Gears. Of. War. 3.
Few words in the world of gaming will bring such glee to the eyes of hardcore gamers. And rightfully so. The series has been a shining example for AAA cooperative and competitive gaming for the Xbox 360. Marcus Fenix is back for his third and final adventure. It is worth reloading your Lancer once again for this gritty shooter?
If you haven’t played a Gears of War game yet, you either don’t own an Xbox 360, or you don’t have a pulse. The story of Gears of War 3 is one we’ve all heard before. Man meets alien. Alien tries to kill man. Man chainsaws aliens in the face. Sadly, saying anything else about the plot would be a spoiler to those who have played and enjoyed Gears 1 and 2.
While interesting, we feel it’s fair to say that the story is not where Gears of War 3 shines. In fact, the whole narrative feels trite, and at points barely kept our interest. However, if you’ve never picked up a Gears game in the past, you won’t be too lost by starting with Gears of War 3. The story stands on its own two feet, but exposition is provided through a recap video.
But, for us, it wasn’t the story that drew us to Gears 3. We’re in it for the non-stop, over-the-top, shotgun-in-your-face, bloody action. And Gears 3 delivers blood and guts by the bucket. You’ll be soaked in digital detritus, but you’ll love every second of it.
Tossing aside the 2-player cooperative campaign, Gears 3 has adopted a 4-player co-operative campaign. Quite frankly, we love it. Friends can pop in and out of your campaign at will, and if you can’t fill your three remaining slots with living breathing humans, the game’s AI does more than a competent job of slaying some Grubs. For the most part, they revive you fairly quickly. However, there are times when you will be right at their feet screaming for your life and they’ll ignore you, but that doesn’t happen too often.
The campaign itself is of moderate length and should last about 10 hours or more, which is great for a 4 player cooperative experience. The ending, however, felt rushed and we were left a bit unsatisfied in that regard. Our major complaints about Gears 3’s campaign are the same as we had about Gears 1 and 2.
Graphically, the game is brilliant. We held a steady framerate the entire time. We found no obvious jagged edges or clipping issues. But the presentation is entirely too monochromatic. It isn’t until the much later levels when you start to see some color besides light brown, brown, dark brown, and gray.
When the equally-bland-colored enemies aren’t blending into the background, they are eating your bullets like a Locust delicacy, but that shouldn’t be too big of an issue considering the amount of ammunition lying around. And anyone looking for any sort of challenge should immediately change the difficulty from normal to hardcore or higher. Average gamers will find the “normal” difficultly ENTIRELY too easy.
Multiplayer offers gamers a standard array of deathmatch and team options with a very nice variety of maps to test your mettle. This time around, however, Gears also offers Beast and Horde modes.
Horde mode plays similarly to Call of Duty‘s Zombies game. You establish a base with some friends, choose a loadout, and fend off waves of enemies by setting up perimeter defenses.
Beast (a new staff favorite) is the exact opposite of Horde. You select a Locust type, and destroy humans and their defenses in wave attacks. Both are fantastic and downright addictive and we are delighted to see them added to the game. In fact, both will add dozens of hours of additional cooperative game time to the already lengthy campaign. So if you pick up Gears of War 3, even at full price, you are easily getting full bang for your buck. With tons of additional DLC in the works for Gears 3, this disc will likely find a near-permanent home in your Xbox 360.
While there is no such thing as a “perfect” game, Gears 3 does its best to achieve perfection and is one of the finest games to hit the 360 this year. Anyone looking for a “deep” or “meaningful” game should look elsewhere. Gearsis all about guns and guts. And it will take a long time before you get tired of the games execution sequences. The lackluster story, a few new forgetful characters, and a bland color palette aren’t enough to ruin what is otherwise a fantastic game.
If this is truly Marcus Fenix’s last stand in a video game, we jauntily salute him and team of rag-tag soldiers. He’s going out in style. He will be missed, but not forgotten. The Gears trilogy as a whole is a series that video game fans will be talking about for generations. Slaying the Locust horde with three other friends is an experience that no shooter fan should miss.
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Name: Gears of War 3
Available on: Xbox 360
Developed by: Epic Games
Published by: Microsoft Studios
Release date: September 23, 2011
EG Score: 5 out of 5 / “Worth Buying/Worth Trying”