Microsoft didn't have much of a presence at EGX but the title that they did bring was a big draw for the crowds of attendees. Gears of War 4 brought both its campaign and the newly revealed Horde mode for players to try out. The Dam: No Detours part of the campaign that was available has been showcased before; take a look at our previous coverage if you want a reminder of the quartet's journey through the Locust burial grounds. Instead, we checked out Horde 3.0 to see just how the fans' favourite co-op mode was faring.
Our group of five was placed in the lobby where we chose our characters, classes and skill bonuses. Those of you who have ever played Overrun or Survival mode in Gears of War: Judgment will remember character classes, where each character had a specific weapon and a specific ability to assist the team with their objectives, such as the ability to repair defences or revive team mates. This time, there are five classes and they're not as restricting. Anybody can revive players or repair defences and anybody can wield any weapon that is available for play, although the classes do have differing starting weapons.
As the team's designated engineer, I was in charge of placing and repairing defences for the purpose of our brief hands-on experience. Three slots were available to add skill bonuses, although players can add up to five bonuses once their classes have reached a specified level. I chose to add bonuses that reduced the costs of two of the game's fortifications, as well as providing a damage booster for one of my starting weapons. Once our characters were confirmed, we chose a map. Liking the look of Relic, we decided to take on the first ten waves of horde in a building that was already partially ruined. Take a look at the flythrough video below for a better look at the map:
Fortifications for horde are nothing new, but this time they've been improved. Players no longer have to choose to defend a command post that is in one of several designated spots on the map. Now, players must defend a fabrication box through which all fortifications are built. The box also allows players to purchase weapons and bring dead players back to life before the end of the round. The box spawns in the centre of the map and players must drag/carry the box to the point of the map that they wish to defend. Once the box has been positioned, the countdown to the first wave begins. With just 5000 credits in the box, we're only able to build two basic spiked barriers that we decide to place at the top of the steps that the enemy must use to reach our defence point.
Once the wave begins, it's time to get down to business. I begin with the regulation snub pistol, gnasher, repair tool and a new weapon, the enforcer. Two things become fairly obvious within the first few seconds of combat. Firstly, with the punch of a retro lancer but not the range, the enforcer is a fantastic short-mid range weapon but is pretty pointless for anything that is on the other side of the map. Secondly, seeing as the enemies have spawned on the other side of the map then I'm either going to need to leave the defences behind and get closer, buy another weapon, or just not do a lot of shooting for a while.
The Locust may have been defeated 25 years ago, but the enemies that we're facing are a mix of new creatures and those that are incredibly familiar. There are wretch-like creatures that scramble over cover and bounce off the walls. There are swarm enemies that have a different appearance to Locust Grenadiers, Snipers, Grinders and Boomers (and quite likely a different name), but they have pretty much the same behaviour as their locust counterparts. There are also mechanical spheres that roll along the floor towards you before deploying at close quarters and emitting a short range electric shock -- they're the new equivalent of the Tickers.
As mentioned before, there are some surprises, though. We face mechanical robot-like enemies that blindly march towards you with enforcer guns and a more advanced version with powerful shotguns that fire in bursts of two shots. There are also flying sentry drones whose shields must be deactivated before they can be damaged. The mysterious blend of the mechanical and more fleshy enemies means that while some of the old tactics work, newer tactics are also needed to defeat some of the enemies, especially those that are able to fly.
When the enemies are defeated, they drop energy that can be collected and fed into the fabricator. The more energy that is collected, the more fortifications that can be built and the more able that players are to mend their damaged fortifications. As the enemies become more difficult, our fortifications become more plentiful. We built turrets that packed a real punch, machine gun sentries and shock sentries that were enough to at least stun enemies, a weapon locker (that we barely used) and even a decoy. While we were unable to upgrade any of them, we could move them around to new positions to better suit the direction from which we were being attacked. Some were unable to withstand the heat, the mechanical spheres being particularly fatal in large numbers for both of the sentries, but for the most part they survived until we reached the boss wave in round 10.
Our boss for this playthrough was a large legless beast that pulls itself along the ground with its arms. Every now and again he would pause in place before spitting out a number of bile-filled homing missiles that not only did a large amount of damage for a direct hit, but also left steaming pools of bile on the floor to continue to do damage until they evaporated. At the same time as spitting out his missiles, his chest cavity would open up to expose his glowing insides and the best point of attack if we were ever going to defeat him. It took a lot of ammo, teamwork and quick reflexes to defeat him but the turret, one of just two remaining defences by the time that he'd crawled all over them, was enough to deliver the final blow.
Our domain may have been virtually destroyed, but it took 20 minutes for a team of five players to get through 10 waves of Horde on normal difficulty without failing any of those waves, despite having two Horde novices in the team. While many feel that Judgment's Survival mode took a step backwards, it still has an influence in the new and improved Horde mode. With players needing to conquer all 50 waves of Horde on each of the launch maps if they are to complete the game's achievement list, it's time to hunker down and brace yourselves. Horde is back and you have just a week to wait until the game is released on October 11th.
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