Hands-On With Gears Of War: Judgment's OverRun Mode
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.
Ticker rushes are a frequent Locust strategy at the beginning of rounds, as they’re useful for taking down the COG’s defenses. These bug-like creatures are equipped with a dash ability, which allows them to reach a fortification and self-detonate before the humans even know they are coming. COG players can spawn as the engineer class (represented by Baird) during these initial rounds if they’re hoping to keep the fences operational for as long as possible. Engineers have a sentry gun ability that operates on a cooldown timer, which is great for taking out incoming Tickers while repairing damaged fortifications with a blowtorch. The blowtorch usually has to reload after several seconds, but this can be avoided if a soldier class tosses an ammo supply near your work area. With a sentry gun deployed and a nearby ammo drop refilling your blowtorch, you can quickly repair barriers in relative safety.
While Ticker rushes are typically the go-to strategy during most initial Locust attacks, the variety of creatures allows for flexibility. Occasionally, I played as a Wretch, which granted me the ability to hop over fortifications and scream at COG soldiers to stun them. If the COG were assembling on the right side of a map to combat a Ticker rush, I’d sneak around the left using the Wretch’s ability to climb onto platforms that others can’t and scream at the opposing team from behind. With the COG stunned, the Tickers were free to come out from behind cover and begin eating away at the fence before the engineer had a chance to repair it. If you team up with another Wretch, you can eliminate the scream ability’s cooldown period by alternating. One Wretch stuns the COG while the other swats at them with the melee attack, and the second Wretch re-stuns them once the initial attack wears off.
Each playable unit has a unique ability tied to the left bumper, such as the aforementioned engineer sentry, Ticker dash, and Wretch scream. Epic wants players to use each character’s ability on a regular basis, but still be vulnerable in-between recharges. During our gameplay sessions, most abilities operated on a 6- to15-second cooldown timer, and they varied wildly. Serapedes rear up and spit poison at foes, Maulers spin their shields and reflect bullets, Corpsers burrow underground to avoid taking damage, Grenadiers toss explosives and ride Bloodmounts, and the shaman-like Kantus provide support with a heal ability that protects all nearby Locust.
Over the course of two days, we played several hours of OverRun mode and continuously discovered new strategies that led to more tactical and engaging rounds. While our skill level never reached a point that allowed us to beat Epic on a regular basis, the pursuit was consistently entertaining and left us wanting more. Even at this early stage, OverRun certainly feels like it will become the premiere multiplayer mode for Judgment.
Look forward to more exclusive Gears of War: Judgment coverage in the upcoming month, including strategies and further details on the various OverRun classes.