There's no question that Gears of War 3 is one of the best games released this year, and it's easily a contender for several annual video game awards. So when Epic Games revealed details for Gears of War 3's first downloadable add-on, the community surrounding the blockbuster game was understandably pumped to play through three new multiplayer maps, try out the new weapon and character skins, and tear through waves of enemies with the new weapons found in 'Horde mode'.
All of this content seemed like a good deal for 800 Microsoft Points ($10), but then Epic Games did something that drastically devalued the add-on — they announced they'd be making these particular Gears 3 maps available for free in a month. So is the first batch of DLC for Gears of War 3, titled the Horde Command Pack, worth your hard-earned money? Not at all.
The three maps that come included in the Horde Command Pack are a lot of fun. Azura, Rust Lung, and Blood Drive are all drastically different from one another, and they each offer unique ways to face off against the opposing team. Of course, the maps are the biggest appeal of the add-on, but the fact that they'll all be free in less than a month instantly reduces the attractiveness of this purchase.
Blood Drive is actually a returning map from Gears of War 2, and it is looking rather dapper with its updated look. One of the coolest new additions (as far as I'm aware of) is the ability to mount out the window and onto the stairs in case you get cornered. The best part is that once you leap over the side, you can't get back in, and this adds a nice layer of strategy to window jumping. This is easily one of the best maps from Gears of War 3's predecessor, and it's good to see Blood Drive make its triumphant return.
While it's great to see a classic map reappear, it's even better to play on some new maps. That's why it's a good thing that the Gears of War 3 Horde Command Pack includes two brand new maps — Azura and Rustlung. Azura takes place on the island where Adam Fenix is being held by the Locust horde, and it is a sunny and rather delightful map. There are a few higher ground areas that offer vantage points over other players online or the impending Locust swarms in 'Horde Mode'.
Rustlung, on the other hand, takes place on the ship that Marcus and friends are on in the beginning of the game's campaign. The map isn't particularly large, but it offers a very different way to play. There is a large open area in the middle of the ship, and while that may not seem all that spectacular at first, players will quickly come to realize that there really is nowhere that they're entirely safe. It's very hard to find solid cover, and players will often be checking their sides in an attempt to avoid being completely destroyed by enemy fire.
Those looking to jump online and play some multiplayer will be upset to find that there is no playlist for the new map pack. This is because the new maps have been limited to private matches for the time being... The pro to this is that you can actually invite friends who don't have the maps and play with them on Azura, Blood Drive, and Rust Lung. That ability is something that has never been done by any game other game before, and it is a good way to show friends what they'll be getting access to on November 24th.
Putting the maps aside, the rest of the add-on gives players access to three new character skins for use in multiplayer: Big Rig Dizzy, Onyx Guard, and Bernadette Mataki (a.k.a. Bernie). There is also a brand new Jungle Camo and Team Plasma sets of weapon skins, so if players interested in collecting those bad boys will be happy to learn that they are available exclusively in this add-on. More achievements totalling an additional 250 gamerscore are also added, for those 'chievo fiends out there.
The last bit of the add-on brings new fortifications to Gears of War 3's 'Horde mode', which sounds like a great idea for anyone who plays a substantial amount of that particular game mode. The new fortifications include:
- an upgrade to the sentry so that it will shoot flame bullets; a weapon that players may find crucial against Beserkers.
- an upgrade to the silverback so that it can now shoot missiles.
- the ability to upgrade decoys to a fully functioning Onyx Guard robot.
- a brand new armament called the Command Center which allows you to call for backup in the form of sniper fire, mortar strikes, and even Hammer of Dawn attacks.
These additions are all appreciated, and add a little extra for fans. However, since these maps will all be free within a month's time, it's hard to imagine that anyone but die-hard Gears fans will find the rest of the content to be worth $10. If you're a casual Gears fan - save your money for RAAM's Shadow.
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