Gears of War 3
Tested and reviewed based on the Xbox 360 version.
Review by Ben Nacca
(Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BenNacca )
XBL GT: Darkeyes2k7 PSN ID: Darkeyes2k11
GAME NAME: Gears of War 3
DEVELOPER(S): Epic Games
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
GENRE(S): Third person shooter
RELEASE DATE(S): 20th September 2011
Some would say that Gears of War was what made the Xbox 360 really take off initially when it was released, replicating what Halo did for the original Xbox and becoming a flagship title for Microsoft. The new universe, characters, graphics and quite frankly, brutality, that Gears of War offered was for all intents and purposes at the time, unique. Epic Games managed to create an IP that spawned sequels, books, merchandise and potentially a film, which like Halo, has not been accomplished by many games at all.
The arrival of Gears of War 2 pushed more of a focus on to multiplayer, with the Horde mode also being introduced while keeping the two player co-op locally or over Xbox live that made Gears of War 1 and 2 both fun and sociable at the same time. As a conclusion to the trilogy, Gears of War 3 promised to build on the gameplay of Gears of War 2, offer stable online matchmaking servers with as little bugs as possible while introducing new modes, additional options in Gears and a four player co-operative story. Did it deliver? Yes and by the bucket load.
Following roughly two years after the events of Gears of War 2, mankind is forced to remote islands or ships to survive as the Lambent and what is left of the Locust are all hellbent on destroying humanity and each other. The Gears 3 campaign explores the mystery behind Marcus Fenix’s father, Adam Fenix and what he actually has to do with the Locust.
One of the main gripes with Gears of War 2 was that it was all very claustrophobic from the original Gears campaign with lots of corridors and tight passages that constricted the gameplay and felt very suppressing. Thankfully, Gears of War 3 is more like the first in many ways with predominantly open environments along with a story that isn’t trying too hard to tug on the heartstrings as Gears 2 did.
One of the more surprising aspects is the injection of colour that Gears of War 3 has received in comparison to its predecessors. It is welcoming to see vibrant colours in the landscapes now rather than the dull, drab pallet that was previously favoured. Obviously it isn’t all rainbows and daisies but the contrast works really well to help drive the direction that the story is going.
I was dubious to begin with how having four characters at all times would work and if it would feel forced and almost shape the story itself, rather than the other way round. However, you and three other mates can play this altogether from start to finish without any feeling of a four being a crowd. It works well and trust me, the extra firepower towards the end of the campaign is much needed. I think the only real problem is with the balancing of the campaign, with towards the end being a constant uphill struggle with endless amounts of enemies and never enough ammo, it seems. However, this gives a suspenseful and satisfying ending when you do push through on insane difficulty and with the new arcade mode for the campaign too, injects even more life into it.
Even if you are playing on your own, in many ways the campaign is easier with the A.I. team mates because they work efficiently, heal you when you are downed and you can now mark targets for your team mates to focus on taking down first, which works very well and generally makes Gears of War 3 a joy to play whether with your friends or going solo.
The additions do not stop with the four player co-op and the arcade mode though. Clearly Gears of War 3 has received an upheaval in the graphics department and although it doesn’t quite send out a shockwave as Gears of War initially did since the standards of games has shot up now in 2011, it can still run for one of the finest and well-presented games on the Xbox 360 ever.
The saying “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” would apply with Horde but Epic Games clearly thought they could improve it without breaking it and that is what they have done. Adding defences and new maps while keeping the core principles that makes Horde what it is the same is a remarkable achievement and Horde is every bit exciting and fresh as it was with Gears of War 2.
Epic Games didn’t stop there though, adding the new Beast mode which involves playing as the Locust and hunting down the stranded (and assorted COG heroes) within 1 minute timers per round. Choosing to be anything from Tickers and Wretches to Maulers and Beserkers, you have to use tactics and teamwork to complete your objective. It does feel quite shallow at times though, with not much in the way of depth and Beast mode feels more like a side package than a fully blown mode such as Horde. Adding Arcade mode, as mentioned earlier, lets you play through the campaign while scoring yourself, so you can now compete with leaderboards and your friends if you are connected to Xbox Live to add further competition.
So, multiplayer…that is the real question. Is it riddled with glitches and bugs upon release like Gears of War 2 and some server matching times that could take multiple games worth or is it fixed, slick and fluid? Well at the moment there are no issues however come Tuesday 20th September, when 3 million and more jump onto Xbox Live to work towards their level 100 online, the servers for Gears of War 3 will be tested then. The maps are a great selection though and all add diversity, competiveness and balance which all are crucial in their own respect. It cannot be stressed that the addition of extra weapons with the Digger and additional shotguns means a much more tactical approach needed and even the most veteran of Gears players will have to take a moment to adapt. Of course, anyone who participated in the Beta will know about this as it is.
Not only do you have level 100 to reach to “earn your wings” in Gears of War 3. You now have plenty of medals to complete, which are challenges of sorts akin to Call of Duty’s challenges, with x kills per weapon and so on. It adds that extra depth that Gears needed to make it even more competitive but be warned, completing it and getting the dreaded Seriously 3.0 achievement will be for only 0.01% of the Gears players amongst you. Challenge accepted?
Visually exemplary in almost every way and will become one of the best titles on the Xbox 360 titles by far. The new, fresh colourful approach works marvellously and it is just what Gears of War 3 needed. I don’t think there is much more that could be done to make it much better.
The guns, the voice work and the ambience is just fantastic. A stellar performance all round and the music is once more iconic and very appropriate throughout.
What more is there to say? The same Gears of War feel that you will all know by now with a few tweaks here and there in a good direction with very little problem wise. The hectic closing run for the campaign can be very frustrating with enemies thrown at you left, right and centre at a desperate attempt to make the game practically impossible but as always, perseverance will see you through.
Practically perfect. A stunning 10-15 hour campaign with up to four player co-op, Horde, Beast mode, Arcade mode and plenty of leaderboard options along with the daunting level 100 to get to and all the challenges to complete. Epic Games, take a bow please.
End of an era maybe but Gears of War 3 closes the trilogy perfectly and I am sure there will be more offerings from the Gears universe. If not, Epic Games will surely conjure up another IP that will change the gaming world forever as they have done with Gears. This is every bit entertaining and for those who own an Xbox 360, Gears of War 3 is a no brainer purchase.
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