Cliff Bleszinski dishes on Gears and games

Gears of War 2 designer Cliff Bleszinski's thoughts on the game, the importance of co-op, Xbox 360 storage limitations and how demos can actually spoil games.

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GamePro: Horde multiplayer mode is a pleasant surprise. What was the inspiration behind it? Cliff Bleszinski: We definitely knew we wanted a bigger co-op experience. Five players make sense, because in multiplayer we support five-on-five now. Being able to help your buddies by voice chat after you're dead — "you've got two Boomers coming around the corner!" — shifts your role into a meta-strategy game, too. We wanted the campaign to be bigger, but we didn't want to arbitrarily string four players together like a chain gang. Did you ever see Oh Brother Where Art Thou? If you look at the online numbers for other games, the number of players that play four-player co-op are surprisingly small.

Why is that? Is that why the Gears 2 campaign only supports two players? The thing is, everybody says they want four-player co-op...but as you add in more players, the narrative experience decreases exponentially. Have you ever tried to watch a movie with four drunk people? Some have to go pee, some have to grab chips...I don't want to discount that [larger co-op] experience, but we took what works with four or five players and moved it into a Smash TV or Geometry Wars setting. For a story-driven campaign mode like ours, I think two players is kind of a sweet spot. It's easy to grab one buddy, whether you're online or on splitscreen, and just go.

Golden guns — are they just aesthetic? The golden Hammerburst is offered to folks who go to the midnight madness launch events. The gold Lancer comes with the Collector's Edition of Gears of War 2. So if you go to the midnight madness and buy the Collector's Edition, you get both. It's such a cheesy thing — it's just a weapon skin, a texture — but it winds up being a big deal in gameplay. It looks impressive when you see it in-game, and it helps player visibility so you can spot friends more quickly.

How many rounds are in Horde? Do the enemies get stronger? There are 50 waves, and in later waves the enemies will get modifiers such as double health, so coordinating fire and active reloads become a very big deal. I think Horde is the dark horse of Gears of War 2, people are going to be surprised by it.

What happens if you clear all 50 waves? Honestly, I don't f*cking know. I've only gotten to wave 40! You totally caught me there — I need to beat it before we ship.

Is there anything to unlock, or any secrets that tie into Horde? All of your Achievements count in Horde. There aren't any specific unlockables in Horde, but there are unlockables in the main game. If you encounter certain enemies in the single-player campaign, you'll unlock them for multiplayer play, such as the Locust priests.

How important is a co-op experience these days for a shooter? In the last few years, it's gone from being 'nice' to being 'necessary.' It was a feature that gets planned early on in a lot of games but later gets cut. In a post-Halo, post-Gears world, I think you've got to have it. It's a great way to expose an inexperienced player to a game, and allow them to have fun. It's great for getting girlfriends to play, too.

What games do co-op well, in your opinion? Who are the guiding lights of co-op? Not many, to be honest. Most people play Halo co-op, and Halo is one that does a great job of it. One thing I hate in co-op games is this [gestures in an "alley-oop" position]. That needs to go away. Of all the things you can do with weaponry and moves in co-op, your big unique idea is to give somebody a leg up? Really?!

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