Gears of War: one of the major Xbox-exclusive franchises, and one that has been successful since it started back in 2006. In the span of almost six years, Epic Games have graced Xbox owners with three Gears titles. Their latest, Gears of War 3, proves that the series still holds the crown as one of the best cover-to-cover 3rd person shooters.
While there are a few changes compared to the second game, everything feels intact. Gameplay is still as you remember it, and the multiplayer can be just as addicting. Taking down a Locust grunt and using him as a meat shield can still be loads of fun. Story-wise, Epic Games wanted to give us an emotional end to the main plotline. The last leg for Marcus and Delta Squad, they say. Was it as engaging as they promised? Yes, but it doesn’t make it a better story.
The Epic Conclusion
I know the Gears of War story pretty well; I’ve played the first two games and I’ve always considered this franchise’s story as its weak point. It gives the usual linear story that games like this provide. As much as they tried to craft a better story to wrap up the trilogy, I honestly liked Gears 2’s story better. The scenario with Jacinto and going in to rescue Dom’s wife alone was more engaging than the entirety of Gears 3’s story. It was all about Marcus finding out that his dad is still alive with a solution to the Locust and Lambent, and goes in to rescue him… again. I have to say, the action this third time around is definitely better. I guess that was the problem.
As you go from chapter to chapter, you’re thrown from firefight after firefight in the midst of a story that doesn’t have time to grow on the player, or create any sort of connection with the characters. Towards the middle of the campaign it picks up pretty well, but returns to the typical formula that leaves you more focused on gameplay rather than wondering what will happen next. How they wrapped up the story left me with questions, but I guess that’s how Epic Games wanted to end it.
The game looks amazing, but the differences are only seen in the environment and detail. Epic Games definitely pushed the Xbox 360 to its limits. During the campaign, they have those stunning sceneries that leave you mesmerized, especially when you ride one of those Locust Gas Barges. Character models are more detailed, but look and act similar to past games. Gears of War 3 also felt glitch-free during my play-through, and enemy AI isn’t dumb. Flanking can happen from enemy AI, so you need to be quick and aware of their movements. What’s dumb is ally AI. If you go down, their first priority is to aid you, which leaves them open and pretty much makes the situation worse by having them go down as well. The campaign isn’t that tough overall as long as you make use of cover. Head to cover, point, and shoot. Simple.
The only encounter I had that was difficult was in fighting this charging lambent with only one weakness (in his chest), so yeah. It can give you those irritating moments. It opens up from time to time to be vulnerable for only a few seconds for players to shoot. It’s a small opening and was the only annoying encounter that left me scratching my head and wanting to throw my controller.
Online is the way to go….
Gears have always been strong with co-op play. With the introduction of four-player co-op for the campaign, that seems like the best way to play your first play-through, unless you like AI covering your back. The campaign in Gears of War 3 has a lot of replayability. Playing the campaign in arcade style is a good way to get competitive and see who can rack up the most points after each chapter, but co-op doesn’t end there. The famous Horde (they call it Horde 2.0) is back and is what I consider the most fun out of the Gears of War 3 package. A group of players are placed to survive 50 waves of enemies coming from all directions. Each enemy kill grants you money which you can use to buy weapons, ammo and now a base where you can also buy turrets, barricades, dummies and even buy a Silverback (an awesome mech that you can use).
It’s all about teamwork, which I appreciate a lot. All maps in Gears of War 3 used for multiplayer can be used for Horde 2.0, which makes the experience different each time. What’s more, there are different areas where you can establish your base. Your types of defenses also level up if you constantly spend money on them. For example – maintaining and building barricades will slowly level them up, giving you the option to engage in further upgrades. Your barricade spikes can turn into barbed fences that can hold off enemies better, or decoys that can take more hits. As your defenses get stronger, your next Horde session will feel easier thanks to these upgrade options, another great incentive to keep playing.
A new mode called Beast is introduced in Gears of War 3 and is exactly like Horde but in reverse: you’re now the locust/lambent and your task is to take down a group of COG soldiers. You are given access to all those Locust or Lambent creatures with different abilities which is fun if you’re with a decent party. Some have their advantages and disadvantages so teamwork is a must; it actually requires more teamwork than Horde. Each creature you play can be thought of as a different class, so having your whole team based on one type of Locust/Lambent won’t work as well as you might think. Sadly, this mode is only limited to twelve waves compared to Horde 2.0’s fifty. It’s a great addition and hopefully they include more of it in the future.
Competitive multiplayer, of course, is still around in the form of the famous versus mode. What I like about it is that it brings something quite different from its competitors. Put simply, it stands out. With the amazing cover to cover gameplay creating unique mini-modes of perception and control, and the fact that you have to finish off your enemy after taking them down brings a different set of strategies that took me awhile to figure out. The key weapons and grenades placed in each map also make things interesting. It’s loads of fun and I like their version of team deathmatch. Fifteen spawns for each team. After fifteen spawns, respawning stops and the opposing team will have to finish the remaining players in play to get the win. This style adds a lot of pressure towards the end, especially if you’re the last man standing. Is it addicting? Yes, to an extent, and it helps that you can level up and earn experience when you do either of the game modes in Gears of War 3.
As you level up, you unlock skins, characters to use, and others that just change your appearance. Progressing isn’t as broad as I’d hoped; I don’t really see a point to reaching the highest level. The usual weapons such as the Gnasher shotgun, Lancer, Retro Lance and Sawed-Off Shotgun are the choices when picking a load-out. Other weapons such as the Digger, Hand of Dawn, and other awesome guns in Gears are found in the maps for players to pick up. These powerful weapons can be game-changers, so finding them around the map and securing them becomes a part of the player’s strategy. The game is pretty balanced since these weapons need to be found and picked up first, but because each of the weapons require a good amount of skill to use, a seasoned player with just a lancer still has a chance against someone with, for example, a torque bow.
The single reason why I don’t see myself a regular in Gears of War 3’s multiplayer is due to how long it takes to get a game going: an hour at most. It’s a different case if you live in the US/Canada. It looks like most of the players are from the USA (as expected). There are only a handful of players in Asia to play with. Its matchmaking system searches for the best possible game with good connection, so having the option to play with players from across the Pacific is sadly never going to happen since the connection will definitely be bad. It’s a shame: multiplayer has a good lineup of maps too.
Is Gears of War 3 worth the full price? Definitely. The best of what Gears of War 3 provides is online. If you’re only interested in just the campaign and co-op, be aware that it’s best played online. If you like third-person shooters, this franchise is still the best in this genre. Everything feels just right gameplay-wise, but the substandard story and the difficulty of finding people to play online in Asia prevented it from being a perfect experience.
- Amazing third-person shooter
- Horde 2.0 is loads of fun
- Beast mode is a great addition
- You’re constantly thrown from one action to the next in campaign
- Weak story
- If you live somewhere in Asia, matchmaking for multiplayer can take awhile