The lights are on
Gears of War fans have learned to expect a content-rich experience with every installment in the series. In 2006, the original title impressed with stellar online campaign co-op coupled with numerous multiplayer modes. Its sequel introduced Horde mode, an addictive multiplayer experience that other shooters quickly emulated. Gears of War 3 expanded on Horde with fortifications and a currency system. In addition, Beast mode allowed players to inhabit various Locust creatures as they took on A.I.-controlled COG soldiers. With Gears of War: Judgment, Epic is taking the logical next step in multiplayer. Both Horde and Beast have a vocal following, and the developer hopes to satisfy both camps with the ambitious OverRun mode.
Many shooters on the market hit store shelves with a predictable assortment of modes. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch have been standbys since the ‘90s, and most modern shooters feature a mode based on capturing command points in the style of Battlefield’s Conquest or Call of Duty’s Domination. Gears of War typically takes the road less traveled, from the multi-team battles of Wingman to the elimination-based Warzone. OverRun is unlike any mode we’ve seen before, with asymmetrical teams that take turns in a class-based, tactical, five-on-five battle. Rather than simply duct-taping Beast and Horde together, the team at Epic is presenting a multiplayer experience with a heavy focus on team play.
OverRun consists of two timed rounds, allowing each team to play an offense-based Locust round and a defense-based COG round. When playing as the Locust horde, you’re tasked with breaching two sealed emergence holes before finally destroying the COG power generator. These emergence holes are placed one after the other, so you’ll be destroying them in sequence rather than choosing between two simultaneous objectives. Once you’ve destroyed the seal of one of these holes, the COGs are annihilated by a Kryll storm and your team gains a new spawn position. Several minutes are also added to the timer, giving your team more time to make the final push towards the generator. Scoring is determined by how many objectives the Locust complete, with a maximum of three points awarded if they manage to open both emergence holes and destroy the generator before time runs out. In the case of a tie, the team that completed the tasks in less time gets the win.
Locust characters typically rely on their natural abilities, but the four COG classes focus more on technology. Soldiers, medics, and scouts provide ammo, health/revives, and motion trackers, respectively. In Battlefield, you have to be in close proximity to a teammate to provide support, but Gears of War: Judgment allows these classes to toss their support items like a grenade. It didn’t take long for me to realize the value of this ability during my run as a scout. I perched myself in a tower and proceeded to toss tagging beacons that point out enemy locations from my elevated position. Scouts and Wretches are the only classes that can climb to these areas, so I had to keep a watchful eye on my back to make sure none of the scampering Locust were behind me. In the instances where I was taken down, I was revived by a quick-thinking medic teammate that tossed his stim grenade into my tower. During the same round, I received much-needed sniper ammo from a helpful soldier in the same fashion. Epic’s focus on team play is rewarding even at this early stage in the game’s development. My scout would have been crippled without the helping hands from my fellow COG.
Advanced tactics aren’t limited to the human characters; the Locust beasts have some novel cooperative strategies as well. Grenadiers can feed a grenade to a Ticker, which doubles its explosive power. In addition, the grenadier can kick Tickers over fortifications to deliver its doubly dangerous payload deeper into the enemy’s base.
As you take down fortifications, deal damage to emergence holes, and kill enemy COG, the Locust players earn points that can be used as currency to unlock more dangerous creatures. Tickers, Wretches, Grenadiers, and Kantus healing classes are always available, but you’ll have to save up points to access the second tier, consisting of Bloodmounts, Corpsers, Serapedes, and Maulers. After several rounds of experimenting, I eventually discovered some useful team strategies. At one point, fellow GI editor Tim Turi and I decided we were going to stockpile our points until we could attack with two Corpsers. We spawned as the burrowing creatures, then called out for a teammate to follow and heal us as a Kantus. With this constant stream of health, we destroyed several fortifications and unblocked an emergence hole with no trouble whatsoever. We took this strategy even further the next round, in which we handily destroyed the enemy generator thanks to the power of dual Maulers.