The Gears of War franchise has reached the end of its trilogy with the release of the third game. As Cliff Bleszinski claimed previously and a question that is probably on every Gear-head’s mind – is Gears of War 3 truly the best of the series?
The story starts off nearly two years after the events of Gears of War 2, as the remaining survivors have moved to the island of Vectes to start all over again. The Locusts are embroiled in a civil war against the Lambent and has their hands full without worrying about the survivors.
The surviving humans experience a brief period of peace until the Lambents start emerging to attack the population. Chairman Prescott revealed that the government will not help the COG, abandoning all of the survivors.
This causes the group to splinter with everyone heading towards different directions to survive. The Delta squad ends up on the CNV Sovereign, a carrier where Marcus Fenix meets Prescott. Marcus is shown a data disc that reveals that his father, Adam Fenix is still alive and working on something radical that may tip the balance in the war against the Locust and Lambent.
This is pretty much where the story really starts to pick up as Marcus and the Delta squad must set off to locate and rescue Adam. The story is definitely structured a bit better than the previous titles, but still maintains that corny feel seen throughout the series. As in the previous titles, Marcus and the Delta squad must save the day and make a last stand against the Locust.
While Gears 3 delivers the same type of over-the-top story and cheesy dialog, the developers have managed to inject some emotion into the game. Players will find moments where the game manages to tug at your heartstrings, especially around Dom near the middle of story.
It appears that some effort was put in to make the main characters three dimensional by adding quirks to each character, whether dealing with Dom’s depression or Cole’s mid-life crisis. Marcus remains relatively flat as he mostly scowls and grunts throughout the game. At times these attempts at adding depth to the characters may seem a bit forced in the context of the story.
The gameplay mechanics in Gears of War 3 is where the game really shines. Epic Games revealed that the studio tirelessly refined the gameplay mechanics by subtly tweaking things here and there. While the gameplay mechanics appear largely unchanged, the feel of the controls are definitely finely tuned. While annoyances such as unintentional wall hugging while performing a roadie run still occur, it seems to happen less often than the previous title.
The structure of the game is also largely untouched as enemies will shuffle into an area and you spend a good amount of time ducking behind a wall knocking the baddies off one-by-one. New comers to the series may find that this gets old fast but to fans of the series this game level design has a certain sense of satisfaction as you try to determine the best pattern at picking off the hordes of enemies on screen or attempt to count the number of active reloads you can achieve during the skirmish.
The addition of new weapons such as the Digger will help change up gameplay as it hurls grenades underground for a wide area kill. In the vein of games like Call of Duty or Uncharted, the developers have definitely upped the amount of epic moments happening in the game. A lot of this is also achieved with some on-rail sections in the air or underwater.
The visuals in Gears of War 3 looks similar to Gears 2 but the studio has definitely improved on subtle aspects of the graphics such as particle effects. This can be clearly noticed near one section of the game where Marcus and the others are surrounded by the Lambent and there is smoke and fire all over the area adding to the sense of chaos.
The one complaint about the visuals is the transition from in-game to the CGI rendered cutscenes, which seem to be lower in quality. This decision was probably made in order to capture some of that epic “oh crap” moments that would have been difficult to do in-engine. The videos were probably scaled down to maintain space constraints on the DVD9 disc as well.
There was a bit of controversy with the multiplayer in Gears of War 2 due to the many issues it had. Cliff Bleszinski even acknowledged this issue by posting a picture sent in by a fan of a Gears of War 2 disc cracked in half with the message “lag sucks!”
It appears that Epic Games have addressed many of the concerns around the multiplayer component this time around. In addition to improving the net code, the studio has added a new Beast Mode, which is pretty much a reverse Horde Mode.
The multiplayer mode still has versus where players can do the various competitive modes such as team deathmatch and also capture the leader. The competitive modes are good, but Horde Mode 2.0 and Beast Mode really steal the show here.
As mentioned above, Beast Mode is like a reverse of Horde Mode, where players can control the different types of locust during the match ranging from the ticker to the berserker. I found this mode to be almost like a puzzle and required some trial and error before finding the best method to taking down the survivors. This mode also boasts an in-game economy which allows players to spawn different types of locust. The only downside is that this new mode only supports up to 13 waves, leaving for a rather short experience.
The improvements in Horde Mode 2.0 is actually quite substantial as the economy in this mode allows players to gain currency to buy fortification items such as spikes, turrets and decoys. The addition of tower defense elements in multiplayer shooters is a popular trend these days as seen with Trench, and the upcoming StarHawk.
This mode definitely captures what made the Zombie mode in Call of Duty so popular as players will have to communicate to each other to build fortification to keep the enemy at bay.
Overall, Gears of War 3 is definitely the best of the trilogy with its super refined gameplay mechanics, and a strong multiplayer component. While the story can be lackluster, its probably the strongest offering in the series. The final boss fight is predictable and can be viewed as anticlimactic, but I think this is probably the best way to end a trilogy.
For those expecting a radical departure from the previous titles in the series, you will be disappointed as the general formula is kept and doesn’t deviate much. This is probably done to assure continuity with the previous two games in the series. The game also does a great job of wrapping everything up nicely and sadly pretty much leaves very little room for another game.
I would highly recommend fans of the series to definitely pickup Gears of War 3 as its a must play title that bring closure to an epic saga.