for. Your best solution is to fortify your base to the hills.

Unlike the other recent iteration of Horde mode, this time around Epic is mixing up each batch of waves, meaning you should technically never know what’s around the next corner. Should you get stuck though, every 4th wave players are offered a bonus objective to earn extra cash – on this occasion, it was to get 8 executions in a round. This isn’t just on your 4th, 8th, 12th wave and so on, but literally every 4th wave, meaning that if you get stuck, you can essentially turn the tide, earn some cash and advance. The 10th wave in the new Horde will also be the boss wave, so facing off against Queen Myrah’s hordes – including Brumaks, Reavers and more – will be necessary to advance. It’s a tense round, but one that you’re essentially always building up your fortifications for.

It’s an addition that requires more teamwork than ever before, because if you spread your assets thin, chances are you’ll spend more credits repairing than you will upgrading. So using your team’s credits to upgrade turrets or barricades as soon as possible will reap greater rewards for your team, but unfortunately for our team and its distinct lack of communication, that never became a reality. It does give a more communicative team a chance to reap better rewards though.

Adding purchasable fortifications, mixing up the waves so that you never know what’s coming next, giving bonus objectives in certain waves and throwing in a boss wave might not sound like much, but they combine to give Epic’s trademarked mode a feeling of freshness and a new edge that surely their competitors will be looking to levy next. It’s not about fighting wave after wave of enemies anymore, it’s about setting up shop and defending like you’ve never done before with your backs to the wall and your sphincter so tight it could turn coal into diamonds. And that’s nothing but good, baby.

Gears of War 3 is scheduled for a September 20th release in North America and Europe.


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Game Info
Epic Games


US September 20, 2011
Europe September 20, 2011
Japan September 22, 2011

Backward compatible on Xbox One: Yes
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