Though I originally planned against buying Gears of War 3, the hype surrounding it had been hard to ignore. After Gears 2 more or less disappointed, I planned on waiting for reviews before getting Gears 3. With glowing previews, favorable opinions from friends that had tried the open beta, and my inability to ignore the hype surrounding games, I purchased a shiny new copy of Gears of War 3 with very little regret.
I loved the first Gears of War with a passion (though I only played the single player) and felt a tad snake-bitten by Gears 2. So I headed into Gears 3 without too many expectations. What I got was just short of perfection. I was literally blown away by every aspect of the game; even the online multiplayer was fantastic even though I had very little experience with it.
Story Mode (spoiler free):
The story in Gears of War 3 is excellent to say the least. The locations are vibrant and colorful (something missing from the much darker Gears of War 2) and feel fully fleshed out. There is also a nice variety of locations in the story mode, more so than any other Gears game. Missions take Marcus Fenix and crew to such places as hidden beaches, abandoned cities, COG strongholds, deserts, and even a rundown sports stadium. The length of the campaign feels just about right, long enough to tie up loose ends in the story, but doesn't drag on like a Grand Theft Auto “story.” It also gets quite emotional in several parts, but doesn't feel excessive. The Gears 3 campaign is a very fitting end to the Gears of War trilogy and gives fans like myself a lot of hope for a prequel!
As in the first two installments, the controls really shine in the new game. They feel improved over Gears 2 however, as I haven't gotten into those weird situations where my character wouldn't go into cover or would randomly jump out of cover. The transitions from cover to running or shooting are smooth, which is nice being that the cover mechanic is one of the main things separating Gear of War from other shooters. Everything feels tightened and polished for the new game compared to the second. A neat new addition is the ability to “mark” a target which signals your squad mates to focus on an enemy in single player, or reveal an enemy combatants’ location in multiplayer.
The weapons are awesome as usual in Gears 3, still including the now iconic Lancer (in my opinion the best weapon in any videogame). There aren't many things more gratifying in a multiplayer match than chainsawing an unaware opponent to pieces. Another way Gears sets itself apart from the competition is the visual feedback you get when shooting an opponent. As the bullets are hitting an enemy, blood splatters to let you know you hit your mark. I really like that the sniper rifle in the Gears of War games only has one shot too. Sniping is far too easy in Halo with 4 shots in the sniper rifle. If you miss in Gears, your enemy has plenty of time to take cover before you can reload. Active reload is another great feature in the Gears of War series; when you tap the reload button while on the line of the status bar you reload much more quickly and get a damage bonus with the flashing bullets in your weapon. Tap it in the tapering part and you just get a faster reload, in any other part your gun jams and it takes much longer to reload, leaving you vulnerable.
As I mentioned previously, the visuals in the story mode are fantastic. The graphics are colorful, sharp, smooth, and really make the game. The multiplayer maps are well thought out, and all the different multiplayer modes fit nicely into the different maps. Being able to see your character’s reactions in the third person perspective also adds a nice touch and helps you get a feel for what they're going through. The frame rate is also consistently fast, and maintains a high level even when there’s a ton of action on-screen. I have yet to experience any sort of stutter or drop in frame rate, and I've played quite a bit. It's a beautiful game to look at, probably one of the best graphical experiences yet on the Xbox 360.
After not having played any multiplayer in the first two Gears games, I had no expectations for the third. I had figured I would give it a try for review purposes and that would be it. As it turns out, I’m pleasantly surprised by how fun it is. Even though I generally stink at it, I’m having a blast with all the different modes. King of the hill, capture the leader, wingman, etc. are all fun modes to play, all with their own unique challenges. New in Gears of War 3's horde mode is the ability to build a base, complete with the option to purchase upgrades such as turrets, decoys, and fences that damage enemies. The more you play horde mode the more you level your upgrades allowing you to build better turrets, fences, decoys and even silverback exoskeleton armor.
The new mode in the Gears arsenal is called beast mode, and it allows you to play as different locust baddies while you try to take down COG fortifications. Much like horde mode, you purchase the type of Locust you want to play as and attack COG soldiers, heroes, and defenses. When you die you get to reenter the game as whatever type of Locust baddie you can afford with the money you make from kills and destruction. It's a very fun mode to play, especially with friends, and fits in well with the Gears of War multiplayer lineup.
Though I'm not particularly good at the online multiplayer, and generally at the bottom of the scoreboard, I don't get too angry or feel like one weapon is over or under powered. The gnasher shotgun is used quite a bit, and I'm usually on the losing end, but I feel like it's just because I'm not very good with it. I've gotten somewhat used to wielding the much more powerful sawed-off shotgun. But with one shot per clip, I'm pretty much a sitting duck if I miss. My only issue with the multiplayer so far has been some of the matchmaking. At level 22 I don't feel like I should be matched up with players in the 60's and 70's. They are far too good at the game and this takes some of the fun away when you don't have any chance at making an impact.
Gears of War 3 is an excellent entry into the Gears series and a fitting end to a unique trilogy. Being far and above the most polished of the series, Gears 3 is a good jumping in point if you have no experience and great for re-entry into the series if you didn't really care for Gears of War 2. October is a drought for me for new games, and I feel confident Gears 3 can carry me all the way to the release of Skyrim.