Gears of War 3 Review
Experience the conclusion for the explosive Gears of War series!
Gears of War 3 is the epic (see what I did there?) conclusion for one of the Xbox 360’s most illusive exclusives. It’s a satisfying experience that stretches across a memorable campaign, engaging cooperative play and entertaining competitive multiplayer. It truly feels like the sharpest, most refined and detailed entry in the series, thanks in part to stunning locations, intuitive controls and an emotionally engrossing campaign.
What Gears of War 3 Got Right
Fantastic Campaign and Story - It’s worth mentioning straight up that Gears of War 3’s story is fairly accessible. Included is a quaint little history lesson of the story thus far, so if you’re not especially familiarised with the series’ narrative you can get an introduction as to what the hell’s actually going on. It’s a great little inclusion that I think makes the game a lot more accessible for series newcomers, a welcomed addition seeing as though the install base probably has a lot more casual users thanks to Kinect.
Gears 3 begins shortly after the events of Gears 2. The Gears – a group of Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) soldiers that form part of Delta Squad, members that help instill martial law and lead the effort against invading alien race, the Locust – are slowly deteriorating alongside their entire civilization, as the Locust continue their effort to completely destroy the human race. The opening stanza is one to remember and comes as quite a big surprise, leading into a memorable reconnection with Delta squad members.
What Gears 3 does especially well is portray relationships eloquently, pulling us into the group of soldiers that help lead the final fight for survival. The dialogue is hit and miss, bordering cringe-worthy at times, but it adds a sense of campiness that in turn gives the characters a little more weight in the personality stakes. It’s a welcomed sense of realism that makes the introduction of new character Sam less of burden on the pacing of the narrative. She feels at home almost right from the get-go.
How these characters are portrayed contributes to a very emotional and telling story of survival as we’re given detailed and at-times surreal insights as to how they’re dealing with what’s happening around them. Main protagonist Marcus Fenix is always the main focus, but the rest of Delta Squad form part of a story that is more about the human race collectively rather than an individual. This structure makes for an emotionally satisfying story that ends the trilogy perfectly.
Challenging Conflict and Great Level Design - What makes the combat so entertaining in Gears of War 3 is that the environments change up so frequently, moving between tight rooms and large, open areas. The designs of these areas make cover a priority, a necessity that you’ll need to use to stay alive. The cover system has played a big part in the series dating back to the first game and it’s no different in Gears 3.
The game instills the challenge in the positioning of enemies and weapons, meaning you’ll need to venture out of cover to either attack or stock up on new and improved weapons. This can make life difficult if you come up against the more challenging enemies, namely an enemy spawn point, which is essentially invincible apart from a small weak spot.
The pacing of the story works well alongside the core gameplay: cutscenes can occasionally drag on but are thankfully countered by lengthy combat sequences. Pacing changes depending on the difficulty setting, and you’ll find survival to be reliant on slow, thought-out planning as opposed to fast run-and-gun style gameplay.
Great Co-op - The experience changes significantly once you start playing with friends. Gears of War 3 supports co-op play for up to four people, and being especially cooperative in style equates to a very satisfying experience. There’s plenty of enjoyment to be had playing alongside the game’s AI friendlies – your squad mates are competent and aggressive for the most part – but entering the battlefield with human friends makes for a considerably more memorable Gears 3 experience.
There’s also more of an emphasis on teamwork, exemplified in the game’s Arcade mode, which rewards players with points and multipliers based on their play. You lose points if a friend goes down, meaning you’ll need to keep an eye on each other and work to each other’s abilities if you’re to make the most of the mode.
Thoroughly Enjoyable Multiplayer - Gears of War 3’s depth is on display in its multiplayer component, as modes such as ‘Capture the Leader’ and ‘Execution’ rely on very elaborate gameplay mechanics to fuel the competitive edge. Genre staples like Team Deathmatch all remain and offer plenty of challenging competition with up to 10 players and limited respawn, which makes for tense action leading into a last man standing conclusion once all respawns have been used up.
The inclusion of the beginners-only matchmaking system looks to attract new players to the multiplayer component, as the series is renowned for its committed fanbase and competitive players. It’s great that newcomers can get a quick introduction as to the pacing and map design, considering Gears 3’s merciless reliance on accuracy and assertiveness.
It will be interesting to see what this does to the community, and hopefully it doesn’t create too much of a gap between the seasoned players and those new to the series that only started playing because of the beginners mode.
Overall, the multiplayer experience is deeply competitive and thoroughly enjoyable, and while it might take you a while to get used to the pacing of the component, taking the patience to understand how the game works online will lead into a very satisfying multiplayer experience.
Improved Horde Mode - The Gears of War series’ Horde mode, which pits five players with limited resources up against endless waves of enemies, makes a return in Gears of War 3 with some new additions. Killing Locust during waves earns you cash, which can then be spent to spruce up your defenses between waves. This implementation is blended perfectly into the experience, and thankfully there’s a sense of restrictiveness attached to when you can actually build up your defense forces. Resources still feel limited no matter how much cash you have, and the sense of survival remains despite the included ability to actually increase your chances of survival. Wise planning and spenditure will make for great forts of safety.
The Beast mode acts as the opposite of Horde mode, putting you in control of Locust as hoards of enemy humans come at you. Money earned in this mode can be used to unlock new and more devastating Locusts.
Crisp, Stunning Visuals - Gears of War 3 stands out as the best looking in the series by far. The visuals are crisp and detailed, complimenting the outstanding fire and smoke effects used so often throughout the game’s worlds. The level of detail on the fractured, fictional world that is Sera is completely indicative of the wars that plague it, and it helps represent the sense of survival and pain on display throughout the game’s story. Gears 3 possesses a sense of polish its predecessors just didn’t have.
Core Gameplay remains the same - There isn’t much to fault in Gears of War 3, but developer Epic has for the most part taken the safe route with the overall experience, and much of what’s included is stuff we’ve already seen before throughout the series. This in itself is hardly worth faulting, considering that Gears 3 is arguably the best in the series, both on the campaign and multiplayer fronts.
The Final Verdict
Gears of War 3 might go out of its way to accommodate newcomers to the series, but it offers plenty of challenge and depth for seasoned Gears gamers to feed their Locust-killing cravings. The campaign is the best in the series on a story and gameplay front, leading into a fantastic conclusion for the trilogy. The multiplayer has been improved over what was a disappointing and stiff component in Gears of War 2, while the new currency and fort system in Horde adds more value to a mode already brimming with addictiveness. Gears of War 3 is the ideal game to lead us into what is going to be a very exciting few months of games. Strap in as Delta Squad rid Sera of the Locust scum!
By Gaetano Prestia
New multiplayer modes, a lengthy, challenging and emotional campaign, fantastic co-op, entry for newcomers and plenty of replayability across all fronts. Gears of War 3 is the definitive shooter for 2011.
A stunning world designed perfectly to represent a fractured and dying civilization. A well-polished, impressive looking game.
A booming orchestral score compliments the game’s rippling sound effects.
Story co-op, online co-op, multiplayer modes, a lengthy campaign with multiple difficulties and a large community give you plenty of reasons to go back.
A fantastic campaign and deep multiplayer and cooperative components help make Gears of War 3 the best in the series.
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