We've just returned from a lengthy hands-on with Gears of War 2's freshly birthed multiplayer mode, Horde... and damn! While Horde falls into the familiar category of "survival mode," it's one in which you survive with up tofour otherbloodthirsty cohorts simultaneously. You and your buddies will carve through wave after wave of AI-controlled Locust until your frail COG buddies can bear no more.
In other words, Horde ends when you do, and it's a great way to keep on killin' when you're done with the main game. Even if you suck at multiplayer. Yes, you, n00b.
Here are five things we love about Horde already.
1. It's F***ing Relentless
And we mean that in a good way. Why don't more games have a survival mode? Who wouldn't get a kick out of skipping the story, on-foot treks and load times to immediately begin plugging beasties until their thumbs fall off?
If you even make it that long... No kidding, this thing is brutal. Each wave gets progressively harder, adding new enemies with more and bigger weapons. The record for the night was Wave 26, but our hardened souls could only go as far as Wave 7. In all fairness, we'd been drinking, didn't have our glasses on and had been hit in the head repeatedly with steal beams all day, but still... Horde is not for the faint of heart.
2. The New Bleed Out
As with the first Gears, getting eaten alive by bullets is not necessarily the end - you can be revived with the help of a friend. The sequel takes this ability further.
Instead of just lying on the ground like a Locust doormat, you can now crawl off the field, away from danger. Shimmy out of heavy fire and it's much easier for your partner to rescue you from the brink of death without risking his own neck. Players who crave punishment can also set the bleed out time as high or low as they want, so you sick little sadists out there needn't fret.
3. New Executions!
Ahhhh. Blissful, soul-affirming gore. The curb stomp is back, of course, but that's just the beginning. One of our favorite additions, for example, is rolling over the nearly dead body of a fallen Locust and popping his face while staring into his beady eyes.
Best of all, when you initiate a Lancer chainsaw execution, you witness more than camera-coating blood splatter that merely implies horrific violence. Nay! This year, you'll literally saw fools in half, watch their severed corpses slump to the ground, scoop the beasts up and use them to shield bullets from their friends.
4. The Ghost Camera
Calm yourself, PC users. Console players have been denied the Ghost Camera, a free-roam spectator view from beyond the grave, for far too long. Well, it'll be on 360 and it'll allow you to take screenshots. We damned sure spent a lot of time taking close up views of all the sights and sounds as we waited to get back in and unleash death. Plus, this may open up some sort of community aspect...
5. "Avalanche" and "Day One"
We had zero context as to why and where the action was taking place in these two missions, but it was greasy, grimy Gears and that was good enough for us.
Avalanche presented a snowy bridge map that was quite large. In addition to having a bit of an Asian flavor, with ornate archways straddling walkways, the map seemed, well, cleaner... less war-torn than the wonderfully depressing locales of Gear's past.
Whereas Avalanche looked as if it could house a variety of gameplay types, Day One was clearly designed with Horde exclusively in mind. It's simply a cross pattern, with short alleys stretching north, south, east and west. As minimal as that may sound, Day One still offered ample cover and weapon pick-ups. Plus it's absolutely perfect for shoving you right into the action, as you never know on which side a wave of enemies will spawn.