Gear of War 3 isn't the first game that should spring to mind when you hear the phrase "Save your money!", but when you play the title's new Horde 2.0, that's exactly what you're going to want to do. Cash becomes almost more important than bullets in this revamped mode, and you can either blow your dough quickly and constantly, or pinch pennies and save up for the big items. It's a shooter shopper's paradise, and you really need to invest.
Building on Gears of War 2's popular Horde mode, the new version adds the currency as a way to bring more strategy to the title. When you start out, you'll have a bit of money that you can spend on items like a Command Post, and once that's purchased other options open up around that post, like Auto-Turrets, Mannable Turrets, Spike Strips, Decoys, and more. Many of those items are also upgradeable for further cash: spike strips become barbed wire, the decoys look more realistic (they start out as a flat cardboard standee of Augustus Cole shilling "Thrashios" cereal) and so on.
Of course, you can also purchase power weapons and items like extra ammo and frag grenades as well. But you need to keep an eye on your bottom line, because it's extremely easy to blow through that cash quickly and find yourself with empty pockets. You earn cash by killing Locusts and Lambents, of course, and the more spectacular your kill, or if you pull off an execution, affects how much money you'll make. Earn as much cash as you can, because between waves you can buy more defenses (things like ammo and weapons can be purchased while playing), and repair ones that have become damaged.
Feeling cash poor? If you play with a good squad, you'll quickly learn how to share your cash. You can run up to a fellow soldier and share cash, ammo, or even swap weapons with them, which comes in handy because the big item on the list is a Silverback mech suit that costs $12.500. To put it in perspective, most other items are about $500 to $1,000. But trust me, you'll want that suit, which is appropriately named after the Silverback gorillas. It's a bulky, front-only (leaving your backside very vulnerable) suit that offers up armor and extremely enhanced firepower. It's like a walking suit of armor with a Mulcher attached to the front.
If you hit the A button, you squat down in the suit and become immobile, allowing allies to use you as cover while you can swivel left and right to become a sort of living turret. Hitting A again gets you back up, and you can slowly lumber from point to point. The suit can be repaired between waves, but if it takes enough damage it will blow up, and you need to get out of it before it goes boom, or else you'll be downed and need a friend to come pick you up. A good squad will find a defensible spot for the Silverback, then provide support and the all-import rear cover. You can't revive buddies or pick up items while in the suit, but the extreme firepower more than makes up for that. Apparently the dev team built early working versions of this suit seven years ago, but it never made it into the game until now.
When you first drop into Horde 2.0, it feels very unfamiliar, but you'll quickly pickup the purchase mechanic. Items you can afford appear green, items that need to be repaired appear in yellow, and anything you can't afford is red. You'll have about 20 seconds at the beginning of each wave to run around in a spending spree before the options are taken away and the bad guys start pouring in. My advice? Purchase and maintain Auto-Turrets as soon as possible, and upgrade and repair spike strips to barbed wire and above. Later in the rounds when you get cash-heavy, pick up the mannable turret and get some buddies to cover and scout for you. From time to time challenges will appear, like kill seven enemies with a turret, and if you complete that, cash boxes will drop around the map at the end of the wave.
Speaking of bad guys, Gears of War 3 offers up both familiar enemies, and completely new beings that you've never seen before. Also back are Lambent Locust, which have been amped up and will now make you soil your drawers. Remember how deadly and annoying the Blood Mounts could be? Some of these new foes make them look like cuddly teddy bears. You'll face Gankers, enormous Lambents who toss gobs of Imulsion at you that does area splatter damage, and Drudges who can mutate into several different forms. But the real bitch is the Lambert Berzerker or "Lambent Zerker" as she's labeled in the game.
She's massive, extremely hard to kill, and finished off many COGs at the multiplayer event last night. Your squad has been upsized from four to five this time around, and you really do need all hands on deck to take one of these down. She's invulnerable to fire (even the Hammer of Dawn didn't phase her) from all sides, but if you anger her enough she'll charge at you, at which point her ribcage opens up and exposes her Lambent heart. But you'll have to shoot at a lot to have any affect, and as she takes more damage she'll switch to a leap attack that spews Imulsion in a radius wherever she lands, and that does splash damage. Get hit by her charge, or have her land too close to you, and you'll go down.
Luckily, Horde 2.0 will let you buy back in once per wave if you die, to the tune of $500. Which is another reason why it's a good idea to keep some cash in your back pocket at all times. We played on two new maps, Hotel and Overpass, both of which were symmetrical and fun. Hotel has both interior and exterior sections with plenty of cover, multiple levels (both inside and outside) and impressive visuals. From the bleak and war-torn exterior of the hotel to the bright and lavish interior, there's a lot to look at here while you're trying not to die.
Overpass feels a bit smaller than Hotel, and offers an overlooking bridge with a couple of cover spots, which ends up being one of the best places to hole up on the map. With your squad manning both the bridge and the stairs leading up to the bridge, you have a pretty defensible position until the bosses start coming in later waves. Overpass is all outside, and you'll be able to use cars and rubble as cover. The Hammer of Dawn is available on this map, and you'll want to pack one if you head for that overhead bridge. There was a third map called Sandbar, but it wasn't available to us. There's a single image of it right here, and it looks like another good map for the Hammer.
While our event was capped at 10 waves, the real Horde 2.0 goes all the way to 50, and that will see you going up against bosses like two Lambent Zerkers, and even gigantic Brumaks, which should keep on constantly on the edge of your seat. If that wasn't enough, the game adds Mutators, which can add bizarre tweaks like Locust with big heads and squeaky voices, or a laugh track that accompanies your gameplay. Those weren't available for us yet, but I love the idea of a laugh track in an action shooter. That will truly be surreal when you're playing as Ice T's character.