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Fenix nights: Gears of War 3 – four-player co-op hands-on

Monday, 15 August 2011 14:00 GMT By Stace Harman

Ahead of its launch next month, we check out the opening chapter of Epic’s four-player co-op war against the Locust. Includes words from Rod Fergusson and new screens and video.

Gears of War 3

The concluding part of the current Gears story arc but we’ll eat our collective hats if there aren’t further instalments in the multi-million selling Gears franchise

Designed to offer meaningful four-player co-op in which each character plays a starring role and nobody gets left behind

Story penned by UK novelist Karen Traviss

Features an overhauled Horde mode and the chance to play as the Locust in multiplayer Beast mode

Developed by Epic Games, published by Microsoft Studios and launching in US and PAL territories on September 20

Gears of War 2’s narrative arc involving Dom’s search for his abducted wife Maria concluded with a sucker punch. A pay-off that artfully elevated the otherwise hackneyed search and rescue plot device to stand as more than the sum of its parts.

The ruinous state of Maria’s physical and mental being illustrated that, irrespective of the macho bravado and it’ll-be-alright-on-the-night Hollywood-flavoured storyline of war against the Locust, the more personal battles being fought along the way could still pack an emotional punch. It was a more affecting moment than the fall of an entire city and far less comically inevitable than the fate of a certain rookie soldier.

So, in ramping up the number of playable protagonists from the previous instalment, Epic is mindful that each player should feel involved in the story – to not be made to feel like a faceless gun for hire; to have their own moments of narrative significance.

“There were a bunch of challenges for designing levels for four players and not just two,” Gears’ executive producer Rod Fergusson tells me after a four-player co-op session of chapter one. “Initially it started with the narrative: we had to think about how we create narrative that has four players in every scene.

“We were determined to ensure that our four player co-op wasn’t in the mould of ‘one hero and four clones’; that we wouldn’t just pretend that the other three players didn’t really exist in the story or in cut scenes.”

This task was largely the domain of UK author and international bestseller, Karen Traviss, whose appointment as lead writer on Gears 3 was a boon, as Fergusson describes it.

“Part of what we’re trying to do with the story is ensure each character is involved in the narrative and make it that much more personal,” he explains. “So, we have Marcus and his Dad alongside these ‘can’t go home stories’ of Cole and of Hoffman going back to Anvil gate. All of this stuff is us trying to tap into Karen’s expertise in writing books and novels and having deeper stories that we apply to our characters.”

Four play
With the narrative placed firmly in safe hands, Epic has focused on how best to make the busy business of running and gunning work for four players. Fergusson has previously spoken about the requirement to provide cover positions and flanking opportunities for four players and how, to facilitate this, Epic has gone back to the “combat bowls” of the first game – large, sealed off, arena-type areas in which battles can be pitched and players can work cooperatively without getting in each other’s way.

Our play-through of chapter one presents a number of these areas: from the large floating fortress the Gears now call home to town squares, sprawling warehouses and even a football stadium, each with sufficient space to accommodate the multiple burly forms rendered by the Unreal Engine.

Hanover in-game footage part one.

The concerted effort of our four human-players against hardcore-level opposition reveals that the game is no pushover, although Fergusson later explains that casual mode has been made easier to eliminate the barrier of entry for new players.

We lack headsets, so are unable to effectively communicate above the general hubbub of the dozen or so demo pods present, but despite this being chapter one and us being four players with varying levels of Gears experience, we see the game over screen more times than one might expect as one, some or all of us bleed-out at various times.

This is due, in no small part, to the Lambent: mutated Locust foes, misshapen and twisted by the effects of the Imulsion that has infected them. The Lambent are Epic’s specific and focused response to the threat of having four humans able to coordinate their efforts and they offer far tougher resistance than their less deformed Locust brethren.

“We looked very carefully at the difficulty issue, knowing that four human players would be much more effective than one player with AI bots,” Fergusson confirms. “We were aware that if all four players were to concentrate their fire on one enemy then they’re going to just mow them down, so that’s where the idea for the Lambent design came in.
“Now, we have enemies that are strong enough to counter that threat, that have the ability to mutate and shoot at multiple people at a time or to shoot over cover to drive players out into the open. They may also explode if players get in too close and just generally harder to kill. All of this is to deal with the difficulty level issues and to avoid players just tearing through the game.”

Hanover in-game footage part two.

You’ll never walk alone
So, the boxes marked inclusive narrative and balanced combat have been checked as far as four-player co-op is concerned. Elsewhere, the feel, tone and palette of the game are much as they’ve ever been. Perhaps understandably, Epic is choosing to refine the concepts that have defined its flagship franchise, rather than bringing eleventh hour overhauls to its tried, tested and hugely popular formula. Stepping away from the campaign mode, these refinements can be further seen in the more familiar multiplayer arena of Horde and its monster-mash equivalent, Beast.

Horde has gained a pseudo-strategic undercurrent in the form of fortifications that can be used against the ceaseless waves of Locust, Lambent and the bosses that appear every tenth wave. In a move that is further intended to remove barriers of entry to new players but that may also limit the capacity for strategists to create artificial choke-points, each of the five types of fortifications – barriers, decoys, sentries, turrets and the mech-suit Silver Backs – can only be deployed at predefined locations around command posts.

The result, Fergusson hopes, is a mode that now services players’ desires to do more than just shoot things in the face but that remains accessible to those who may be coming to Gears’ multiplayer for the first time.

“Horde is a mode that players that are a little intimidated by standard multiplayer or those that want to have a more co-operative multiplayer experience can enjoy,” he explains. So, we didn’t want to overcomplicate the core mode, which is why we have the idea of these predefined fortifications: we’re looking for that happy medium of providing interest with skill progression and variety but at the same time not making it really difficult.”

Raven in-game footage.

Fortifications will not feature in campaign mode in any form, with Fergusson telling us that “it wasn’t something that we wanted to go back and add in”, but Beast mode – in which you play as Locust taking down AI-only controlled humans – will feature it, albeit in modified form as you attempt to storm the trenches of the heroes and must “overcome the fortifications and deal with laser fences and whatnot.”

Alongside the lowered barrier for entry and multiple options for co-op is the addition of a graduated versus multiplayer. This latter feature is intended to ensure those big fish that have extensive experience of previous Gears games or the Gears 3 beta are kept out of the relatively small pond of casual multiplayer.

In Gears 3, Epic seems intent on providing the definitive Gears experience for new players and old hands alike. We must wait to see if that experience can sustain engaging four-player combat without feeling contrived, whilst simultaneously delivering a narrative with the potential to punch you in the heart.

Gears of War 3 launches for Xbox 360 on Tuesday September 20 in the US and PAL territories.

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1 Comments

  1. Xuchilbara

    Lol, everyone looks like a Pug in picture 5…

    #1 4 years ago

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  • Dragon Age: Inquisition mod enables male Blackwall romance, terrific joke

    “Male Inquisitors can now scale the wall,” says a clever Redditor. A new Dragon Age: Inquisition mod removes Blackwall’s romantic restrictions, allowing male Inquisitors to chat up the fuzzy-faced warrior. Blackwall doesn’t have any race preferences, so you’re good to go there. Dragon Age: Inquisition romance mods are pretty common by now, and to be […]

  • Destiny: it is possible to solo the Weekly Heroic

    Destiny players willing to faff about with their system clock can solo the Weekly Nightfall if they prefer. The Weekly Heroic is one of Destiny‘s toughest challenges. Responding to player feedback Bungie implemented matchmaking for the Weekly Heroic, but there are players who genuinely prefer to go it alone. There’s now no legitimate way to […]

  • Clayfighter remaster on the way, says Interplay

    A Clayfighter remake is inbound, apparently. Interplay has announced a Clayfighter remaster, combining the content of all past games into one package. Features include: Characters such as Bad Mr. Frosty, Blue Suede Goo, Earthworm Jim, Hoppy, Boogerman, Tiny – and more with over 20 characters total Over 20 familiar environments from the series to duke […]

  • The quickest way to climb in Dying Light

    Dying Light players! Are you sick of picking your way carefully up the sides of tall towers? Have I got a trick for you. The parkour system in Dying Light is okay, but climbing anywhere especially high can be a bit tedious. Enter Jesse Lester, who took a look at the tools available and worked […]

  • Bungie “always” looking at Exotic changes for Destiny updates

    Destiny developer Bungie won’t stop tinkering with Exotic weapons. In Destiny, Exotic weapons are supposed to be the best of the best – and to feel unique. Guns like Ice Breaker and Gjallahorn definitely hit the mark there (although less so when everyone has one), but unfortunately, there are a few that just don’t strike […]

  • Is Uncharted 4′s first trailer a tribute to Crash Bandicoot?

    Uncharted 4′s first proper trailer bears some remarkable similarities to the opening moments of a much earlier Naughty Dog game. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End has more in common with Crash Bandicoot than you might think. It’s Naughty Dog’s first game on a new console, yes – but if you compare Uncharted 4′s E3 2014 […]

  • Sonic console games will continue, says Iizuka

    Sonic Team leader Takashi Iizuka has said there are no plans to stop making Sonic games. Sonic hasn’t retired from the ranks just yet. “Please rest assured, I personally have no plans to stop making Sonic games for home consoles,” Iizuka told 4Gamer [Japanese]. The comment arose after the site asked if Sonic would become […]

  • Stealth Inc. 2 coming to PSN, apparently

    Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones will soon be available on PlayStation platforms, if a trophy list is to be believed. Stealth Inc. 2 initially launched as a Wii U exclusive, disappointing fans of Curve Studios’ tough action game. We’ve heard nothing to contradict this, but Exophase, a generally reliable source, has dug up […]

  • Runescape developer has an “undisclosed MMO” in the works

    Runescape developer Jagex is working on something new. According to Jagex’s careers page, the developer has a new, unannounced game in the works. Its advertisement for a lead programmer makes explicit mention of an “undisclosed MMO”. The ad mentions the new title is in “the preliminary stages of redefining the cross platform MMORPG genre” and […]

  • Destiny PvP rewards system to be addressed

    Destiny developer Bungie has said it will change the way Crucible rewards work. Destiny players are always complaining about the perfidy of RNGesus, but there’s one area where it particularly hurts: the Crucible. PvP players often receive nothing at all for excellent performances, and sometimes Guardians receive the best drops merely for logging in as […]

  • Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 in the works for 3DS

    Azure Striker Gunvolt is getting a sequel. Azure Striker Gunvolt developer Inti Creates has confirmed that the sidescroller has been popular enough to warrant a second instalment. The sequel will also be released on 3DS, the team said on Facebook. Very little information is available at present, unfortunately. “As time goes on we will have […]

  • Life is Strange Episode 2 not delayed, says developer

    Life is Strange developer Dontnod Entertainment has said the second episode is on track for release this month. I guess it would know. Life is Strange Episode 2 has been expected on March 13, but late last week Square Enix told Destructoid it had been delayed. Dontnod has since denied this report, describing it as […]

  • First SteamVR game reveal is Job Simulator

    Job Simulator is the first game to be announced specifically for SteamVR, Valve’s virtual reality tech. Shoot Many Robots and Aaaaa! For the Awesome! developer Owlchemy Labs is the first team to put its hand up and say it’s worked with SteamVR. In a blog post, the studio unveiled Job Simulator, which will be playable […]

  • HTC, Valve partner for Vive VR headset

    The first SteamVR announce is a headset a manufactured by HTC, the Taiwanese mobile company revealed over the weekend. Valve told us last week it planned to unveil virtual reality hardware at GDC, calling it “SteamVR” at the time. Now HTC has pre-empted Valve by revealing Vive, a headset developed thanks to a collaboration between […]

  • Watch the Evolve Chappie Challenge tomorrow on Twitch

    Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2K and Turtle Rock Studios have announced a tournament being hosted by ESL, which will see Evolve players take on newest movie robot, Chappie. The ESL has teamed up with Twitch for the live 4 on 1 competitive event, and you can watch as it all unfolds tomorrow, March 1 at 3pm […]

  • If you’re attending PAX East, stop and have a look at Necropolis

    We haven’t heard much on Harebrained Schemes’ latest since it was announced in November, but today, the team has seen fit to release some interesting gifs of its a new project, Necropolis. Necropolis is a third-person action rogue-like with procedurally generated which can be “re-rolled mid-playthrough” and is headed to Linux, Mac and PC sometime […]

  • Dragon’s Dogma Online really is lovely, as these screenshots prove

    More Dragon’s Dogma Online screenshots have been released, and this batch is just as lovely as the last gallery we posted. Since this game will likely never leave Japan, the images are a bit of a salt rub for fans of the IP, but hopefully another entry in the series will be released at some […]

  • Action-RPG Death’s Gambit has a classic-Castlevania feel to it

    How would you like to become an agent of Death and rid the world of immortals? Then Death’s Gambit may just be the game for you. Announced by LA-based studio White Rabbit, the action-RPG with platforming elements tasks players with fighting gigantic enemies on an alien, medieval planet. Players will also encounter formidable beasts, knights, […]

  • Modder adds offline co-op into Resident Evil: Revelations 2

    PC users lamenting the lack of local, offline co-op in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 will be pleased to know a modder has remedied the omission. The mod, created by FluffyQuack, adds offline co-op mode to Episode 1 but the only caveat is players will need to use gamepads instead of mouse and keyboard (via Gamespot). […]

  • Number of Steam accounts with Dota 2 installed hits over 42 million

    Dota 2 has seen its installation rate jump 85% year-over-year, resulting in the MOBA now having close to 43 million installations worldwide. The figures were published via a report from video game research and consulting firm EEDAR, which studied Steam accounts daily to better understand the service’s player behavior and title performance. According to statistics […]

  • Nintendo issuing Eon Ticket codes for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

    Nintendo is handing out an Eon Ticket to Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire owners which will allow them to visit the Southern Island. Once a player arrives, depending on which version of the game they own, Pokemon Latios and Latias are able to be caught. The Eon Ticket was originally issued via StreetPass, but […]

  • Here’s a couple The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt screenshots to brighten your day

    Two images for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have surfaced on the game’s Facebook page. Grabbed by Gamekyo, the images show Gerlat and Vesemir chatting with a fellow, and the other shows Geralt riding up to some ruins where some people have been hanged. CD Projekt Red will make an appearance at PAX East next […]

  • Hyrule Warriors Boss Pack DLC contains unlockable character – potential spoilers

    While you already know the next DLC for Hyrule Warriors will allow you to play as the gigantic beast Ganon, there’s a rather humorous unlockable character contained in it as well. Potential spoilers follow below. When the DLC arrived in Japan February 26, YouTuber moccos-tan IsedelicaAs posted a video of the unlockable character, which is […]

  • Star Trek Online players gather on Vulcan to pay respects to Leonard Nimoy

    Star Trek Online players paid tribute to Leonard Nimoy yesterday by gathering around a fountain on Vulcan, the home planet of Spock in the Star Trek series. According to a post by barnacle999 on reddit, when he logged into the MMO “there were around 20 full instances and several partial,” culminating in around 1000 players […]