Tucked away in the dimly lit back room of a defunct subterranean power plant in downtown Los Angeles, music pulsing, crowds surging, I concentrate on the task at hand: Blowing myself up, taking as many people with me as I can.
Scurrying along the dusty ground, skirting low walls and coils of razor wire, I maneuver the squat form of my Locust Ticker into an unsuspecting formation of soldiers. And then, perfectly placed among the enemy, I press a button and explode.
My time as a chittering, living mine in the multiplayer match of Gears of War 3 was short lived, but my death was meaningful, taking with me half the soldiers on the field.
Gears of War 2's multiplayer Horde mode may have been the biggest thing that the sequel brought to the series when it hit in 2008. And Gears of War 3's Beast mode certainly feels that way for the 2011 game.
In Horde, players took on the role of COG soldiers, trying to out-gun, out-live the never-ending waves of enemy locust showing up to kill them. Eventually, inevitably, the band of players died or survived to level 50 when the mode ended.
In Beast, the roles are reversed, with players taking on a freakish assortment of Locust enemies. But instead of swapping sides, developers Epic Games completely re-imagined the concept. Players start off the mode by selecting which type of Locust they want to play as and then go after the band of soldiers.
Instead of playing defense, as with Horde, Beast has you tasked with taking down the soldiers before the time runs out for the round. As you take enemies out you earn more tokens, tokens which can be used to unlock increasingly dangerous Locust.
And that's what makes the game so much fun to play. This ability to choose from a surprisingly wide range of Locust adds a level of tactics not found in Horde, which is relies heavily on finding good defensive positions.
Early on players can choose from those living-bomb Tickers, Locust soldiers and hulking, knife-wielding Boomers. Later rounds let you select bigger and badder critters, if you have the tokens. That includes Locust that can revive the dead, shoot explosives that tunnel underground to their target, and even chain-gun-wielding Locust. You can even unlock the mammoth, armored berserkers.
The gameplay is fast-paced and fun, the sort of mode that can be enjoyed in quick bursts or over lengthy play sessions.
I asked the developers on hand if there were any thoughts about combining their two most popular modes, Horde and Beast, into one spectacular versus mode. The two seemed to be opposite sides of the same coin, but the Epic folks said that isn't something they're planning to do.
That's too bad, but it doesn't take away from the power of Gears of War 3's new way of playing with friends. And the good news is that you'll have until April, 2011, to get used to the notion of blowing yourself up to take out enemies.