You would be easily forgiven if you were in anyway concerned that Gears of War 3 would be a flop. The series has carved its way onto the shelves and into the hearts of many a gamer, and developing the perfect third and final title in such a loved series must have been a daunting challenge. Relax though, and cast away any doubts in your mind, for Gears of War 3 is as good, if not better than the two games it has had the challenge of following.
It’s been eighteen months since the events of the last game, which saw the Gears destroy the Jacinto plateau in a desperate bid to rid the planet Sera of the Locust invasion. Humanity lies in tatters; surviving anyway they can with makeshift settlements spread thin and struggling. It’s a grim situation for Marcus Fenix and his team as time is running out to finally put a stop to the constant enemy threat. With very limited supplies left and the human race very much in need of a moral boost, the odds are weighed highly against our hero.
The game isn’t a constant barrage of shooting guns and chopping up aliens, instead it plays through a storyline that dances through the spraying bullets to weave a tale of genuinely likeable characters doing all they can to save the lives of innocent people. Early missions such as revisiting Cole’s hometown to gather supplies offer some touching moments, and these sentimental times play an important part in separating the otherwise consistently witty banter thrown between troops. While cut scenes go some way to telling the story, a lot is opened up during gameplay, and many of the important conversations between characters during live play are integral for you as a player to really care for the storyline that is unfolding as you go.
The core elements of Gears haven’t been changed much, which is perfectly fine as far as I’m concerned. Cover is still as important as ever, and making the most of your environment is often the difference between life and death. Environments range from massive open battleships to the claustrophobic underbelly of decaying towns, and each area plays differently to the next. You rely heavily on your team regardless of them being in the real life multiplayer modes or the on-board AI players, and making it from one area to the next is nigh on impossible alone. Allies can revive you, swap weapons with you and share ammo, as well as provide cover and a general beast-killing helping hand. As previously mentioned, cover is important. It’s recommended to go into the battlefield with at least some level of strategy – enemies vary greatly and running straight into a gunfight without at least finding decent cover first is a sure way of getting yourself killed. Gears of War isn’t a dumb shooter, and it’s not a game to be played for the sole purpose of shooting and destroying, it’s a game to be enjoyed fully in every sense.
It’s very accessible too, and the difficulty curve lets new players get used to things at their own pace. You’re never pushed to do anything you don’t feel like you can’t do with Gears 3, and the first few levels break you in nicely. With a brilliant third-person viewpoint and well thought out controls, it won’t be long until you’re rising up the ladder and trying a more challenging difficulty level.
The Lancer is still one of the best weapons ever – period. Thankfully it hasn’t been messed with and still packs a devastating punch, and the chainsaw attached to the bottom is still a grisly end for whoever is unlucky enough to be on the receiving end. There’s something extremely satisfying about winning a button bashing fight when you lock Lancers with an enemy; the result not too dissimilar to something you’d recreate with a sharp knife and a rare steak. This is pretty much the case for most of the weapons in Gears of War; it’s horribly gruesome. If you’re a bit squeamish, then you have the option to turn down the violence, but the gritty, blood splattered screen of Gears is something that helps set the tone of the game in general. The rest of the weapons are equally destructive, from a selection of pistols and shotguns to explosive bows and poisonous grenades. There are a handful of new weapons, but you’ll keep coming back to old favourites that have stayed faithful to you throughout the series.
Once you’re done with the relatively lengthy and highly enjoyable campaign, you’ll be far from done with Gears. The multiplayer is ridiculously fine-tuned, and doesn’t rely on gimmicks to keep you coming back for more. Online play is split over many sections, including online campaign play and head-to-head modes. These multiplayer modes include Team Deathmatch, Capture the Leader (where you hold an enemy captive) and Capture the Hill. Horde mode is also back, where you and your team work to fend off waves of Locusts. Between levels you use currency earned from defeating enemies to fortify the battlefield. The purchase of turrets and floor spikes help you fend off the enemy, while purchasable weapons that you find lying about can give you the upper hand when the Lancer just won’t cut it (literally). Horde was a fan favourite from the last game and it’s a relief to know it hasn’t been perverted in its transition to Gears 3.
There are enough modes at hand to keep you satisfied, but an all new mode called Beast Mode really sets Gears 3 multiplayer apart from the rest. In a sort of reverse Horde, Beast lets you take control of the enemy, using Locust forces to try and eliminate a selection of what would normally be considered ‘good guys’. Throughout the waves you earn currency to spend on new units, each more varied and fun to try than the last. It puts a wonderful spin on things and the game plays completely differently when the roles are reversed, and with a group of mates it’s one of the multiplayer modes you’ll find yourself revisiting the most.
The colour palette of predominantly blood red and brown is as true to the rest of the game as you can get. The murky and sorrowful setting the only suitable battleground for the unfolding events. It’s easy to see an eerie beauty in the environments, with the well-crafted character models complimenting the surroundings. The soundscapes also go hand in hand to create the perfect atmosphere, and the voice cast has been dragged over from the previous games and, as usual, they’re on top form.
I could honestly go on forever about Gears of War 3. It’s one of those games that no matter how much you say, you can always think of something else to add at the end. I bet as soon as I post this review up something will pop in my head that I wish I had said. There are just so many great things that really put other modern shooters to shame. With a promise of downloadable content, endless multiplayer slaughtering and a campaign that is enjoyable enough to drop in for a second and even a third visit, it won’t be the last you’re going to hear from Fenix and friends just yet. Gears of War 3 hasn’t cut any corners, and you have to look beyond many layers of genuinely brilliant creativity to even start to notice the smallest of cracks. If Gears of War 3 serves as the series’ swan song, then let it be known that it went out in beautifully stylish and satisfyingly grizzly fashion.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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