It’s not that much different
Remember playing Gears Of War 2 after playing the original? It truly was “bigger, better and more badass” in every way. The action was meatier, the set-pieces bigger and the flaws of the first game were paved over. The leap from Gears 2 to Gears 3 isn’t quite as big. There’s certainly more spectacle, enemy encounters are on a larger scale, and new weapons like the Vulcan feel like the old arsenal on steroids. Still, there’s a sense of familiarity to the campaign that’s undeniable. Even with the introduction of the Lambent and the tactics their attack patterns enforce, this still a game of moving from cover to cover and hammering the right trigger. There’s nothing particularly new here to speak of.
It’s really difficult to die
When we reviewed Gears Of War 3 we played it on Hardcore, a decision we weren’t so sure was a clever one given the fact we had a limited time in which to complete the game. Turns out our worries were unfounded, because in Gears Of War 3 we saw the game over screen less than twenty times, at most. The reason is because every time we were downed and bleeding out a teammate would always come to our rescue. As such we breezed through most missions without fear of death. For some that might actually be a good thing, but for those players looking for a more intense challenge it certainly won’t be.
There’s nothing as outrageous as exploring the innards of a giant worm
“Anya! It’s a worm! It’s a giant worm!” How we longed to hear something similarly stupid in Gears Of War 3, but alas, no such moment came. Perhaps we should be thankful – if Epic tried to one-up itself with something even more ridiculous (an even bigger worm?) then it probably would have felt a little try-hard. Also, the story this time is a touch more emotionally-driven and slightly – slightly – more serious, so anything absurd may have detracted from that tone. Still, we liked the big, silly worm. We were hoping to see something equally silly this time round.
We were left with one unanswered question at the end
We don’t want to give too much away, so suffice it to say we hoped all our questions would be answered in this grand conclusion to the trilogy, but we were left with just one that left us scratching our head. After a discussion with a colleague who had also played the game we came to our own conclusions, but we had hoped that the game wouldn’t leave any such lingering doubts.
Although the pacing is great, some sections let it down
Gears 3 has the best pacing of the series thus far. Karen Traviss has done an excellent job with a script that’s funny, stirring and dramatic. Gameplay too ebbs and flows with all the excitement you’d expect of a seasoned developer like Epic. They know exactly when to drop in a boss fight, or slow down the action for a moment while Marcus jams his finger in his ear. It’s not all good news though. There are some sections that feel strangely detached from the rest of the game, like Cole’s visit to his hometown of Hanover. The Thrashball sequence is pretty poor, too. We understand why it’s in there – all the big characters need their final moment – but it could have been done better than this.
Now, let’s stop being horrible, overly-critical grouches and talk about what you’re going to love in Gears Of War 3.
The Gears Of War series pretty much redefined the meaning of HD entertainment, the first game near-demanding a wide-screen HDTV and top of the range surround sound system. Gears Of War 3 is a fitting end to that legacy, being that it’s one of the most aesthetically striking games we’ve played in some time. It’s absolutely beautiful, like a graphic novel come to life. It might be a silhouetted Marcus Fenix standing in a shaft of dust-filled light, or a Lambent exploding in a splatter of yellow luminescent goo under the light of a full moon, but whatever it is it’ll definitely look pretty.
The multiplayer is awesome
Although there’s not much innovation occurring in the campaign there’s plenty in the multiplayer portion of the game. Horde mode has evolved into a variant on the tower defence genre, with cash now used to upgrade barricades and defensive weaponry, while Beast mode proves itself to be more than just Horde on the other side of the fence. Working your way up the Locust ranks is a genuinely thirlling experience. The maps too are some of the series’ best, making for Deathmatch modes that are pulse-quickeningly exciting.
The Lambent force a rethink of strategy
We’re kind of going back on ourselves with this one, because we said that Gears 3 isn’t that much different than previous entries in the series, and it’s not – it’s an inarguably familiar experience. But the introduction of the Lambent does demand a slightly different approach to play. Some Lament can fire globules of harmful goo over cover, meaning players must move about the environments much more when engaging with the enemy. The dive roll also becomes a far more mandatory ability when your enemies have so many explosive attacks. Enemies like the Drudge are welcome additions too, able to splay apart into wriggling tentacles, and whose head will come wriggling after you if you don’t destroy it first. They’re kind of reminiscent of Dead Space’s Necromorphs.
The emotional bits are actually a little bit emotional
But only a little bit. Gears 3 has its big emotional climax at around the two thirds point, and it does threaten to go too far over onto the wrong side of the cheese-o-meter. Luckily it manages to just about stay on the non-cheesy side, and actually feels almost classy. It’s definitely one of the game’s highlights.
It’s a fitting end to what is now one of our favourite trilogies
Reading the first five points of this blog you wouldn’t be blamed for saying we’re hating on Gears Of War, but we’re not. We liked it. We liked it a lot. Those negative points are but minor niggles when you take a step back and take in the entire picture. As an overall experience Gears Of War 3 is robust, enjoyable, visceral and yes, even a little bit smart. We’re sad to see the trilogy come to an end, but happy to see it do so in such bombastic, over-the-top, balls-to-the-wall style. When it comes to Gears, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Grab a copy of X360 issue 77, on sale 5 October to see our full review of Gears Of War 3.