Gears of War's developers certainly didn't invent "Horde Mode." But Epic Games, creator of Gears, is lucky in that every other game developer who copies their popular multiplayer mode gives the studio credit for it when showing off their own take on Horde.
Gears of War 3 design director Cliff Bleszinski is the one that points this out in our E3 meeting, humbly pointing to Robotron: 2084 as the originator of Horde mode's core mechanics. He's still happy that other shooter developers have "their own Horde Mode," though.
So what does Epic Games do when attempting to reinvent how Gears of War players will face ever stronger waves of Locust hordes in their next game? Well, they borrow a little bit too, adding some of the real-time strategy components of endless "tower defense" games and a cash-for-kills layer to the cooperative multiplayer mode.
Gears of War 3's "Horde 2.0" mode adds the usual stuff: new maps, new weapons, like that two-player Vulcan Cannon. It also adds fortifications to Horde. Players can rack up in-game money, then spend them on barriers, decoys, sentries and more.
Let's break it down. The barriers that players can build include (in order) caltrops, razor wire, electrified wire fences and laser barriers. Players will have to earn the ability to unlock the stronger stuff with Gears 3's persistent online progression. Decoys, logically, draw enemy fire with their comical COG soldier-like looks. Sentries are automated guns that players can plant and turrets are manned versions of those sentries, more powerful weapons that players can hop into and control.
Players can also deploy the new Silverback mechanized walker in Horde 2.0, the metal suit that delivers powerful fire and doubles as cover for teammates.
All this stuff can be built, repaired and upgraded with cash—with the exception of the Silverback, which is "not currently upgradeable," says Gears of War 3 design director Cliff Bleszinski. Gears bucks can also be spent to resurrect your teammates. It can also be shared, should one of your COG pals be short on cash and really want that Silverback. Weapons can also be swapped between friends.
Of course, you're still facing bigger and stronger waves and waves of foes, now a bit more diverse.
Horde 2.0 also introduces bonus objectives every few rounds, giving players a chance to earn new weapons, additional ammo and a bigger cash windfall if completed. Those challenges include objectives like clearing a wave under a time limit or using your Lancer to chainsaw a certain number of foes.
Every tenth wave is a boss wave, with Gears of War's bigger Locust strains joining the wave of beefy mutants.
Perhaps to lighten the mood, Bleszinski says that Horde 2.0 will feature new, gameplay altering Mutators. These include amusements like the option to have big heads and big feet on your characters. Squeamish players can choose to remove blood sprays, instead having enemies and allies shoot flowers out of open wounds. High-pitched squeaky voices and an optional laugh track the cues up a giggling audience may make your Gears of War 3 multiplayer even sillier.
If none of this sounds like a good idea to you, Bleszinski offers a solution for those who prefer Gears of War 2's take on Horde. Hit the eject button on your Xbox 360, insert Gears 2 disc, play Horde. (Smart ass!)
Gears of War 3 and its new hordes come to the Xbox 360 on September 20 in North America.