Since yesterday's post was about an area in which Gears of War 2 came up short, in the interest of balance I may as well mention an area in which it, er, comes up long. (Parallelism!) I'm talking, of course, about Horde.
Horde is really, truly fantastic, worth the price of admission, a non-stop roller-coaster ride of chills, thrills and spills, and so on. I've talked often about my general distaste for online multiplayer gaming, which has its roots in a few distinct places. Specifically:
- I am shy
- People are jerks
- I suck at video games
- Generally, I'd prefer a storyline to pure competition
- Seriously, have you heard these d-bags on Xbox Live
More to the point, when I play Horde I feel like this is the game I remember. I haven't even made it to wave 10 out of 50 yet. The enemy advantage in both numbers and firepower becomes ludicrous by about the third wave, which is exactly how it ought to be. Flanking maneuvers with the help of your teammates become more important and useful than they ever are in the single-player game. Peeking out of cover for even a second too long can be fatal. There are numerous opportunities to feel like a hero for reviving your downed teammates, and your teammates in turn are much more willing to help you out than AI Dom ever seemed to be.
The fact that Horde doesn't follow a narrative arc isn't important, either, because with the benefit of two campaigns to serve as a backdrop, it's easy to picture it as a massive single battle in the context of the larger war. And it solves the problem I thought I had with the campaign: In Horde, the player is entirely on the defensive. There's no storming forward, no "lightmass bomb" to detonate. It's just head-in-the-dirt shooting, and the fear that comes with it. When I first heard about Horde, it almost sounded dumb to me. Instead, it's Gears of War stripped to its most elemental. It's genius.
(Now if we could just do something about that matchmaking system...)