Can you smell the grub’s… Hear the deep gurgle of a blood lusting throat… Smell the sweat of brawny beefcakes adorned in metal armour… Feel the bond of brothers in arms at their final hour of extinction… that’s right the Cogs are back in the third and apparently the final chapter for Gears of War – which is doubtful, can’t see Epic killing off their golden Boomer! Regardless, we are going to have a look at Gears of War 3 and see if this game is for you. Firstly I will say straight off the bat – If you hated Gears one and/or two then stop reading… go on – feck off… it’s a waste of your time. Go play some Modern Warfare or something because Gears 3 is basically like its predecessors – but on beefy man steroids.
For the GOW virgins out there let me briefly fill you in on what you have been missing – Gears is a game originally rooted in the single player story experience and over the trilogy has grown into a popular multiplayer. It is basically a first person shooter – but in a third person perspective. It uses a magnetic style cover system that was fairly original in the first release but is now seen in many copy cat games – which is no bad thing. The GOW lore has a feel of ‘Lord of the Rings’ crossed with Warhammer Space Marines and perhaps a dusting of the old World War II vibe, all coated in a Sci-Fi glaze. It also has the rare ability to play the story in co-op mode and a few clever little tricks like the active reload or grenade throwing mechanic that make it a well produced and solid game. As for the story, look it up on Wikipedia ya lazy grunt– I will tell you that although it is no Shakespearean odyssey, it is a very enjoyable set of events and the 2D muscle bound Delta Squad gain character depth as the story progresses. It’s not the best gaming story ever told by any means but it all balances nicely with the action and is well worth experiencing. ‘Shut up you ‘tard and tell us what is Gears 3 like’ – I hear you say… Ok then, relax!
GOW3 is a continuation of the story that has led Marcus Fenix and Delta squad through a battle torn world trying to unravel the mystery of why the ‘Locust’ have popped up and declared war on humanity. All the familiar characters make an appearance, Dom, Cole, Baird, Dizzy, Prescott, Adam Fenix, the Locust Queen and the romantic interest of sorts, Anya – who is now a playable character and a little hottie! Whaaa, I like tough chicks, ok! There are also some new additions to the roster – but you can discover them for yourself… let’s just say that Ice-T (the rapper not the drink) has a character and the last Carmine alive makes a few appearances which provides some subtle comedy. In GOW2 the lads had a run in with the ‘Lambent’ – the ‘Imulsion’ modified versions of the Locust. This time round the glowing gooey Lambent are everywhere and will make up the bulk of enemy resistance with the familiar Locusts popping up from time to time. It’s nice to have a wider variety of baddie and the Lambent tend to make a satisfying pop or explosive effect when dispatched, which is cool – and messy. There are also a few new Locust classes, but nothing too different or amazing. This time around however the AI is considerably smarter and enemies tend to use more cover and like to flank your position, which makes for a richer challenge than in previous GOW games.
Combat in general is very familiar to previous games in the franchise but with some tweaks and tightening, it is now much improved and feels great. Movement and cover controls feel more solid and responsive than before. The weapons fell chunky with a nice weight and kick when fired, and of course the close quarter combat of the chainsaw lancer feels very good as it rips down the middle of an enemies torso with the blood splashing all over the place. Yummy! There are also some new WMD’s for you to trick around with. The new guns include a retro lancer which has a blade as opposed to the chainsaw, great for impaling grubs! A Digger gun that allows you to attack enemies hiding behind cover by shooting an explosive shell underground that then travels to the set destination only to pop up under an unsuspecting baddies rear end – camper assplosion! Or perhaps you like to do it old school with the new sawed-off shotgun, which is useless unless you’re close enough to smell your opponent’s stinky breath, but one good shot will turn him into dog food. There are a few new grenades too, like smoke and incendiary along with a few heavy guns like the One Shot, which kills in… guess – One shot! Then there’s the Silverback – a small vehicle/suit of armour with mini guns or rockets, a very useful and powerful piece of kit in the game. Also, a small but welcome weapon that’s finally usable are those big flat sword thingy’s that the Queens guards carry, pick that up and start swinging for decapitations, it’s fun! Of course all the usual suspects such as the lancer, shotgun, ect are still here along with the clever active reload system that can optimise the power of a weapon when used correctly. Overall, there’s not a huge arsenal of new equipment but what is there is done well enough to satisfy any itchy trigger finger.
Some new features come in the form of finishing moves, there is now a unique way to humiliate an enemy on his knees, this depends on the weapon you have at hand. Nice little touch that was there before but in a much more limited way. Another nice addition is the ability to be revived by your squad while they are under the AI’s control, it’s a massive help when playing the campaign solo. Of course if you end up taking a bullet in the gob and land on your knees, you can be revived by another human player, nothing new there… However, when slowly bleeding out you can now move your bullet riddled torso, allowing you to reach cover or get out of the line of fire until someone bothers to revive you… or you die. It’s a nice improvement that makes you wonder… why wasn’t it there from the first Gears game!? Doh! Also is the addition of the command vision, a sort of X-ray vision that allows you spot nearby weapons and objectives, handy enough but not entirely necessary in single player.
One of the nicest new features is the approach taken to the Levels themselves, they seem much more vast and open, almost giving the impression of a sandbox environment. Of course, they aren’t really that big but they have definitely grown in scale since Gears 2. You still have a liner path to follow with the odd choice of left or right, just like in the previous titles but levels are more spacious and feel less boxed in. The scenery and general level design looks gorgeous and highly detailed. The face-lift to the Unreal Engine is more apparent in story mode than anywhere else in the game. Unfortunately the same praise cannot really be said for the games Plot. Despite GOW3 having a strong ‘film’ vibe to it at the start the game, it quickly becomes just a series of levels as the story itself becomes less and less apparent. I would argue that it’s probably the weakest narrative of the three games, it seemed to me very predictable. With the exception of one surprise, I found it more a case of going through the motions based on game play rather than wondering what twist or development was coming in the plot. It isn’t awful or anything, I just found it all a bit of an anticlimax. The character development in GOW3 won’t win any Oscars either – Each character has a kind of ‘special focus’ chapter or act dedicated to them and their story, which is nice I guess, but it doesn’t really work all that well. These story arcs are either too subtle or too over the top in my opinion and can actually be annoying or just cheesy. I grew to hate the ‘Cole Train’ during his ‘special’ level. Annoying, egotistical, self-centred jock… moan’y prick too. Made me want to barf! Subjective issues aside and despite my disappointment in the story, I would still argue that overall this is the better game of the three … ‘Why you hypocrite?’ I hear you shout – well I’ll tell you why – Multiplayer!!
First in the multiplayer line-up is the brilliant idea of having a four player co-op, this is best enjoyed with friends and is a great way to experience the game first time around, provided you don’t have a blabber mouth talking all over the cut scenes! It’s allot of fun and can definitely enrich the whole experience, highly recommended. Then of course there is the return of the Horde mode, which can be played with up to five players on the team. This of course is the survival of the team as wave after wave of enemies – and Bosses – are thrown at you. Epic have boosted this mode with the new ability to buy and maintain fortifications and advanced weapons as you hold out against the oncoming onslaught. It’s a great experience, totally enjoyable alone or with a group. That’s not all though, we have a brand new game type – Beast Mode! This game type is similar to Horde mode in reverse. You take control of a Locust character and try to wipe out all the Cog soldiers and even Heroes, as in Dom, Marcus, Dizzy ect. Again this is done in a wave fashion, but with a time limit that is kept ticking over the more you kill and destroy. You unlock more powerful characters to control as you advance, all the way from a Ticker to a Berserker, and it’s a truly a welcome mode to the game.
Then there are the actual online multiplayer matches, which are similar to before but much improved. For a start the lag is almost nonexistent, where as it was a major issue in the two previous titles. This is due to dedicated servers running the show and it makes a massive difference overall. Also the level design is considerably better as it uses many of the great areas from within the single player game along with some cleverly designed online only maps. Like the single player, levels have a much more open and landscaped feel to them and seem less claustrophobic that before. There are more multiplayer modes than you can shake a chainsaw at: Death match, Team Death match (5v5), Warzone, Execution, King of the hill, Capture the leader, and Wingman. Death match does what it says on the tin. Warzone has no respawns when you die which is also a feature in Execution but with the added task of having to execute a player in order to put them out of the round. King of the hill is the usual – hold an area for the most amount of time. Capture the leader has each team scrambling to take the other teams captain hostage for a period of time, my personal favourite incidentally. If you happen to be the Captain then you have access to the command vision mode which is very useful to spot enemies and relay their position to your team. Wingman is four teams of two players that face off in a death match style and is good fun with a pal.
A new feature that runs across all modes is the ability to ‘Tag’ an enemy, this allows you to quickly let players on your team know who you need killed and is great for making sure that the shit-bag that just shot you in the nuts gets his guts blasted by your pals in a true revenge killing style. It’s a welcome little feature. All modes are also tied together by the ever popular ranking system. From single player all the way to team death match you will earn points that add to your overall level. Extra points are awarded for doing cool things like executions or reviving team mates. These points allow you access to new weapons, characters, skins ect. The usual setup… It’s not a bad system but it feels a little pointless and token. I guess the most useful part of ranking up is just to show off online how much you have played of the game but otherwise I found it to be of little consequence.
Overall, Gears of War 3 is a feast for the eyes and the thumbs. It looks great, has some really enjoyable modes and is packed with things to do, its good value for standard price. I found the single player story a bit disappointing but enjoyed the game play side of it, especially in co-op. There were areas of the single player that I loved, like the atmospheric submarine section, but there were also areas that were just… annoying. Pet hates aside it was an enjoyable gaming experience that was just long enough to keep my interest… just. The real crown and glory for GOW3 is in the Horde and Beast modes. Online multiplayer is great and all, but it’s still a bit more of the same old stuff, where as the Horde and Beast modes have a new and refreshing feel to them and it’s where you can really buddy up with a few friends and a bottle of whisky to have the Craic! It looks great, it plays very well and has loads to offer. Unless you absolutely hate the Gears of War universe then you would be mad to pass this one by – who knows, it might even make you want to go back and play the originals. Get it!! Play it!! Enjoy it!! A ‘Grubby’ Thumbs up from me!