Editor’s note: Ryan Smith is a longtime gamer and freelance writer who lives in Raleigh, NC. A graduate of East Carolina University with a degree in business and marketing, he has written in the past for WRAL Tech Wire and GameArgus.com. He currently plays Xbox 360 and PC as well as Nintendo DS. For story ideas, tips and feedback, he can be reached via e-mail (ryannicksmith@gmail.com)

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Gears of War 3 has been out for only two weeks now with more than 3 million copies sold, but Cary-based Epic Games has already announced the first DLC (Downloadable Content) pack, arriving Nov. 1.

The title of this DLC is the “Horde Command Pack,” as it deals primarily with Horde mode and looks to be providing some interesting additions. Horde mode which originally appeared in Gears of War 2, is a five-player cooperative game type where players hole up and build defensive fortifications to withstand 50 ever more difficult waves of Locust and Lambent enemies.

A look at the DLC:

Three new maps

• Blood Drive – A Gears of War 2 favorite for Horde mode, full of choke points and great high ground for the players to hole up in.
• Rustlung – The beautiful scenery of the COG capital ship from the first act of the campaign makes a return into Horde mode, it even features a Silverback mech suit to use against the hordes (the Silverback is a ton of fun in the campaign, it’s even better in Horde mode)
• Azura – One of the most beautiful levels from any Gears game is now featured in Horde mode, with two sniper rifles overlooking a “powerful explosive weapon” and a central platform that makes the ideal final stand location.

New Fortification Upgrades

In Gears of War 3’s Horde mode you can actually rack up cash or “points” and spend them on upgrades such as decoys, automated turrets or laser fences.

• Command Center – A new fortification type that lets you call in fire support from sniper teams, mortar strikes and even multiple Hammers of Dawn.
• Decoy Upgrade – A new higher level decoy upgrade that will actually turn into an Onyx Guard (elite trooper) bot and fight by your side (I am also really excited about this one).
• Sentry Upgrade – The new level of upgrades for your sentry turns it into the “fire bolt” sentry, which deals much more damage and is particularly effective against the fire vulnerable, bullet invincible Berserkers that arrive on boss waves (every 10th wave).
• Silverback Upgrades – Even more firepower and with more experience, even cheaper repair costs.

New Characters

• Onyx Guard – The elite commandos of Chairman Prescott, the Onyx guard are no ordinary soldiers. In Beast mode they are the most deadly combatants of the final waves. Now you get to play them and bring the pain to the Locust instead.
• Big Rig Dizzy – A new skin for Dizzy, the eccentric truck driver who is quite at home during the apocalypse.
• Bernie – The somewhat enigmatic love interest of Colonel Hoffman. A prominent character in Gears lore, she only briefly appears in the Gears of War campaign in the third installment, she is now a playable multiplayer character.

The new content is not just available in Horde mode, but also in Beast mode and privately hosted Versus matches. Also featuring two new weapon skins (Team Plasma and Jungle Camo) the new DLC looks very promising. I love me some Horde mode and I have already spent a few long nights with friends battling against wave after wave of the Locust and Horde onslaught. I am really excited about the new content, but at the typical DLC price of 800 Microsoft Points (or $10) is it really enough to justify the cost? I’m not sure as of yet, but I will get it and let you know.

Around the Gaming World

Rocksteady Studios, developers of the most highly acclaimed comic book game ever “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” have recently announced another playable character (aside from Batman of course and Catwoman) in the upcoming sequel Batman: Arkham City. The new character is none other than Robin, Batman’s eternal sidekick.

Playable only on the challenge maps (unique, nonlinear missions that are separate from the story mode) Robin is currently only available as a pre-order bonus, but he looks like a ton of fun to play. The only one of the three playable characters to feature an actual weapon, his bo staff is a fantastic weapon but also transforms into a shield. I can’t wait to play this game.

Watch Robin exclusive trailer here.

Batman: Arkham City drops on Oct. 18, so if you want to play as Robin, make sure you preorder now.

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