Monday, 26 September 2011

Taking on the horde and moaning about it

It is scary how fast time moves. I was happily minding my own business, not playing with much since completing Deus Ex Human Revolution, and then Gears of War 3 suddenly appeared. The game’s September release has always seemed miles away, and so when the week leading up to release day finally arrived it came as a surprise. Needless to say, I rushed out to my nearest supermarket (because specialist game retailers can sit and swivel on their prices) and picked up a copy on day one.

Having beaten the campaign I decided to place a quivering toe into the personally unknown waters of Gears multiplayer. And then the next thing I knew, it was Monday. I’ve really taken to Gears of War 3’s multiplayer and can finally be happy that the extortionate cost of Xbox Live might actually be slightly worth it for once (although online gaming should be free). My highlight is probably Horde mode. But as much as I like fighting off the hordes of running, screaming meat targets, I can’t help but feel the mode is poorly designed.

To avoid facing the inevitable noob abuse on my first go, I looked up some tips so it would at least appear like I had half a clue what was going on. The very first piece of advice I read was ‘go to the toilet before you start’. This is probably the single best tip I can pass on. A proper game of horde mode will last for hours. I’ve only managed to get up to wave 30 at the moment, and that took me and the random Internet folk I was playing with about two hours. The 30 second window between waves is certainly not adequate enough for an accurate wee. The most you can hope for is minimal collateral splashing should you attempt a mid-match toilet sprint. Even then you might return to your console and find your gear avatar bellowing “Revive me!”

Players are also far too eager to quit. The mode is designed for five players to tackle, but in most games, someone drops out after 10 or 15 minutes, immediately extinguishing your hopes of setting a new record. The reduced man power hits hard as every enemy starts gunning for you, like a herd of bulls that have seen red in a china shop full of matadors with haemophilia. Funnily enough, co-op multiplayer modes aren’t fun with fewer people when the difficulty curve assumes you have a full team.

A game mode that demands a large time commitment from five people who probably don’t know each other is asking a lot. I always feel guilty if I have to leave any game, and that guilt often keeps me in play for a few extra rounds. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the mind set of everyone. However, I do accept that emergencies crop up and people have to prioritise real problems over virtual genocide.

Epic Game’s could easily solve this issue if they added a matchmaking option that allowed players to join games in progress. This way you can continue playing after someone has dropped, as another player can drop in behind them. The only thing this might upset are the horde achievements related to completing waves, but to be honest I couldn’t care less about Gamerscore if a fix to the issue can be found. Actually, I couldn’t care less about Gamerscore if I tried.