Gears of War 3

It’s strange to think that the Gears of War trilogy has only existed in this generation. In fact the series is even younger than that, at only five years old. It seems like longer to me. I’ve never considered myself to be a big Gears fan really. I played and enjoyed the first two games and for a good month Gears 2 was my multiplayer game of choice. I’ve always liked the setting and the characters, and I even have a soft spot for the overly emotional adverts. So when I say I never considered myself a big fan, I guess I must have been mistaken.

By now you’ve probably already scrolled to the end to see what score I’ve given Gears of War 3, if not I admire the patience you’ve shown thus far and to reward that I’m going to say that Gears of War 3 is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played.

It must be a daunting task to create a game that not only completes a trilogy but attempts to better the preceding chapters in every way it can. While it could be said that Gears 3 doesn’t really push the genre in the way the original game that defined it does, it just about perfects it. The previous games were very good, the weapons felt powerful, the controls were solid, the story was well written and the visuals consistently pushed the Xbox 360 to new levels. Gears 3 offers improvements in every area. For those not in the know, the Gears of War series tells the story of the humans of the planet Sera and their struggle against the Locust horde that came to the surface during Emergence Day. The series practically defined the genre of the third person cover based shooter and has consistently raised the bar with every release.

Speaking generally, everything in the game looks richer and better defined, with fire and lighting really standing out. In the past, Gears could have been criticised for being overly grey and dingy, but this final chapter offers a welcome change as it moves Delta Squad into a set of bright and often beautiful environments. Sure, most of the buildings have been destroyed and quite a bit of the world is either burnt or burning, but it’s mostly bright and sunny outside, so much so that our heroes have seen fit to remove some of their heavy armour.

Some amount of PR noise was made about this new look for Marcus and his boys (and girls), and it makes sense within the confines of the story but also manages to humanise the cast a little by making them look less like huge robots with a face. This is helped along by the addition of the two female COG soldiers. Anya has been present throughout the series but has given up her post as remote intel officer and has slapped on some summer season armour and picked up a Lancer. Unlike Sam who, while still softening the mood a little, is a more battle hardened soldier. Having them as part of the core team takes the edge off of the testosterone fuelled group and helps the more emotional moments in the game seem more genuine.

Even though the team is much bigger than we’ve seen before, the active squad rotates frequently throughout the story, with any non-active members off completing some secondary objective to move things along. At one point early on you even play out the same series of events as two different squads. I had hoped for more sections like this, but the rest of the away team’s missions were just relayed via radio contact. There are several parts of the game which could make perfect ‘other side of the story’ downloadable missions.

Anya and Sam bring a refreshing change to Delta Squad.

Being the final part of a trilogy, fans of the series will be expecting answers. A great deal was left unknown at the end of the second game so there is much to cover here. As with all well realised stories these answers are linked together, and by the end of the campaign you’ll know what caused E-Day, why the Locust are being turned into Lambent and of course the fate of the human race on Sera. That said you could happily play this game without a clue of preceding events, there is a short ‘Previously on Gears’ video that will bring you up to speed, and it’s worth watching even if you know the story back to front.

The game plays out over a reasonably lengthy five acts with very little filler, the obligatory vehicle sections are tied into the plot and don’t outstay their welcome. After a short intro the action gets going and barely lets up for a moment until the epic Hollywood ending, pausing only to let you gather some ammo and follow the path into the next battle. I advise you to put off the jumping right into multiplayer first and get the campaign played, though, as you’ll want to avoid spoilers, at higher levels Horde mode features enemies best encountered in context. The icing on the campaign-cake is that it is now playable in four player co-op.

Whilst at first glance the multiplayer of Gears 3 might seem a very similar offering to that of Gears 2 there are a huge number of subtle changes that polish the overall experience. Besides the very smooth lobby system and overall re-balancing of modes and weapons there are some real improvements to the way you work as a team. Holding LB doesn’t just point arrows at your team mates, it allows you to see them as a kind of silhouette wherever they are on the map, so you can easily tell if they are running, hiding or in combat. In addition, all players now have a coloured aura over them at anything beyond medium range away, making it much easier to tell who’s who at a distance. They’re subtle changes, but really very welcome. My personal favourite addition comes in the form of destructible cover, as now anything less sturdy than stone can be chipped away at and eventually destroyed. This has been heavily exploited by the map designers, leaving players to risk unsafe cover for a tactical advantage.

The multiplayer modes themselves have been changed and tweaked with Team Deathmatch being the standard adversarial offering. It’s your standard 5 vs 5 mode but with a shared pool of respawns for each team. While near the start of a match this plays out like any other team deathmatch, you soon find a great deal more people willing to revive you as the respawn counter drops – another example of the designers encouraging teamwork.

Horde mode is still present but has been given a lick of paint and now revolves around earning cash to pay for weapons, ammo and defences for you to setup while holding off waves of enemy Locust and boss characters, with challenge waves offering bonus cash for completing specific objectives. Beast mode is almost the opposite of Horde, in that you play as the Locust and earn credits to upgrade yourself to a higher class, working your way through the Locust ranks.

Gears of War 3 has converted me from someone with a quickly passing enjoyment of the series into a rabid evangelising fanboy that can’t wait to play it all over again, and who relishes the thought of spending countless evenings tearing through Horde mode with his friends.







7 responses to “Gears of War 3”

  1. Mark P avatar

    “By now you’ve probably already scrolled to the end to see what score I’ve given Gears of War 3…” DAMN YOUR PSYCHIC PROWESS.

  2. Lauren avatar

    As long as my Cole train is back, I’m a happy bunny 🙂 Impressvie it got 10/10. I was expecting the game to only get 8 or 9! I’m not a huge Gears fan myself and I can’t stand Cliffy B. But I’ll need to play to see the fate of Marcus and co. Plus I wanna see what happens to Carmine!! I want him to live!!!

  3. Chris Allan avatar
    Chris Allan

    Really good review Dan, in fact one of the best I’ve read

  4. Johnny avatar

    I didn’t scroll down and look so HAH. I’ve read this and still don’t know what score you gave it.

    Great review. Must buy this game…know anyone who’s buying organs?

  5. Duncan avatar

    Dammit. Now I have to buy it.

    Pint of blood! £4.95 ONO.

  6. Higgeh avatar

    The hairs on my arms are standing up whilst reading this. Excellent review and can’t wait to play it now. Will see you all when the horde attacks

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