Gears of War 3 (2011), video game review.

In 2007 if you had asked me what my favorite video game was I probably would have said some Nintendo game or an early Playstation game. Fast forward to winter of 2008 and the only game I was playing was Gears of War 2, where I had racked up over a thousand rounds of multiplayer…offline. So naturally since Gears 3 came out earlier this week it has completely consumed my life.

Gears of War 3 may well be the greatest third-person shooter to come out on any system, let alone the Xbox 360. Packed with a ton of great modes, including the new four-player campaign and Beast mode, there’s a lot to love in Gears 3. And even if it was the same old game as the last one, only reskinned, I’d probably still have the same amount of playtime. But luckily…its much much more.

Gears of War 3 evolves the Gears formula, but at the same time changes it up. Instead of spending most of your time huddled safely behind cover, now you have to scurry around the battlefield if you want to stay alive. Ammo is scarce, most of the cover being destructible, and the new lambent enemies that adapt to take you out, even the sturdiest of cover might not be enough.

With all these elements in place the game nails that desperate war vibe that the series has always been so close to achieving. And with better writing we have better moments of characterization, and for the first time in the series we really cared about the characters as their struggle comes to a close. Humanity ending now seems like a completely plausible thing, and unless you can stop both the lambent and the Locust, it will happen…

The writing does take a few stumbles here and there though. Since Gears of War 2 a lot of stuff has happened, but the game doesn’t do a good job of conveying that information. And so the characters will occasionally mention some thing that may have taken place in the expanded universe (see: books). This doesn’t harm the game narrative too much, but some of the relationships between characters might be hard to follow, and it was also hard to care much for any of the new characters. But I will say that Gears 3 has tempted me to maybe read some of the books which happen to be penned by the writer of the game.

I didn’t get a chance to play any of the campaign co-op, but I can tell you that the game plays amazingly, and it looks even better (best looking console game?). A big problem with the first to game was the lack of environmentally variety. This is no longer a problem, you never stay in one area for too long before you get whisked off to the next. Gears 3 also has a handful of quiet moments that are new to the series. These are well used to tell story and build characters, while at the same time not be too long that they get boring.

Everything about the game looks phenomenal; the way that the sun (which in some levels actually hurt my eyes to look at) comes through the decaying buildings and plays across the walls and floors creating shadows; the mouth-watering explosions that are worth death just to see; the flashing of the smoke as guns are fired within; the water filled with floating debris. I could go on and on, but I won’t.  Just trust me, this is a stunning game.

Just like the visuals, the gameplay is amazing. It feels smoother, is faster, and just as good when you first played a Gears game. Tweaks to the gameplay add things that you never knew you always wanted. Like the mantel kick, which allows you to leap over cover and potential stun and push away an enemy on the other side. And new weapons are a blast to use, and some old favorites have been improved as well. One of the most satisfying kills in gaming comes from the new Retro Lancers bayonet charge.

And you’re going to need all these upgrades, because the game isn’t an easy one. I was able to play through the campaign on ‘normal’ without much trouble but when I hopped over to ‘insane’ or tried my hand at Horde, I got my ass kicked–Horde less so. This is most likely due to the game now have to deal with four people instead of just two. And the game is still fun, but sometimes I felt that the checkpoints were a little too widely spaced for a single-player journey. But I would have to assume that with another player in tow, and thus the ability to be revived, I would be able to make it much further.

Now that I’ve mentioned Horde I might as well say that the improvements, in the way of defenses, make it much better, and actually encourage people to play the way that many found out was the best way: creating a fortress.

Whenever you kill something in Horde it nets you an amount of money which depends on what the enemy was. You can then take that money and use it at the end of each round to build up your bases defenses. These could range from barbed wire covering the entrance, to having a pair of mechs at your disposal. You can also upgrade most of them, I can’t say all because I haven’t unlocked them all yet. And therein lays one of my complaints about the game. Some stuff seems to be locked for no other reason then to have it as unlockable. For instance, I can’t buy a mech in Horde mode until I’ve spent 170,000$ on barriers. When you first boot up Horde you only have access to the weakest barrier and nothing else, but the more you play the different things unlock to buy and you get the ability to upgrade things. I can understand that this is probably just a way for them to get people to keep coming back and playing, but having to spend hours and hours just so I can get the full experience doesn’t seem fair.

There are also ‘boss waves’ in which extra tough enemies such as Berserkers or Brumaks will come at you. Also there will occasionally be ‘bonus waves’ where there will be a bonus objective besides kill everything, and if you complete the objective you get some extra cash and weaponry.

For those of you who always wanted to know what it’d be like to play as the different types Locust, Beast mode scratches that itch. Instead of playing a group of humans just trying to hold out as long as they can, you are instead the ‘horde’ whose job it is to destroy the humans. Just like in Horde the humans construct barriers and other such defenses to guard against the Locust, only this time…you’re the Locust. At the very beginning you can choose from the weaker Locusts, but as you rank up more and more kills you earn money, time (I’ll talk about that in a sec), and eventually, more types of Locust. Unlike in Horde though the things you unlock are only for that one play. Also unlike Horde is the timer that is constantly counting down, so it is encouraged to play a couple of times just goofing around so that you can get the hang of the mode, before you try to conquer all of its twelve waves and maybe getting your score on a leaderboard (assuming you have Live).

The multiplayer is also a real blast, and for those of you (like myself) that don’t have Xbox Live access, there are bots that you and one friend can play against/with. All of the maps are great, but I wished that they didn’t use the same maps for Horde and Beast that they do for multiplayer. And you can tell that some of the maps were geared toward a specific mode. The maps are still good, it’s just a thought.

The modes are fun enough, and the unlockables intriguing enough that even though I’m playing against a bunch of AI I still have a good time whenever I play some multiplayer. All of the modes from the last two games have been streamlined, combined with another mode, or dropped all together.

My far my biggest complaint (which isn’t even that big) is that the collision isn’t very good in the game. On the tiniest level I don’t really mind if a guys gun sometimes slips into a wall, but on a larger scale, seeing a Brumak walk through a building… it was disappointing. If you’re going to have giant dinosaur-like creature walking through buildings at least give the game destructible environments (Epic take note).

I have a few smaller complaints. Like that, and this happened in the other Gears games, you can sometimes see enemies shadows on the other side of the cover their against. Also, I did see some random objects floating around in the air. And my last complaint is that the companion AI for campaign was kind of annoying. Sometimes the AI would stand in my way, blocking the path until I could nudge them out-of-the-way. And a couple of times there was a glitch where an ally would try to slide into the same wall of cover that I was using, but then I would be kicked out of it.

Even though it has its problems, Gears of War 3 is one of the best Xbox 360 yet and even if you’re not a huge fan you should check it out. It is one the prettiest and most polished game around and I’ve had (and will continue to) a ton of fun with the game. And despite some small problems it might be my favorite Xbox 360.

Visuals:
Top-notch visuals. The game looks amazing; every once in while when playing I have to stop to admire the view.

Sound:
The music of Gears of War is really really good, feature new songs and old, and even some licensed real world songs. One of the best moments in the game is made better by the incredible music.

Gameplay:
They stuck with the core experience but changed it and made it even better. The game plays like you wished every game did. Plus, having almost all the load screen disguised as cutscene is great.

Worth the Money?:
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes! There is so much to do. So much to do. I will be playing this game for the come mont–years to come.

Console:
Xbox 360

Developer:
Epic Games.

Parental Rating:
M/17+

Final Score:
9.75/10

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Posted on September 26, 2011, in 2011, Review, Video Game, Xbox 360 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. How do you find the time to get this stuff out? I struggle to be productive these days but you’re going from strength to strength!

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