Gears of War: Judgment's new hotness: OverRun mode

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Gears of War: Judgment's new hotness: OverRun mode
I do enjoy a nice surprise and Gears of War: Judgment's 'OverRun' mode was the highlight of my recent visit to Epic Games. The mode combines Gears of War 3's team-defense Horde mode and team-offense Beast mode, with a dash of Battlefield's objective-destroying Rush variant, to create another compelling team experience within the Gears universe.

Although Epic still isn't talking about the changes to the cooperative defense-focused Horde mode for Judgment, OverRun feels more like an evolution of Beast mode. Here's the basics: two class-based teams of five, one side COG and the other Locust, face off with the COGs defending and the locust destroying a sequence of objectives. The team with the most points after playing both roles wins.

The maps for OverRun are custom made for the mode, with each objective in the chain becoming more difficult for the Locust to destroy. I played the Junkyard map for about two hours and, much like Horde, you're going to need to play this mode with a group of friends. Without proper communication, it will be nearly impossible to win against a team that's using basic coordination.

Gears of War Judgment's new hotness Overrun
For the COGs, that coordination involves having an engineer repair fortifications munched on or blasted by locust tickers, while a scout tosses out motion trackers to identify locust positions, as the healer drops a stim grenade on the engineer, while the solider and everyone else provides fire support. Of course, the team could be two engineers, with a floating healer and a pair of soldiers as support. The COG makeup depends on what the locust are throwing out.

The locust team interface is similar to that of Beast mode in Gears of War 3. The first row of spawnable locust are "free," while the second row of more powerful creatures require accumulating points through kills or breaking barriers. The first row contains the ticker, wretch, grenadier and kantus. An initial strategy could be to have two tickers go out, explode on a barrier, have the wretch jump over the barrier to distract the COGs, while the grenadier breaks the barrier and the kantus heals while providing some cover fire. Or, you know, the whole team could just spawn as tickers, chew through defenses and exploding when discovered. This latter strategy is most effective early on.

A complication that did arise over playing the same map for a couple hours is that the locust team was practically guaranteed to complete every objective, with the win being awarded on end-game point tallies. Whether this was a balance issue of the mode or intended wasn't very clear, but a team that obtains enough points to unlock the second tier locusts of rager, serapede, mauler and corpser will overrun the COG position. My way of winning nearly every final section as locust was: save enough points for the corpser, get close to the objective, then burrow under the ground to distract the COG, then pop up right on the objective and break it open like a piñata. Even if my corpser became the focus of the COGs (and it was), the COG would be so busy trying to kill me they wouldn't pay attention to the four other locust that were about to kill them and take the objective between their respawn. See, there's definitely some balance issues to work out.

Gears of War Judgment's new hotness Overrun
If you watched the original announcement of OverRun during E3, you may have noticed the bloodmount mentioned. The bloodmount has now been removed and replaced by the rager, a new locust to the series. The rager is a smaller than normal locust equipped with the long-range breechshot, who then turns red like a lobster and Hulks out (pictured above).

OverRun has some balancing issues to work out, but like Horde before it, is a great multiplayer alternative. It's something for players who want something competitive with friends in the Gears universe, but are looking for something more strategy than team and free for all deathmatch.

Gears of War: Judgment arrives exclusively on the Xbox 360 on March 19, 2013.
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