Gears of War 3 ranks in as one of this year’s personal highlights, alongside Deus Ex and Bulletstorm. There are a few plot holes, and in hindsight I don’t think the final boss would have been as impressive without the fancy lighting effects, but it finishes the trilogy off nicely. Would I have liked Gears 3 so much if it was missing the horde mode? Probably not.
It’s easy to tell that a significant amount of time has been spent tweaking and balancing the multi-player modes but I have to be in the right mind frame to go head to head with real life players. Being sniped without warning or having some git plant a live grenade on my back is frustrating even if they are key strategies to winning.
Horde mode though is something I’m always in the mood for. For the uninformed it’s a co-op mode where you and four others battle waves of enemies. Between waves you get a few seconds to pick up ammo and build fortifications like electric fences and gun turrets. The fortifications are new a addition to the series and fit in perfectly.
You can also buy yourself back into the game using cash earned for kills, but this idea hasn’t been implemented that well – you need to save your money for at least five waves to get back into the game on the later levels, which means five waves of not building anything that’ll help your team. Which is what horde boils down to – teamwork. You need to revive one another to survive, and all chip in to get your base up to a decent standard.
Another reason I’m so fond of horde mode that there is a slight competitive element to it – at the end of each wave a list is shown, detailing how many kills each player got and how much money they made. Sometimes it’s not the person with the most kills that makes to the top of the list; often it’s those that have assisted with lots of kills and revived people.
I never did make it to the 50th wave in Gears of War 2, but I managed it here after several hours of practice. Luck does come into it a lot. If you’re playing with randoms, pray that you have a good set of team mates. I know we all have to start somewhere, but I’ve seen people die on the first wave. You have to proverbially cross your fingers too and hope that nobody quits. The fewer players, the harder it is to make it to the end.
Level selection is another factor. Overpass seems to be the easiest, providing the first base is established in the centre of the map. The ruined supermarket map – Checkout – is far too open, allowing enemies to attack from all angles. Thrashball gives you good chances too, although only if the first base is made in the concessions stand, which is a closed off area where it’s easy to defend yourself and you can blast away the enemies as they come marching up the stairs.
A good survival tip is to stick grenades onto things. Specifically, the areas were the enemies spawn from. The worst case scenario is that it’ll be wasted on a ticker. The best case? I managed to kill three Screamers with one cleverly placed explosive. Sticking grenades onto decoys is a good way to bag an easy kill too. Another tip is to remember where the larger enemies die – Boomers will drop boomshots, ready for the taking when you get a moment spare.
Usually when there are only one or two enemies left I go searching for ammo, so that I can use the precious time between waves to repair the base. Incidentally, to be able to build sentry turrets you need to keep building decoys and not turrets as some may expect. Myself included, there.
The first piece of DLC for Gears 3 is going to be for the horde mode offering new maps and such. More importantly though, some extra achievements to unlock worth a total of 150G. 800 Microsoft Points have been hoarded away on my Xbox account well in advance.