Horde mode is the star of the Gears of War 2 multiplayer lineup. Oh sure, you've got your classic death matches and capture the flag bullshit (and that co-op mode is still insanely solid); but Horde mode is where it's at. You and four other players pick a Gears character and choose weapons. Then you're dropped on a relatively small map littered with ammo and perfect areas for cover, sniping, and dying like an idiot when you get cut off from your group. The idea is to survive wave after wave of Locust hordes that the game throws at you. You lose if every member on your team is killed. You win when you kill every Locust in a wave of the horde – after that, the game pauses to show you which players had the most kills and then chucks you back into the map with another wave.There's a vague incentive to kill steal. It's rewarding to see yourself at the top of the list at the end of a wave with seven score marks by your name. But ultimately, Horde mode takes teamwork, so try not to be too much of a bastard or your mates will leave you to die behind the barn while they set up a perimeter on the bridge. (I don't think friendly fire is an option – or at least I wasn't bitchy enough to warrant my teammates shooting at me.)
Shit hits the fan at about wave 10. More and more of the Horde come from all directions on the map, overwhelming whatever system you've managed to set up. We made it all the way to wave 15 by sticking together, but after that, someone decided going every man (or woman) for themselves was a good idea and we all died like dogs. The game let us repeat the wave where we'd left off, but our spawn position on the map was reset so we started from new random positions instead of the place where we left off at the end of the last wave – and I think our score was reset to zero (I clicked through the menu too fast in my zeal to get back to the fight). I have no idea how anyone is going survive all 50 waves of Horde mode – even after I switched out with a more hardcore shooter journo, the group never made it to wave 20 in the hour we had to play. Ball-breakingly difficult or not, Horde mode does stand out from your average multiplayer romp because it's co-op survival instead of just you against the AI. And it was pretty damn fun, even when you were getting your face raped by the sheer number of Locusts coming at you. Be honest – how many of you were going to go buy the game no matter what I had to say?