The End of the ‘War’

With each new “Gears of War” game, developer Epic Games sets the standard for third-person shooters. “Gears of War 3” is no different. The controls and gameplay are polished to perfection, and the addicting new co-op modes further complete the overall experience. The game offers nearly everything fans could want for the conclusion to this beloved series, but it isn’t as much a radical leap forward as “Gears of War 2” was to the first game.

Most of the improvements implemented in “Gears 3” are quite small, but all further refine the game’s core gameplay. The increased movement, speed and mobility of the characters lead to faster and more brutal firefights. With the extra tweaks to the cover system, it is now much easier to snap into cover exactly as you want.

In addition to gameplay mechanics, there are quite a few new weapons to try out, such as the bayonet equipped Retro Lancer and the Digger, which shoots a bomb that travels underground. While it’s possible for you to discover a new favorite, it’s disappointing that none of the new weapons fill in the missing gaps in the arsenal that would make you want to switch to them. “Gears” has always had weapons that are both interesting and useful, but the new additions are either very vanilla or impractical.

The campaign for “Gears 3” is really solid. Most of the battles in the game lean toward the original “Gears” firefights. They heavily focus on the gameplay of advancing forward and flanking your opponents rather than its predecessor’s focus on creating spectacle. This feeling of familiarity, though, is stifled by the large variety of enemies you face. The Lambent race, which was hinted at in previous games, is finally introduced in “Gears 3,” and coming up with new strategies to defeat the mutating monsters is a blast.

The new campaign supports up to four-player co-op, though still only two players for split screen. The focus on keeping the fights on a smaller scale definitely leads itself to an exciting experience for four players. This is even more true with the Arcade mode, which encourages competition amidst the co-op. However, at the same time, the campaign does suffer from the lack of constant excitement found in the completely over-the-top nature of “Gears 2’s” campaign.

I was disappointed that a lot of the huge set pieces in the campaign were evocative of great moments in the previous games, but weren’t implemented as well. That said, the story is interesting, as it addresses the conflict between Marcus Fenix’s quest to find his father and his duty to ensure the safety of the last of humanity. The writing is an improvement over the other games in terms of the banter between your squad-mates, as well as the delivery of the dramatic moments in the story.

One element of the campaign that caught me off guard was the amount of bugs and glitches. This ranged from simple things from an enemy ceasing to attack and textures not loading fully, to no longer being able to jump over cover at times. At one point, I was climbing a ladder and was teleported to a black room with no light in it and  had to restart.

Horde 2.0 and Beast Mode comprise the other co-op features in “Gears 3.” Horde 2.0 is more or less the exact same Horde as seen in “Gears 2,” though with each kill you earn money, which is used to build a tower-defense item to protect your territory. Beast Mode is essentially the anti-Horde mode because instead of playing as the humans, you play as the Locust and all the money you earn goes to the opportunity of you spawning as a more powerful creature.

Of these two modes, I preferred Beast Mode because it lets you try out a wide variety of creatures from massive Bloodmounts and Corpsers to lowly Tickers. I enjoyed the new Horde a lot, but at the same time, I wish the game also let you play classic Horde from the second game.

The last piece of “Gears 3” is the competitive multiplayer. Matchmaking is an improvement over the last game because “Gears 3” now runs on dedicated servers. Those looking for a “Call of Duty” progression system with perks will not find it here. Instead, you unlock characters and weapon skins as you level up, which is enough to keep the already-fun multiplayer from getting stale.
In some ways, “Gears of War 3” doesn’t live up to all the hype, but despite my few criticisms of it, it is still a phenomenal game. It’s paced incredibly well and the controls are near-perfect. It’s a strong finish to one of this generation’s most incredible series.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5