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Gears of War 3 — Horde Command DLC review

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Yesterday brought Epic Games‘ first downloadable content pack release for Gears of War 3, the “Horde Command Pack.” It’s included as part of the Gears 3 Season Pass, or can be purchased for 800 MS Points for those who prefer to pay for their DLC a la carte. No matter how it finds its way onto your Xbox 360 hard drive, Horde Command adds a number of new elements to the game: three new maps for use in Horde and Beast modes, three new character skins, two new weapons skins and a handful of upgraded fortification features in Horde mode. All the three maps offer some fun times. 

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Azura- Azura is set at one of Sera’s exclusive luxury resorts; it’s a lush map, filled with greens and earthy browns. It’s also a fairly straightforward map, with a large central area that offers some good sightlines for thinning out the Locust hordes from a distance.

Your best bet for Horde success on Azura is setting up your first command post near either the aqueduct spawn or waterwheel spawn at the left and right sides of the map. Use the walkway that the command post is on as a fallback point and take up defensive positions in the two rooms the walkway leads into.

Rustlung- This map is set aboard a decommissioned battleship and, as such, it’s got a similar feel to the early missions in the Gears 3 campaign. It’s very large and open in the central area, just like Azura, but the layout of the corridors that break off from this main space is much more confusing. Of the three maps, this is probably the most challenging for Horde play (and, similarly, the friendliest to Beast play).

The best place to defend is probably the munitions bay (look for the half-circle-shaped walkway in the lower portion of the map). It might get crowded here with five, but it’s really the only good spot for funneling Locust forces into out of what’s available. Better yet, play this map on Beast to dominate the puny humans, since they’ll have no place to hide.

Blood Drive- The last of the new maps isn’t actually new at all. Blood Drive is a returning fan-favorite from Gears of War 2. It offers the best defensive positions of the three Horde Command maps, with lots of high ground positions and some solid fallback locations the funnel any interlopers through choke points. While the map looks a little different visually, it’s physically unchanged from its Gears 2 appearance.

It’s easy to dominate in Horde mode on Blood Drive. In Gears 2, before the days of Horde 2.0 fortifications, it was all about planting Mauler shields in strategic locations. Now though? Establish dominance early by setting yourself up at the top of the stairs outside the diner spawn. Then use the diner itself as a fallback location; the door that’s right next to where you’re camping is the only way into or out of it. Getting through 50 rounds should be a breeze.

“Horde Command” also adds some new features to your Horde fortifications. The biggest change is an entirely new category, the Command Center, which you can unlock by spending $360,000 on turrets. It basically works like an “Oh sh-t” button; if things are going sideways on you, hit up the command center for fire support from snipers, mortars and even Hammers of Dawn.

The existing categories also got some upgrades. There’s a new top-level Decoy unlock that turns your animatronic mannequin into a full-blown Onyx Guard bot that moves around and fights with your squad. Sentry turrets now have a fire-based upgrade level, which should be VERY useful against Berserker bosses. Finally, the Silverback can now be upgraded with rockets. That’s a win for everyone.

All told, the “Horde Command Pack” is strongly recommended if you’re a fan of the Horde and Beast modes. These three maps, plus two more, will be available as a free DLC release later this month when they’re added the the Versus multiplayer playlists. If Versus is more your thing, then you’ll want to skip this DLC unless you absolutely CANNOT go without new character skins (Big Rig Dizzy, Onyx Guard, Bernie) and weapon skins (Team Plasma, Jungle Camo). And if you bought a Season Pass when Gears 3 dropped in September, then this one’s a no-brainer. Just accept the download.

 (This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by Microsoft Studios)