The “Gears of War” series is one of the console defining games of the Xbox 360. Combining great visuals with satisfying cover based 3rd person shooting, it provides a thrilling action packed experience, whether you play alone or with friends.
The third game in the series promises to provide us with a satisfying conclusion to the games story line, as well as giving the multiplayer modes a new coat of paint and ensure that you’ll have fun killing Lambet and Locust for months to come.
I have personally never really been all that into Gears of War. I played through the first game and found it to be enjoyable enough, but it did not set my world on fire and make me yearn for the sequel. So when Gears of War 2 came around I actually ended up giving it a pass. It was therefore with some shoulder shrugging that I greeted the announcement of Gears of War 3. I had no doubt that it was going to be a competent shooter, but I did not think it would really be for me.
But as more footage of the game was shown, I was really blown away by how gorgeous the game looked, and how fun the gameplay appeared to be. I realized that in the years since the first Gears of War, I had not really played any 3rd person shooter that presented such a smooth and polished experience as the original Gears did.
This lead me to ultimately decide to pick up Gears of War 3 and give it an honest try. And I’m glad I did.
First off, you should know that this is a really really good looking game. It’s not Battlefield 3, but it’s one of the best looking games I’ve seen on the Xbox for sure. And it’s not just in terms of the quality of the graphics that Gears 3 impresses. Throughout the campaign you will be travelling through many different landscapes, from destroyed cities to green forests, and the change of scenario does a great job of showing off the bells and whistles of the graphics engine.
And it is a great campaign. Aside from looking great and taking you to lots of different places around the war ravaged world of Sera, the game delivers a well crafted story that adds a lot of depth to the caricature-like COG protagonists. You’ll see a whole new side of the former “Thrashball” player Cole, as he visits the decrepit ruins of his home town.
It’s really nice to see Epic actually put in an effort to give depth and personality to the characters, in what could have otherwise been just a straight up action shooter with stereotypical characters. Especially when it works out so well as it does in Gears of War 3.
The story takes place 18 months after the end of Gears of War 2. The humans of the planet Sera are in a bad spot, having given up their last big city in an attempt to defeat the Locust once and for all. The surviving humans moved to the island of Vectes to rebuild, but soon the Lambent, big yellow glowing versions of Locusts, started becoming an increasing threat, causing the survivors to scatter across Sera.
As the game begins, Marcus Fenix and several of his COG buddies, including his brother Dom, are on board an old carrier ship, which acts as a floating haven for a group of survivors.
Naturally, things quickly go pear shaped as the ship comes under attack and Marcus and his crew finds themselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
Without spoiling any of the story, I can say that it quickly becomes a story that is both very personal, but also has the required “gotta save the world” importance to it that is the par for the course of Gears games. The campaign does a good job of actually providing a good ending, which also feels like a natural end point for the trilogy.
I’m extremely happy that Epic did not give in to the temptation of making a really open and unsatisfying ending to pave the way in case they wanted to make another Gears game. As it stands, I could see more Gears of War games being made, but they could also just let the series lie here and it would feel perfectly fine.
I was able to complete the campaign in around 7-8 hours, and I think the difficulty on Normal was pretty much spot on for me, as someone who plays 3rd person shooters infrequently and have not played Gears of War 2. I felt that I was in control of the situation most of the time, but with enough moments of “oh crap” and ensuing deaths that the game kept feeling intense and exciting to play. If you’re a hardcore Gears player, then there are harder difficulties to choose from, making the enemies capable of brutally murdering you quicker than you can say “Normal mode is for wussies”.
Of course the real meat of Gears games is the cover and gunplay mechanics. And they are as great as ever in Gears of War 3. Running up to cover and ducking behind it feels fast and smooth, and popping out from behind a concrete barrier to headshot an approaching enemy Locust makes you feel like a boss.
The guns have a good chunky feel to them, and you get a sense of real destructive power, whenever you unleash a clip into the chest of an unfortunate victim. And of course the chainsaw bayonet attachment on the Lancer assault rifle makes for much blood fountain related carving entertainment. Sure, it’s not as great as a chainsword from Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, but carving Locusts is *almost* as much fun as carving Orks (and they both taste like chicken).
I have only spent very little time on the multiplayer. Gears is mostly a singleplayer game for me, as I have long given up on trying to perform to any decent level in competitive Gears multiplayer. But if you’re a Gears deathmatch junkie, then there is plenty for you in Gears of War 3, and the gameplay is as visceral and intense as ever.
I prefer the games Horde mode then, which pits you against waves of Locust and Lambent. Fighting wave after wave of enemies, you earn money for every defeated baddie, which is used for buying everything from guns and ammo, to small mechs and resurrecting other players. It’s a frantic experience and if you want to complete all levels then you’re in for quite the challenge.
Oh, and lets not forget that you can play the whole campaign with up to 3 other friends as well. So if you’re into multiplayer, then you should be able to find a mode that you enjoy in Gears of War 3.
Overall I’m really positively surprised by Gears of War 3. I came into the game expecting a competent shooter with a throwaway story and two-dimensional characters, wrapped in some agreeable eye candy. But what I got was a interesting story, filled with characters that were not just tough wise cracking soldiers, wrapped in extremely delicious eye candy and perfectly seasoned with shooting that feels just right.
If you are looking at Gears of War 3 and wondering if you are really in the mood for another 3rd person shooter, then please take my advice and give it a try. The world of Sera needs you.
I’m a passionate gamer and lover of science fiction.
With more than 25 years of gaming and consuming sci-fi in every media form, I consider myself something of an expert.
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