Gears of War 3 Review

Gears of War 3

This is the Gears of War you probably expected. If you haven’t been a fan of the past Gears of War installments, the third iteration will show similar results. The franchise has always had that aggressive, testosterone-fueled, bro-tastic theme going on, and that doesn’t change here. Gameplay elements like the roadie run, the third-person view, and the signature violent action haven’t gone anywhere either, but where Gears of War 3 lacks in new gameplay elements it makes up for with across-the-board improvement. The game’s visuals are polished to perfection, the controls feel just right, and the pacing is outstanding. Fundamental gameplay and story elements may not sit well with some critics, but one can’t help but be impressed by the overall improvements the series has undergone.

I was pumped to begin the campaign, especially after watching a welcome addition to the main menu in the form of a series synopsis, which filled me in on few story conflicts I had forgotten about. Immediately I noticed a difference in how this game felt, contrary to the previous two. The controls are more precise and the COGs don’t feel as slow and bulky as they look. The cover system works even better because of this. After playing for a few minutes players will certainly be able to tactically jump from cover to cover with ease, Gears veteran or not.

The game features many familiar elements of play, but everything is impressively refined. Each setting features conveniently located pillars, refrigerators, vehicles, and other large objects placed in a manner that allows for a variety of tactics, which players have come to expect. While in cover one will often see multiple routes to advance. For example, many settings are arranged in a way that will allow Fenix and company to flank. However, the AI is very smart, and will punish reckless play. If players flank too early, say, before taking out a few enemies from long range, chances of survival are slim. Staying back too long allows enemies to push up and surround the squad. I appreciated the AI, though, and never felt like a situation was too difficult. Every death I experienced felt warranted and encouraged me to adapt, and to explore the different combat options available.

Gears of War 3

The campaign begins in aptly epic fashion, full of yelling, guns, and “glowies” (in-game nickname for those infected by Imulsion, a dangerous radioactive substance). The intensity continues through the length of the roughly 10-hour experience. The level progression is still expectedly linear, with those brief “choose left or right” moments peppered in there. Level design, however, is much more varied than previous entries in the series. Players will traverse differing environments with each act, and sometimes each chapter. Gears 3 is much more scenic than the previous games in the series.

The pacing is top-notch, especially in the first half of the game. Just as one shoot-out began to lose its appeal, it was over and I found myself moving on. After killing a couple dozen Locust on the base, I was confronted by Lambent and given a longshot sniper rifle to make quick work of them. Minutes later, I was using a mech-suit to take out a different enemy. It’s worth noting that the end of the game felt like a bit of a grind and the narrative was less compelling as a result, but this was for a short period of time and shouldn’t detract from what an exemplary job the developer did at crafting this campaign.

Epic Games has side-stepped criticism for Gears of War’s aggressive, male-oriented themes by showing that it’s not all just mean faces and big guns when it comes to the personal lives of the main characters. Marcus, Dom, and Cole all have their own inner demons that they’ve been dealing with throughout the trilogy, and I was pleased to see each of these conflicts both addressed and resolved, each in their own way.

Gears of War 3

Even though I found the often sentimental conflict resolution to be refreshing, given the game’s gritty tone, I couldn’t help but feel like Marcus’s character lacked depth. The two previous games established his character as the always pissed-off leader of Delta Squad, often barking orders or complaining (in between sarcastic one-liners, of course), and with only faint traces of raw emotion. This game attempts to present another side of Marcus, but I didn’t find the (maybe) two scenes which attempted this to be convincing after a few years of seeing just scowling, frowning, and anger from him.

Dom and Cole were presented much differently throughout the series. Dom has an open wound in his love for Maria, and Cole has always had a lighter, humorous personality. So the game was much more effective in wrapping up their conflicts in the desired sentimental manner.

Horde mode makes its return in Gears of War 3 with a few tweaks to its gameplay. Defense upgrades like turrets, decoys, and barricades make completion seem possible, and if players last long enough, there are bonus rounds that award them with ammo drops and experience point bumps. Opposite of Horde is the new Beast mode, where one must play as a member of the locust and work against the clock to take out the humans. It was exciting to play from the other side of things, but there were only twelve waves to play through, so don’t expect to get too much out of it.

The multiplayer component of Gears of War 3 really surprised me. I liked it much more than the previous two games, which felt like specialized affairs, largely due to the dedicated multiplayer fan base the franchise has established. This game’s solution to this is the implementation of a casual playlist. Veterans are kept out of this playlist thanks to a level cap of 20, so after you “graduate” from the casual playlist, it’s off to see what the standard playlist has to offer. The only new game type is Capture the Leader, which is a hybrid between Gears of War 2’s Submission and Guardian playlists.

The Gears of War franchise is innately unique in its mechanics and narrative, but Gears of War 3 proves that behind a steel curtain of male stereotypes it can be something more. It is an exploration of hardship, sacrifice, triumph, and brotherhood all wrapped up in a nice, gory package. Although there are minor annoyances with some story conceits and the final, grinding stretch of the campaign, it should be clear that this an overall fantastic game. I feel like I should squeeze in a couple cheesy, sarcastic one-liners about why it’s imperative that you play this game, but I’ll leave those to Delta Squad. Go play.



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Author: Brad Tramel View all posts by

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