Gears of War 4 is one of the major games of the fall season, and one way Microsoft is keeping the franchise fresh is a new twist on the game’s co-op play mode, known as Horde 3.0.
Horde 3.0 embraces a new style of defensive gameplay, where the optimal way to play will emerge over time, depending on what happens in the early part of the combat. In Horde 3.0, a five-player co-op team has to try to survive 50 waves of Swarm and DeeBee attackers, said Ryan Clevin, lead multiplayer designer at Microsoft’s Gears studio, The Coalition.
“We’ve got an entirely new set of armies the players will face,” Clevin said. “We have embraced the emergent play that we saw happen in Gears of War 2 and the original Horde. We saw players experiment with play and we wanted to blow that out.”
In Gears of War 3, the defenses were prescribed, such as the location of a turret. In the new Gears, that’s up to the players.
“We’ve given players a whole new way to play and defend,” Clevin said. “This came from the moments of surprise in Gears of War 2,” where players could put down “boom shields” that channeled the enemies in a particular direction.
“We wanted to go deeper to enable player choice,” he said.
Microsoft is showing off the Horde 3.0 mode at the PAX West game fan event in Seattle. It is also featuring a “First to 50 event” at the PAX arena to see who will be the first player to make it to Wave 50. The teams will include Xbox personalities, YouTubers, and esports pros.
The Swarm enemies are more like the traditional Locusts in past Gears of War games. They’re massive creatures that are hard to kill, but nothing that a chainsaw bayonet can’t handle. The new enemies are the DeeBees, which are robotic enemies that can roll on the ground or attack from the air.
With every 10 waves completed, the co-op players have to face a Boss Wave.
Meanwhile, Horde 3.0 features a Fabricator unit, which enables players to build defenses such as turrets, weapons, and barriers to keep the Horde at bay.
There’s also a new class-based system lets you tailor your team with five variations in roles: Soldier, Sniper, Scout, Heavy, and Engineer.
The Soldier can plant more grenades and hold more. The sniper has bonuses for headshots and marksman skills. The sniper has to take down the big creatures before they get to the rest of the team. The Scout has to pick up more energy on the ground to power the Fabricator. The engineer is great at building and rebuilding. The Heavy is great at massive firepower and putting up turrets. Each class has a progression to follow, with up to 10 skills that can be added over time.
“Different players can choose the role and skill they want to develop,” Clevin said.
The mode will also feature Gears Cards, which let gamers add one-time bonuses like “10 percent more damage with lancers” and ”Carry 20 percent more explosive ammunition.”
Clevin said, “We think the best way to play will depend on what emerges. You could pile ten barriers in a row to see if that works.”
The game will have cross play, with the ability for friends on the Windows PC or the Xbox One to play together in the same co-op match.