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Hands-on with Horde 2.0 in “Gears of War 3″

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A sneak peek at the ultra-popular multiplayer mode shows big changes and more depth for the upcoming sequel.

There’s a unique brilliance to the multiplayer Horde Mode in the “Gears of War” games. Their genius comes from distilling the component parts of the main game’s action and reshuffling them so that they appeal to players in an all-new way. You’re still crouched behind cover in the gameworld’s signature blasted-out architecture, outmaneuvering and picking off enemies with an assortment of gorily effective pitsols, shotguns and rifles. There’s still an element of exploration but you’re not being dragged from place to place along a plot thread. You make your stand for as long as you can, and for however long that lasts you’re forging a more intimate bond with your ammo, weapons, partners and environment than normally happens in the Campaign mode. Horde Mode generates a lot of fun and tension for those facing down waves of enemies, and, as Rooster Teeth showed in their recent “Immersion” episode, it’s not as easy as you’d think.

But, with sequels comes change and developer Epic Games will be introducing some new elements that significantly change up the beloved mode. The main one, central to all the others, is in-game money. You’ll earn points every time you play “Gears 3,” no matter what mode you’re playing. In Horde 2.0, you’ll be able to purchase all-new fortifications. These will be either barriers, armaments or decoys that you can deploy at specific points in the environment. They add a strategic element to the mode, making it so you can create narrower paths for enemies to march through. Cash can also get spent on weapons and ammo, too, but you’ll still be able to grab those from the weapons of dead enemies.

Horde Mode still lasts 50 grueling waves, but in 2.0, there’ll be a boss battle every ten rounds. The structure’s also broken up a bit by Challenge waves, which offer special rewards if you meet certain requirements. Perform feats like finishing a wave under a certain time limit or getting a certain number of kills with a particular weapon and you’ll earn extra cash for resources.

The biggest change to Horde Mode comes in the form of resurrections. In the “Gears 2″ version, players who bough the farm could only come back at the beginning of a new wave. You were forced to watch your friends fight on, though you could help them by telling where enemies were coming from. In the forthcoming “Gears 3,” any player can reanimate fallen comrades, provided there enough ducats on hand. While it does drain some of the tension from Horde Mode, resurrections are likely to be a pricey perk so that they don’t get abused.

As different as the updated Horde Mode will be, the core elements still look to be as entertaining as ever. You’re getting some new mechanics to play with and the combination should make “Gear of War 3″ a must-visit multiplayer destination when the game hits Xbox 360 this fall.

Do the changes to Horde Mode worry you or excite you? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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