First Person Shooter: Gears of War 3

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gears-of-war-3Platforms: PS3 and Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Epic Games
Rating: M-Rated
Release Date: Out Now
Review Author: Jamie Kimpton

 

 


Storyline and Playability

Gears opens the story on the new status quo: the humans who once waged war with such enthusiasm are now a decimated species hiding and surviving wherever they can. The Cog army have abandoned the land to take refuge aboard an ocean liner where we join our protagonists and begin the rollicking plot of Gears of War 3.

The main campaign, which lasts roughly 13 hours, opens on a confined ship with all signs of hope quickly fading but it quickly finds a direction and purpose with the news that Marcus Fenix’s father and general plot Mcguffin is still alive, not only that, but he may be humanity's last hope for survival. The following hours trail Marcus and the gang as they traverse a ruined earth slaying hordes of enemies and shouting obscenities along the way. It is always in danger of retreading old ground and rehashing old scenarios, but Gears does its best to side step these expectations and delivers its own unique experience with the introduction of new weapons, enemies and wonderfully structured battle grounds. The plot of Gears of War 3 has a lot of ground to cover; it has the difficult job of tying up all the loose ends set up in the first two instalments and sets to deliver a definitive ending to the saga.

The pace set in Gears 3 is much faster then its predecessors,  Marcus now bolts thought midsections with his finger firmly shoved in his ear to allow for exposition but opposite to Gears 2 where this broke the action down too often now feels more streamlined and less of a bugbear. Though at times it feels as though the plot slows too much as it forces you to complete objective X and objective Y before moving forward, it’s never a point of contraction. The narrative tries its best to get the player to invest emotionally in its characters and the plight of humanity and largely it exceeds expectations whilst failing in others.

At times the dialogue comes across as forced and heavy handed but in a game with chainsaw wielding gorilla men this is to be expected and is easily forgiven when matched with the performances of the voice actors and frantic pacing found in the main flow of play. 

Gears of War 3 screenshot 1

 

Presentation

Gears is a game that knows exactly the look it wants, from the heavy gravity bullet trails to the creature design variations found in the lambent and locust enemies.From the Outset Gears establishes itself as one of the finest looking games out, Epic have worked wonders with the unreal engine. The environments have diversified greatly from its previous incarnations ranging from sprawling forests to claustrophobic corridors allowing them to really show just how capable the engine can be. The fine detail littered through-out the game from the character models to the window dressings highlight just how much time and work has gone into improving on the greyish brown hued environments from the previous games. Gears has an awesome sense of cartoon-realism and beauty in its depths.

To compliment the impressive visuals Epic has crafted a fittingly epic soundtrack to accompany the fervent pace of the campaign. It captures the mood with great aplomb and helps immerse the player into its world. The score itself holds its own in comparison with that of any Hollywood blockbuster. Similarly the voice acting is fantastic, with the voice actors putting in their best performances to date. The cast manage to portray some actual emotion in cut-scenes which add to the overall gravitas of the games plot and allows certain scenes to have more nuances than you may be expecting from a Gears of War game. On the flip side, however, the short sound-bytes that the characters spit out randomly become a little repetitive and are often unnecessary. Frequently during play I would hear my fellow gears shouting their catchphrases and at around the six hour mark they became quite tired, after all there are only so many times you want to hear Marcus Fenix screaming orders to run for cover.

The menu navigation and online options are crystal clear meaning it’s easy to pick up and jump straight into any one of the online game modes. These range from the traditional death matches to the return of the oft-copied and seldom bettered "Horde" mode and even goes one further with the introduction of "Beast" mode. Each mode offers its individual challenges and structures and there is enough for any die-hard fan or newcomer to find interesting and will probably keep many copies of this release os Gears off of the pre-owned shelves for a long time.

Gears of War 3 screenshot 2

 

Best Points

Gears of War 3 has polished the game dynamics it pioneered to perfection. Bolstering its run, cover, and fire mechanics with new and interesting weapons. The main campaigns terrific set pieces diversify the core game play expanding it beyond just hiding in one spot while you mow down waves of enemies. The running and dodging feels faster and more useful then before allowing the player more freedom of movement and the ability to switch between covers with greater precision then ever before. It’s a necessary improvement as the games finely tuned battles are structured so there are multiple elements to consider. Some enemies may rush you and using the new cover kick action to knock you down and away from the safety of cover. Turrets and certain new weapons will keep you pinned down and force you to make strategic decisions on approach especially when playing in co-operative or online. Some enemies such as the mutated Lambents you encounter along the way are now able to spray fire behind cover further forcing you to strategise and collaborate with teammates to make certain their destruction. This is helped with the new ability to mark a target with a quick push of the left stick allowing the team to focus fire and adding an element of strategy to the fights.

The new weapons breathe some new balance into the online play and campaign with additions such as the digger, a gun which allows you to fire explosive burrowing enemies under the ground and behind cover. The sawn off shotgun allows for close range destruction at the expense of having possibly the longest reload time ever. The ‘classic’ weapons have all received a slight overhaul, the lancer is now faster and more accurate then before but is significantly weaker then some of the other options available. These and numerous other changes to the weapon mechanics have really balanced the online play and open a certain freedom of choice to the players chosen method of destruction. Impressively even the more generic weapons in Gears feel unique and each of them has their own specific use and purpose while retaining balance for multiplayer.

The multiplayer boasts a multitude of play modes and options. From character and load out choices to weapon skins and mutators (big head mode ftw). The maps are designed to highlight variation in game play, the thrash ball map is a prime example of this. It offers a large open field for grand scale gun fights with adjoining tight corridors for close quarters and stands on the outside to allow for some long distance kills. Gears is all about choice in the multiplayer. If fragging people in an online death match is not your cup of tea then the phenomenal and rejuvenated Horde mode may be more your style. The survival mode which pits you and up to four friends against waves of enemies increasing in challenge and health along the way has new added depth. Horde mode now combines elements of tower defence and r.p.g progression into the main game play, you are rewarded with cash for kills which can in turn be spent upgrading and fortifying your surroundings with barb wire, turrets, decoys and more. For me it is the definitive highlight of an already impressive game and offers hours of multi-player fun both online and locally.

In addition to the core game modes made famous in Gears of War 2 is the new beast mode, similar to Horde mode but with a twist, it puts the player in control of the various and numerous games bestiary, challenging them to destroy the Cog army. With each kill the cash and experience builds opening access to different monsters and enemies to better slay the humans with. It’s a nice addition that adds some variation and something unique to the gears package and is worth taking time from the main campaign and Horde modes to try it yourself.

Gears of War 3 screenshot 3

Worst Points

While the overall plotting is good, the script on the other hand is not so hot. At times it struggles to find the right voice especially the emotionally charged scenes which come across as heavy handed and just a little cheesy. At times the Xbox will struggle to keep its impressive frame rate going and shows some visible tearing and chaffing at its sides. These glitches never detract too much from the overall aesthetic and are understandable in a game of such visual calibre and frantic pace.

Gears 3 has done its utmost to diversify the playing experience and to an extent it is successful. However there is little innovation to be found beyond new weapons and enemies and occasionally follows its past outings a little too closely giving an impression of having seen and done it all before. Thankfully, overall the game still feels fresh enough that it’s a fault that can easily be forgiven and considering the sheer fun on offer it is never a point you will dwell on too long.

Overall Score

5/5 - Gears of War 3 comes charging out of the shadows left by its predecessors to shotgun the nay-Sayers in the face with its campaign before finishing them off with the chainsaw coup de grace that is online play . Multiplayer will keep you busy for along time after crashing though the main story and Epic have already announced the first wave of DLC further adding to its potential shelf life in your games stack. It is easily one of the finest titles released this year, with enough for old-hats and noobs alike, it is well worth a purchase.