At the recent Gears of War 3 launch event in Toronto we had the opportunity to play about two and a half hours of the Gears of War 3 singleplayer campaign. The few hours we played of Gears 3 were filled with intense battles, huge bosses, new enemies, and a decent variety of gameplay. We certainly enjoyed our time with the game and cannot wait to play through the whole singleplayer campaign.
The first two things we noticed when we started playing Gears of War 3 were the new graphical enhancements and the attention to detail. The game has several notable upgrades such as enhanced lighting effects that added to the mood and realistic feel of each environment we encountered. Character models and facial animations also looked amazing helping to expose the emotional and human characteristics of Delta Squad. The added humanity we sensed and experienced in Gears 3 was also due to the gorgeous and varied environments we explored.
The first few hours of gameplay in Gears 3 take place aboard a large ship, The Raven’s Nest, which houses the remainder of the Seran military forces, and on land following a Delta Squad unit searching for supplies among human settlements. From the first few moments aboard the ship we were struck by the lived-in quality of the environment. Onboard the ship there were gardens growing food on deck, a piano Marcus could briefly play, crewmates sleeping in bunks, and others having discussions about recent events or saying hello to Marcus as he passed. The little details we encountered on the ship helped to give life to the world and those little details were also present when we made landfall.
We encountered a number of human settlements while playing as Augustus Cole searching for supplies in his hometown. These human settlements also had a lived-in look and feel creating a very immersive environment. NPCs also interacted with Cole remembering his time as the “Cole Train” while reflecting upon the past. These brief encounters with NPCs further established the world of Gears 3 as a place with history and meaning. Even in the first few hours of gameplay it is clear that Gears of War 3 is a game with a uniquely human feel that sets it apart from the other games in the franchise.
The addition of female Gears also helped to mitigate the at times overbearing testosterone that was present in the pervious Gears of War games. However Gears 3 is still a shooter and the “manliness” of the Gears is still very much alive in crude jokes, jovial responses to enemy deaths, and huge biceps. Still, it is nice to see the developers attempting to make Gears of War 3 more than just a standard war story of men with large guns.
The gameplay in Gears of War 3 is largely unchanged from previous iterations in the series. Pressing “A” still sends Marcus charging and diving into cover and the shooting mechanics are still precise and smooth. There are some new weapons such as the Retro Lancer, which is a mid-range weapon with a huge bayonet on the front, and the Digger Launcher, which is a grenade launcher that launches grenades that travel underground and then pop out of the ground to explode in front of enemies. There are also new vehicles such as the Silverback, which is a small mech that fires a heavy machine gun and can shift from a mobile unit to a stationary unit that gives one’s teammates cover in the middle of battle. The addition of new weapons and vehicles help keep the gameplay somewhat varied but it was the enemy types we encountered that really kept the gun battles intense.
During our playthrough we fought against massive Lambent creatures, small fast moving Lambents, and Lambents that change form halfway through a gunfight, which forced us to shift tactics on the fly. We also came across a Locust host that featured the classic enemies of Gears of War in tight enclosed spaces. Overall our time with Gears of War 3 was a lot of fun with a good mixture of enemy types, varied gameplay, and unique environments.
We also played part of the game in stereoscopic 3D. The 3D looked good, but there was definitely a drop in graphical quality in order to power the 3D images. The only real benefit the 3D offered was with depth of field allowing us to determine more easily how far away enemies were from our character. Still, if we had a choice we would play Gears of War 3 in standard non-3D in order to truly experience the visual quality of the game.
Before we got our hands on Gears of War 3 we were not terribly excited for the game as it simply looked like more of the same to us. However after playing Gears 3 for a few hours we are definitely excited to play the whole game. The new enemies, new weapons, new characters, varied environments, fleshed out game world, and polished gameplay all set Gears of War 3 apart from other third person shooters. Of course one should not forget the new and revamped multiplayer modes in Gears 3 that add to the complete package of what looks to be a great game. In short, Gears of War 3 is primed to conclude Delta Squad’s narrative in an engaging, intense, and exciting way.