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Gears of War 3 Staff Review

The OMGN crew reviews one of the biggest shooters of the year

The third installment of Microsoft's flagship series that doesn't go by the name of Halo has been released. Gears of War 3 is the latest third-person sci-fi shooter from Epic Games. The game has been out for a few weeks now, but we at OMGN have been playing it frequently since its release. From single player to its brutal multiplayer, there have been some significant changes and updates since its launch. For all of those who decided to wait or are on the fence when it comes to purchasing this game, here's our take.

Gears of War 3

 

Single player:

Kyle:

I have always enjoyed a shooter's single-player campaign over its multiplayer offering. And while Gears of War 3's multiplayer is fantastic, the single-player segment is equally so. Each of the Gears titles have done a tremendous job of having similar game mechanics that feel vastly different in each game. Gears 1 was a small squad thrust in the middle of a war zone. Gears 2 was all-out war against the Locust war machine. In this third installment, it's a varied mix of both. Faced with the last of humanity fighting against not only feral Locust tribes but a new enemy, the Lambent, characters from all of the Gears games (and novels) fight together not to gain supremacy, but to simply survive. This is shown through the various levels that you and your four-person squad traverse over the game's six- to eight-hour campaign. There's a sense of desperation in the air as your teammates are often seen fighting against enemies that employ brutal tactics. All of the brutal and gory combat from previous games is back and grittier than ever. Ever see a Locust soldier rip its opponent's arm off and beat him to death with it? How about enemies that mutate in real time and explode in a glowing, corrosive mess when defeated? (A la the xenomorphs from the Alien series) You'll see that and more as the game progresses. The Gears universe is a violent one, and that has never been more evident than in this title.

The battles range from small, close quarters encounters in abandoned towns to all-out war as you struggle to defend a fort. The game does an excellent job of switching back and forth between these combat encounters combined with the smart enemies from previous installments. Along with these combat scenarios, there's also a handful of on-rails and vehicle segments to break up the monotony of the on-foot sections. These segments aren't plentiful or frequent but provide a nice distraction between taking cover and taking out enemies.

Gears of War 3 Screenshots
Click on the image to view game screenshots

If there is a weakness to be found in single player -- as in the previous installments -- it's in the story. The Gears titles have never had particularly strong or creative stories, and this trend unfortunately continues in this installment. There is nothing about the story that stands out as particularly “bad,” but what it has is strictly standard fare: The humans are fighting against a new enemy; Marcus Fenix must unite with his father to find a cure for the Lambent infection; and the rest of the cast deals with their own personal issues. While it's a nice attempt to show just how strong an effect the war has taken on humanity, it's done in such a heavy-handed and over-dramatic way that it's hard to take anyone seriously or much less care when something bad happens. This is not the place to look for a strong, character-centric narrative. Its strengths rely on compelling level design rather than narrative, but since the whole is much stronger than the sum, it all ends up evening out.

Rob:

I felt that the Gears of War 3 single-player campaign was the best in the series. The combat was varied enough, especially with the introduction of major battles with the Lambent, as opposed to prior entries in the series that didn't have quite as much diversity. The introduction of known enemies with enhanced attributes was also a welcome change. With the larger cast of enemy characters and some particularly good level and scenario designs, Gears 3 definitely takes the top spot of the trilogy when it comes to the campaign.

Other parts of the single-player campaign that were also solid were some of the special set pieces, such as boss battles. Whether you're shooting a massive Lambent sea monster in the eyes or having to fend off a Lambent Berserker with no Hammer of Dawn to help you, the boss battles were intense and very satisfying. Even the non-Lambent battles were designed very well.

Overall, though, there's not quite as much to talk about in Gears 3 when it comes to single-player action. Gears 3 revolves so much more around multiplayer action that all you ought to do is play the single-player campaign once and then move on to playing Gears 3 with others full-time.

Ryan:

Gears of War 3 went above and beyond with its single-player experience. The campaign mode is far more involved than the first two games in the series were and can take players up to 20 hours to complete. The story goes into greater detail than the previous games. There’s also a ton to do outside of the campaign, with all the multiplayer modes ready to go with bots you can play against. Overall, it’s still a must-play, even if you don’t have an Xbox Live Gold account.

Jenner:

If I had to choose reasons why the Gears series has always impressed me when it comes to campaigns, I’d have to say it’s because the unexpected comes, naturally, due to its story involving alien creatures, huge bosses, and it's lengthy. You can only infiltrate or raid a third-world country’s terrorist’s base so much before it becomes stale. The inclusion of bots has always been welcome. Sure, even at the highest level, they’re not too bright, but Gears is a unique shooter and comes with its own learning curve compared to other shooters. So, if nothing else, the bots have a unique learning curve before you catch on. True, COD Black Ops has finally included bots, but Gears did it first, and it includes bots in nearly all game modes.

Gears of War 3 Screenshots

 

Multiplayer:

Kyle:

Gears of War was always famous for its close-quarters, brutal multiplayer. It was fun and fast paced but despite having a high fun factor, issues from each previous installment have always prevented me from having an entirely good time. Gears 1 had the shotgun and host advantage issues. Gears 2 had lag issues. Yet, for the most part, I am happy to report that Gears 3's multiplayer runs smoothly and has little issues that don't prevent the game from being fun. Most of the gripes I've had with previous entries in the series have been taken care of. Dedicated servers now take care of most lag issues. All of the previous game modes are intact with a selection of new modes. The new deathmatch mode allows those who hated sitting out the entire match after dying to jump back into the action (at the expense of your team's tickets.) For those who aren't fans of the competitive side of multiplayer, we have the new and improved Horde mode along with the entirely new Beast mode.

Horde mode now comes with a more diverse set of options to help defend against increasing waves of enemies. Barricades, new weapons, ammo and gun turrets can be purchased and upgraded with each surviving round. With a higher and tougher selection of enemies (including bosses!), the new armaments come in very handy when you and friends are fighting for your lives.

Beast mode plays similar to Horde, but instead of playing as the remnants of humanity, you play as the Locust horde and are tasked with wiping out the CPU humans who employ all of the same defenses that are available in Horde. Each successful round in which you destroy the enemy lands you cash to upgrade your characters to bigger and stronger Locusts. Players start out as a lowly grub in the beginning, but by the end of a few rounds, they will be using Beserkers and Kantus priests, each with their own abilities. It's a ton of fun and requires much more strategic approaches than simple brute force.

Rob:

The multiplayer portion of Gears 3 is, by far, the focus of the game. The campaign seems like it was outright designed for two to four people. And let me tell you, playing the campaign with four people is a highly enjoyable experience. Just crank up the difficulty and coordinate with your fellow players and see what kind of craziness the game throws at you. As far as the campaign goes, one of the best parts is that anybody can jump in and out of a friend's campaign experience whenever they choose, allowing the host to enjoy a seamless experience.

Another nice feature is an arcade-type scoring system. This is a lot of fun when you're playing the campaign in multiplayer because you can rank yourself against your friends to see who is kicking the most Locust and Lambent ass. Multiplayer includes ribbons, medals, and plenty of unlockables, so if you're the asshole always picking up all of the ammo in a level, you'll get a ribbon for that. Conversely, if you're the kid in the corner who never gets supplies and has to make-do with the pistol most of the time, well ... There's a ribbon for that too.

Gears of War 3 Screenshots

These scores, ribbons, medals, and unlockables permeate the entire game experience, but they're very focused in multiplayer. Playing games (and especially doing well) earn you experience, and this experience will unlock skins and other game features in higher and higher levels. You'll amass ribbons and medals for your valor in combat, which are also used in some unlocks. This will all create a record for how much or little you kick ass. You'll also get an idea for your playing style, as you'll see certain ribbons accumulate faster than others.

As far as multiplayer modes go, Gears 3 is not short on them. You have your classic Team Deathmatch mode, joined by Warzone, which is Team Deathmatch without the respawns. Execution is the same as Warzone, save that you must execute your opponent and cannot gun him to death while he's down. King of the Hill returns in which you must accumulate a certain number of points while your team holds a specific objective on the map. Capture the Leader sees each team with a leader, obviously. In this mode, the leaders must be protected for a specified time or he'll turn into meat shield for the other team. Wingman returns as well, with four teams of two all battling it out to be the last team standing.

My favorite Gears multiplayer mode returns with Horde mode, now with your standard-fare upgrades to these "wave battle" type games. As you battle each wave of Locust enemies, you will earn money and rewards that allow you to battle future waves easier. Money can buy nice weapons and fixed defenses. The inverse of this mode has been added as well, called Beast mode. As you earn cash as Locust, you can level up to the most dominant Locust classes, even getting up to a Berserker.

All of these modes can be played privately and publicly, and if you like, you can specify certain parameters of each game to customize your game play experience to your liking. You can play in ranked matches that have a lobbying period at the beginning and a set play time, or get involved in unranked matches that allow for near-continual play and the ability to jump in and out of a game in process. Additionally, party sizes have been increased to 10, allowing you to get together to fill a single multiplayer match.

Honestly, Gears 3's multiplayer focus and improvements really take the cake here.

Ryan:

Multiplayer this time around is bar none. Epic listened to their fans and took what worked best from Gears 1 and 2 and put them together -- and then some. Beast mode is a blast to try out, with the ability to jump into the skin of Locust characters you’ve never been able to play before. Epic also went above and beyond with its upgrades to Horde, with a currency system to buy upgrades and the ability to build fences, turrets, and other defensive tools to stop the waves and waves of enemies. This is definitely one of the best multiplayer games ever made and far surpasses its predecessors.

Gears of War 3 Screenshots

Jenner:

By far my most favorite addition to the multiplayer is the new Team Deathmatch multiplayer mode. I know, it’s the most brainless mode there is in the FPS world, but regardless, if you capture that base, flag, or whatever, the enemy will eventually catch up and kill you if you don’t know how to defend yourself. That said, I was disappointed when the most basic deathmatch Gear 2 had was Guardian or Execution. Veteran or not, all that time watching until the round ended could be better spent playing. For a game where even basic movement has a different learning curve, this new game mode is god sent. Other than that, the new additions to Horde mode are a very nice touch.

 

Game play:

Kyle:

Gears of War 3 employs subtle but effective improvements in game play. All of the same features from the previous installments are intact and function just as well as ever, but the issues that have plagued the series since the beginning have (for the most part) been improved and polished to a mirror sheen. The "roadie run” and sticking to cover feels smoother and more responsive; bouncing from cover to cover and running from danger has been tightened and now results in less cases of sticking to cover when you don't want to. It doesn't work with completely flawless results, but it is much improved. The weapons are still either woefully weak or grossly overpowered. Weapons like the sawed off shotgun prove to be even more powerful than the standard gnasher shotgun and make some multiplayer modes, once again, a shotgun fest that caters to rushers and higher level players. Even the standard issue Lancer assault rifle can hit enemies from a great distance and provides little recoil. It's issues like these that have the potential to ruin the enjoyment of the game and provide a steep learning curve for new players. It's a notable flaw, one that has plagued the series since the beginning and is something that after two previous installments and hours of online playtime should have been fixed. The latest patch has done nothing to address these issues and according to the latest updates from Epic, it will continue to do nothing to fix these weapons concerns.

Rob:

Gears 3 plays like the previous games in the series. It's a tactical, strategic cover-based shooter with a decent-sized assortment of weapons to choose from. Your standard fare chainsaw-attached Lancer comes back, with a shotgun, a pistol and grenades. There are a few different pistol types with different shooting modes and per-bullet damages, as usual. You can load up the Hammerburst, the Locus assault rifle that packs a bigger punch but doesn't have as constant a stream of bullets as the Lancer. You can also load up a Retro Lancer, which is more powerful than the modern Lancer (which seems counter-intuitive, but it's also less accurate) and has a bayonet instead of a chainsaw. Additionally, a sawed-off shotgun has been added for ultra-close combat against multiple enemies. Let's not forget the standard cast of other Gears weapons making their returns, such as the Boomshot, Torque Bow, and Longshot.

There are several new special weapons that Gears 3 has introduced this time around. A weapon called the One-Shot is basically an uber-powered sniper rifle that can eliminate a target in one shot. Additionally, it can hit enemies behind the front-most target. There's a new gun that shoots grenades that burrow under the ground to their target. There's even a new mech in the game that you can play in the campaign and earn enough money to use in Horde mode!

Honestly, Gears of War 3 still has the tried-and-true cover-based shooter game play we've all come to know (and in some cases, love). There's no way to describe it other than to say, it's still Gears.

Ryan:

The game play in Gears 3 is as solid as the previous two games, but there is one minor issue. For some reason, Epic decided to swap the buttons for performing execution moves on your enemies. This can be a bit confusing for Gears vets, but after a while, you’ll get used to it. There really was no reason to make that change. Otherwise, the controls are as tight and accurate as ever.

Jenner:

No game does cover-based warfare better than this. There can always be improvements, of course, but if you’re looking for an FPS that has an emphasis on the words “take cover,” this is it. I will admit that the majority of deaths coming from shotguns got on my nerves (yet again), but it actually seems fair now now that the Lancer has has received a much needed damage increase.

Gears of War 3 Screenshots

 

Graphics:

Kyle:

Not much can be said that already can't be figured out by simply looking at screenshots. The game is gorgeous to watch in motion and features good looking animation, character models, and environments. For a series that has been known to feature dark, sepia toned battlegrounds, this installment has chosen a new brightly colored palette and features lush islands, sun-stained hotels, and floating cities in a vast ocean. Each environment provides plenty to look at and helps to remind the players that not everything in the Gears universe has to come in shades of gray.

Rob:

The graphics in Gears 3 didn't strike me as a huge upgrade, but they didn't have to. Gears games have always had what people call this "beautiful decay" look to them. Sure, the graphics are polished even more in this day and age than before, but honestly they still play a little bit of a second fiddle to the entire game play and multiplayer experience that Gears 3 brings to the table. Some of the larger environments and grand-scale views in the game get to show off some horsepower. However, the graphics really just supplement the rest of the game. If the graphics were not acceptable, then that would be a story.

Ryan:

As expected, Gears of War 3 boasts some of the best graphics ever seen on the 360. Every COG, Locust, and Lambent looks as realistic as can be, and all the gore has never looked better. While there are other games out there that will look prettier, Gears 3 gets the job done.

Jenner:

Another one of the game’s strengths, especially coming from the 360. It doesn’t necessarily look any better than the last game, but then again it doesn’t need to be. You can tell Epic has given a lot of attention to detail when you can see even pockmarks on faces or veins in the skin ... what? I notice things.

 

Scores:

Kyle's final score: 8.9

Rob's final score: 9.7

Ryan's final score: 9.1

Jenner's final score: 9.1

Comments

Review Score
9.2

Mature

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

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