Gears of War 3 Review – Going Out With A Bang

Epic Games has been working on this one for quite a while.  Originally due out in April of this year, Microsoft made the decision to push it back to a fall release much to the dismay of fans.  In my opinion, it was one of the best decisions for the game.  The extra development time allowed Epic to run a beta for the multiplayer and basically polish the crap out of the game.  In the end, Gears of War 3 is one of the best looking and overall best games on the Xbox 360.  Detailing Delta Squad’s swan song and last-ditch effort to save humanity from the Locust Horde and the emerging threat from the Lambent virus, can Marcus and company come through against overwhelming odds?  More importantly, is the multiplayer finally playable and fun? 

Does Gears of War 3 finally live up to the promises or does it need to be curbstomped?  Full review after the break.

Gears of War 3 opens over a year after the events of Gears 2.  Delta Squad is facing some dire times as the world around them begins to fall apart and Chairman Prescott has seemingly gone MIA, abandoning the COG altogether.  The Locust Horde suffered major losses with the flooding of Jacinto and the hollows below the surface and are now clinging to survive as well.  The major issue stems from a third-party joining the fight in the form of the Lambent, who are mutated versions of the Locust from coming in contact with the fuel source Imulsion.  With the COG army quickly coming apart at the seams, Delta and the crew on board Raven’s Nest are having a difficult time making it through the days.  On top of that, Marcus receives a cryptic message from his Dad about finding a way to stop the Lambent from spreading further.  Only thing is, Marcus has believed his father died many years ago. 

Overall, I was impressed with the story.  It’s definitely the strongest out of the three games and even covers some back story such as Cole’s Thrashball days.  Yes, it’s still extremely macho and manly and can be cheesy at times, but it’s what you expect out of a Gears game so no real surprise there.  The campaign will run you anywhere between 10-14 hours (depending on difficulty and collectible hunting) and it was a joy the whole way through.  The voice acting is superb as usual, but to me, the most impressive thing is the level of polish and detail.  The visuals are just so crisp bringing the world to life and making it very believable to the player.

Essentially, the game controls like you’d expect it to.  Not much deviates from the cover based third person shooter.  It still feels excellent, responsive, and fair.  Some new additions were made to the gameplay including vaulting over cover causing a “mantle kick” which will stun the enemy on the other side.  You also have grenade tagging a captured enemy, brand new guns like the Digger Launcher, One Shot Sniper Rifle, Retro Lancer, and the Sawed Off Shotgun for example.  One of the best new additions in my opinion is the Silverback Mech, which turns up a few times in the campaign.  Piloting this small machine makes you feel like a god as you can stomp the ground and fire off its dual machine guns.  It’s balanced nicely however as it’s guns can overheat and it does take damage from enemies, so it’s not an “instant win button”.  Oh and don’t worry, the hidden dog tags and collectables are here for you to find.  Believe me, some of them are very creatively hidden in the levels.

The sheer amount of unlocks, medals, and ribbons you can earn is truly impressive as well.  Better yet, you can keep tabs on how far along you are to earning these things in the statistics menu along with your personal data for those of you who enjoy stat tracking.  While the 5 main guns do have different skins you can customize on them, the good majority of them have to be purchased.  It’s unfortunate, but ultimately fluff material and doesn’t hold back the game.  If you want to unlock everything, you’ll be playing quite a while.  Just check out the “Seriously 3.0″ achievement for a taste.

The wildly popular Horde mode makes its triumphant return in Gears 3, this time given even more features to round it out.  It’s essentially the same as you remember, 50 waves each with increasing difficulty and boss rounds.  This time around, you can bring up to 4 other people with yourself to help and each kill/assist is now worth money you can spend on ammo, new guns, and more importantly, fortifications like barbed wire, gun turrets, decoys, and many other structures.  There’s almost an RPG leveling system mixed with tower defense as the more you use these fortifications, the better the structure you can make.  Instead of barbed wire at level 1, you can level it up and gain access to better stuff like laser wire for example. 

In a new addition, Beast Mode is kind of like reverse Horde.  You’re given access to the Locust to rampage and kill humans in 12 waves of insanity.  You start with a minute to kill everyone on the map with more time given for speedy completetions and kills.  Each wave grows progressively harder until Wave 12 where you need to kill Chairman Prescott and a horde of Onyx COG soldiers.  The kills you rack up and fortifications you destroy will earn you money which opens up additional levels of Locusts to use.  You start out with the simple ones like Wreches and Tickers but by the end, you’ll gain access to the heavy hitters such as the Berserker.  It’s an extremely fun mode and better yet, won’t keep you playing all night like Horde can. 

Co-op makes a return as you can certainly run through the campaign with 3 other players or try your hand are arcade mode.  Arcade mode strips away the fluff from the campaign, slaps on a points counter and even lets you tweak modifiers like unlimited ammo, health recharge by shooting enemies or the very funny laugh track. 

I think we all know that Gears 3 had a lot to live up to after the not so great version present in Gears 2.  Thankfully, with the beta under their belt and the addition of dedicated servers, Epic has crafted the multiplayer that we all wanted.  It runs very smoothly and there’s no longer a host advantage or unbalanced guns (Gnasher Shotgun for example).  The standard game comes with 10 fantastic maps and reworked game modes.  You’re getting 5 modes in total including a new Team Deathmatch mode which gives each team 20 lives with each death removing one from the pool.  It gets very tense when your team is down to their last respawn and also can make some pretty…well…epic last stands if you’re the last player alive.  Warzone and Execution make their return along with King of the Hill and Capture the Leader which is a cross between Guardian and Submission from previous games.  The action is fast paced, frantic, and a whole lot of fun, especially with the new moves and weapons added in.  Epic also runs weekly events during the weekends like Digger only playlists which add a great deal of longevity to the game.  It’s also great to see a developer really continue to work with the game in an effort to continue to make it excellent for players.

Ultimately, Epic has managed to surpass the other two entries with a crazy amount of polish, detail, and most importantly love for the franchise.  It’s pretty evident that Epic sought out to make the definitive Gears of War experience and also give fans exactly what they want.  Everything present here has been finely tuned and detailed.  The graphics are some of the best work on the console, the gameplay is at it’s best, and the multiplayer is now housed on dedicated servers preventing many of the problems plaguing the past games.  Even if this is the last Gears game (trust me, it won’t be), they certainly went out on an extremely high note. 

Gears of War 3 gets an easy 5 curbstomps, out of 5

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