Gears of War 3 from Epic Games and Microsoft Game Studios is one of the most definitive and comprehensive third-person shooters on the market. Gears 3 offers fans an action heavy conclusion to Delta Squad’s story, as well as an excellent selection of online game modes. The game provides the same solid gameplay and great visuals the series is known for but there is little new in the campaign that will entice new gamers to the franchise. Even some Gears fans may find the game’s singleplayer campaign lacking in substance. On the other hand the game’s polished and varied versus and co-op game modes should convince many gamers to give Gears of War 3 a try.
The story in Gears of War 3 opens strongly with a wonderful look at how the human populations and Locust populations of Sera are coping with the loss of a strong military presence, coupled with the ubiquitous presence of the Lambent. The opening few hours of the game, and a few intriguing moments throughout the campaign, focus on the cost of the Locust and Lambent war, highlighting the stakes involved in Delta Squad’s final mission. Unfortunately the few poignant moments in the game are often preceded or followed by cheesy one-liners, huge explosions, and over-the-top action that makes any attempt at subtlety and grace ultimately fall flat. Gears 3 even attempts to paint a sympathetic picture of the Locusts towards the end of the game. Adding some complexity to Delta Squad’s actions is a nice touch but comes too late in the overall story and only makes one wish that the complexity had been introduced earlier in the series to make the action in Gears 3 more engaging. However, Gears 3 is an action game and the singleplayer campaign certainly delivers some fun and fast-paced action set pieces.
The frantic and hectic pace of the gun battles in Gears 3 is largely due to the excellent enemy A.I. and new Lambent enemy-types that can transform mid-battle requiring one to shift tactics on the fly. Even with new enemies and new weapons the game can still feel derivative at certain points as the player moves from one gun battle to the next and from one explosion to the next. There is some variety in the gameplay when one must control a vehicle like the Silverback, which is a small mobile mech with a heavy machine gun that can also become a stationary rocket launcher turret that provides cover for teammates. The boss encounters also help add some variety to the campaign but ultimately the gameplay never strays far from the Gears of War formula. Furthermore, it can sometimes seem like one’s A.I. teammates are overly adept at reviving one from certain death, which can eliminate some of the tension from boss fights. For example, it can sometimes be a sound tactic to not avoid incoming attacks because one’s A.I. teammates will almost always revive a downed player making some encounters less exciting than intended. Even with a few missteps Gears 3 still boasts excellent gameplay and level design that work together to create a fun and exciting experience that is light on complex storytelling and heavy on blood and chainsaws.
Though the singleplayer may not set Gears of War 3 apart from the other games in the series, the game’s multiplayer options certainly elevate Gears 3 to the best of the series. Almost every online game mode from Gears of War 2 has been reworked and tweaked in Gears 3 to create an accessible and streamlined experience focused on strategic teamwork and intense gameplay. The re-worked King of the Hill and the new Capture the Leader game modes standout as excellently crafted online experiences featuring a great balance between strategy and action. In King of the Hill players must simultaneously fight and defend control points that shift location during the match requiring shifting tactics and coordinated assaults. In Capture the Leader players must fight for control over the other team’s leader while also protecting their own team leader requiring a team to both defend and attack as one. Furthermore, the presence of classic team deathmatch game modes, a better matchmaking system, and a leveling system that allows a player to unlock new skins to customize his/her online character all help to craft an extremely enjoyable and engaging online experience. The online maps are also well designed allowing for complex team strategies that make it necessary for one to constantly scan the environment for flanking enemies.
The versus multiplayer is not the only online interaction reworked in Gears 3. The developers have expanded the co-op story to allow up to four players to play together and Horde mode is completely redone making it more strategic and enticing. The new Beast mode is also an extremely fun and unique co-op experience. The revamped Horde mode is still focused on fighting off waves of Locusts but there is now a money system that is used to purchase defenses like turrets and barriers to aid in the fight against the Locusts. The new money system adds some extra strategy as players determine when and where to purchase barriers and turrets in order to give the best defense. Beast mode has the player control a Locust creature while trying to kill off human soldiers within a given time limit. Money is used to purchase different Locust creatures and destroying defenses and enemies gives players money and adds time to the clock. In short, the new Horde mode and Beast mode offer some incredibly addicting and entertaining co-op gameplay. (Also, there is nothing quite like controlling a Locust Berserker as it charges through enemy defenses and lays waste to groups of soldiers).
Gears of War 3 will satisfy fans of the series with an action heavy conclusion to Delta Squad’s story. Even if one is not a Gears of War fan the robust, fast-paced, varied, and strategic team-based multiplayer in Gears 3 should make any action game fan give it a try. Though the singleplayer may not satisfy as much as hoped the multiplayer makes Gears of War 3 well worth its asking price for those looking for a game that has excellent gameplay and an exhaustive list of features.