Gears of War 3
System: Xbox 360
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Epic Games
Release Date: September 20, 2011
Everyone’s favorite testosterone-fueled action series is back. Closing the books on the trilogy (although I feel we haven’t really seen the last of it), Gears of War 3 features everything gamers have come to expect from the series: juiced-up alpha males, disgusting monsters, lots of big guns, and non-stop gore and violence. It’s more of the same, but a hell of a lot more refined. This is the definitive Gears of War experience.
Gears 3’s campaign places you in the role of Marcus Fenix, again, as he battles the Lambent and Locust who are trying to take over the planet. During the early moments of the game, Marcus finds out a startling revelation: his father may still be alive. Together with his group of fellow COGs, including series compatriots Dom, Cole and Baird (among others), Marcus embarks on the journey to find and save his father, while also attempting to put an end to the overrun of monsters at the same time. It’s well-written, as far as Gears plots go, but there are a few groan-worthy moments when the developers attempt to tug the heartstrings. I get what they’re trying to do, but it’s hard to get emotional about characters who do nothing but shoot bad guys and spout off cheesy one-liners. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very entertaining adventure, but some of the plot mechanisms felt a little too forced.
Still, most people don’t play Gears of War for their stories; they play for the action gameplay. I am happy to say that the third-person shooter is at its best here, as it’s clear that Epic learned a lot from the first two games and opted to make the finale the best experience possible. There are new guns, new enemies and new locations, all of which are utilized with a flawless combat system. Moments of intense action are broken up methodically with well-timed (yet brief) quiet spells, leaving a superbly-paced adventure.
While the campaign is a strong ten hour affair, Gears of War 3’s shining beacon is its sheer amount of game modes and options. The campaign itself can now be played with up to four players in co-op, and there’s even a new arcade mode where gamers can earn points based on their play. Other new inclusions are a revamped horde mode and a new beast mode, both of which require teamwork to succeed.
Horde 2.0, as the improved mode is now labeled, has the same core gameplay in the form of fighting off waves of increasingly tougher enemies over and over again. However, there are new elements in place that give it a light tower defense feel as well. Now players can build defense mechanisms to slow down and injure bad guys, and cash is used to purchase ammo and new weapons. The new depth is a welcome addition to an already great mode, and it is a blast to play with a group of friends.
Beast mode is a spinoff of Horde, but this time players take on the roles of the Locust and try to kill the COGs. This is another great idea, and I am a little surprised that this is the first appearance of the mode.
Of course, I would be mistaken not to mention the Versus mode, another staple of the Gears series. This is where standard multiplayer gameplay occurs, everything from team deathmatch to Execution to King of the Hill. Matchmaking has been majorly improved, and it takes a matter of seconds to join a new game — no more of the endless waiting and laggy gameplay that plagued Gears 2.
Players can now earn XP by completing various in-game tasks, and it’s not just about killing as many opponents as possible anymore. There are a variety of ways to play the game and earn XP, and this amount of depth is a major plus. For those looking for a deep online experience that isn’t Call of Duty or another first person shooter, Gears of War 3 offers an excellent alternative.
As expected based on the first two games, this is a dark and gritty visual experience, although there are a few areas where there are signs of vegetation — a pleasant surprise, indeed. It’s still a fantastic looking game, one of the best on the system, and it has a powerful musical score to boot. Epic really went all out to ensure this was a deep experience.
In short, Gears of War 3 is a more than worthy send off to the series (if that is the case). While the campaign may be the weakest of the three, it is still a lot of fun and deserves to be played through multiple times, especially as there are now different ways to do so. Multiplayer is the best yet, and should have a thriving community for quite some time. Fans of the series should consider this a must buy, no doubt. Well done, Epic. Well done.