This past week the newest Gears of War 3 DLC, entitled Fenix Rising, became available for download on Xbox Live. The DLC features several new character skins, five new maps, and a new leveling system for those who just cannot get enough of Gears 3. For 800 Microsoft points Fenix Rising offers some decent content but not everyone will use all the features available for download.
The new character skins offered in the Fenix Rising DLC are not particularly special and ultimately add little to the overall gameplay experience. Still, the new skins do add some extra content for the diehard Gears fan who enjoys seeing some new characters running around the battlefield. The five new maps offer much better content with a decent variety of map types that range from brightly lit outdoor environments to dark and claustrophobic interiors. As well, the new maps are based upon particular moments of Marcus Fenix’s life. Having the new maps themed around Marcus’s life is a nice touch but only the most fervent Gears fan will likely care. Unfortunately most of the five maps do not stand out as exceptional or better offerings from what Gears 3 already gives players. Perhaps the two maps that stand out the most are “Escalation” and “Depths.” Escalation is essentially one long staircase with flat plateaus at different heights throughout. It’s a small map but the novelty of its design makes for some unique strategies and is a fun map for Horde gameplay. Depths is a visually distinct map that takes place in a huge underwater structure with long hallways (ideal for snipers) and a few close-quarters rooms that one can use for ambush and defense. The other three maps (Academy, Anvil, and The Slab) are not particularly memorable but all are well-designed and fun to play.
The other major addition Fenix Rising offers is a new leveling option for elite Gears 3 players. Essentially the new leveling system allows players who have reached the max level to reset their experience and level in order to move through the ranks again to gain bragging rights and some new exclusive content. The new leveling system (which is similar to Call of Duty’s “Prestige Mode”) is designed to offer the most devoted of online gamers some extra incentive to keep playing. However, for those who do not have the time or drive to reach the max level the new leveling system will largely add nothing to the game.
Ultimately, before choosing to purchase and download Fenix Rising a player must ask how much of the new content he/she will actually use. For the occasional Gears 3 online player the new DLC essentially offers five new maps to explore. Unless an occasional online gamer really wants some new maps to play through he/she can skip this DLC without missing much. However, Fenix Rising gives the avid Gears 3 online player new content that can potentially add hours of extra gameplay. If one will continually replay each new map in each online game mode (Versus, Horde, and Beast) and take full advantage of the new leveling system, then purchasing Fenix Rising will be worthwhile for the added content it offers. However, for everyone other than the most avid of online players Fenix Rising is not a necessary purchase for one to fully enjoy Gears of War 3.