on October 14, 2011
Epic saved the best for last. In the final installment of Gears, there's more of everything. More Weapons, more creatures, more Multiplayer Modes, more Co-op Options, and a longer Campaign. But the basic cover and shoot gameplay remains the same.
The Gears Trilogy Concludes with more of everything and significantly expanded Multiplayer. It's definitely the best game of the series.
As in the other Gears games, the story is told through cutscenes and character dialogue. The overall pacing of the game is cutscene, encounter, cutscene, encounter, repeat. The story is simple and to the point, and basically explains where you need to go next. You progress through an adventure to kill alien invaders. The dialogue is typical tough guy stuff with as many curse words thrown in as possible voiced by actors who sound like they've smoked about 4 million cigarettes. Like the other Gears games, there are a few dramatic moments in the cutscenes that you'll remember. The story would have been better if it went into a bit more detail about the Evil Queen or the Lambent. As it stands, they're just things to kill as you save the world.
Gears of War gameplay revolves around cover and shoot. Take cover, shoot at enemies, duck down if you are injured, wait to heal, repeat. If you want to expand on the strategy, flanking enemies will take away their cover advantage and allow you to easily gun them down. If you get seriously injured, you fall to the ground, and you can crawl around for about 10 seconds before you die. In that time, an ally can `rescue you' and you're back on your feet at full health.
You can categorize weapons by distance, accuracy, and cover. All of the rapid fire weapons have a preferred distance where they are most effective vs. other weapons. Shotguns are close range, Lancers are medium range, Hammerbursts are good at long range because they have a zoom. The right weapon at the right distance vs an enemy with the wrong weapon will usually get you a kill.
Single Shot Weapons reward accuracy. The Long Shot rifle is a sniper rifle that insta-kills on a head shot. The Boltok Pistol has a zoom, and is also good at head shots. The torque bow is a slow winding mechanical bow that fires a single arrow with an explosive head.
Other weapons are great at making the enemy move out of cover. Grenades explode, Incendiary Grenades leave an area of fire, Ink Grenades leave a toxic cloud, the Digger fires an explosive grenade that burrows underground... If you can make your enemy move, you can either get a clear shot at him, or advance on his position and flank him.
The weapon selection is very straightforward and easy to understand. If you have the right weapon in the right situation, it's almost like rock, paper, scissors.
Melee attacks are a bit clunky because the characters' turning radius is quite slow. The exception is the Retro-Lancer, which allows you to perform a bayonet charge in a straight line. The Lancer and Retro Lancers can insta-kill. Grenades can also be stuck to a wall which will detonate when an enemy comes in range, or Grenades can be stuck directly to an enemy... and they explode.
The Meat Shield is still in the game, too.
The levels are fairly straightforward and consist of an arena with some cover areas and enemies typically coming from one or two sides. You and your friends or AI's, engage them. The levels look beautiful and they're exciting as parts of them explode during the battle. Gears 3 does an excellent job at making you feel like you are in a war. A few of the encounters of Gears 2 were more exciting than anything that Gears 3 had, but for the most part, Gears 3 delivers.
As I was playing the levels, I had a few problems with them:
- My AI buddies were too powerful. It seemed like they'd kill 30% of the bad guys before I figured out where they were coming from, found a good cover spot, and equipped the right weapon.
- Melee attacks killing me through walls from a sub-boss. One particular enemy has a very long tentacle attack that just passes through level geometry, so you just have to blast him from a distance.
- Poor Timing. When I was injured and got "Downed" I was often the victim of bad timing. I would get knocked to the ground by a lambent blast, an AI would help me up, as soon as I got to my feet, I would get knocked down by another lambent blast, an AI would help me, as soon as I got to my feet, I would get knocked down by another lambent blast, an AI would help me, as soon as I got to my feet, the encounter was over.
- The AI's don't really try to flank you and take full advantage of the encounter's cover. They basically just hang back, duck, and shoot. I think Gears would have been much better if there was squad AI on the harder difficulty settings, where they actually did flank, and drive you back.
Gears 3 has a ton of Cooperative Modes and Versus Modes.
The Campaign is now playable with you and 3 friends.
There's Horde Mode, where you fight against waves of enemies.
There's a Beast Mode, where you and some friends play as the locusts (tickers, grunts, beast riders, boomers, etc...) and try to kill a squad of humans in a time limit. You get more time during the battle by killing them or destroying their defenses and bonus time at the end of each round. When you complete the 12 rounds, you win.
There are a plethora of Versus Modes that are all pretty fun. Each match lasts 2-10 minutes and you can join in, play, earn XP, and leave at the end. Because the games are short, fun, and rewarding, it gets pretty addictive.
There's Team Death Match, where each side gets a pool of respawns and you battle it out. However, if the teams aren't balanced, this is NO FUN. The last time I played, we got a Level 1 Noob, on our team that got NO KILLS and used up almost all of our Spawn Pool. Unfortunately, all it takes is one bad player to ruin this. If the Teams are somewhat equal, then you'll have a great time.
There's Team Death Match, where everyone gets 1 life. When you're dead, you stay dead until the next round.
There's an assassination game called Wingman, where you hunt down and kill enemy players. The first two man team to 15 kills wins. This mode encourages aggression and team work.
There's a game called King of the Hill where a ring spawns randomly on the map. The first team to touch it, gains points for every second they hold it. The opposing team must kill them and move into the ring to take it over. After a specific amount of points are earned, the ring respawns in another part of the map. This mode really encourages team work and good defense.
There's definitely enough modes here to keep you busy.
And when you play any mode, you gain XP, go up levels, and unlock new character skins. Your level shows up on all of the stat screens too, so it is a good indicator of who has skills.
Graphically, Gears feels like it squeezes as much power as it can out of your Xbox. The game looks fantastic! There's good variety in the levels, the characters and enemies look great, and the visual effects are outstanding! There are giant enemies, epic vista shots, and some impressive looking levels.
The music sets the atmosphere and the combat effects punctuate the action! If you're playing Gears 3 right, your neighbors will complain about the noise.
Replay Value: 8/10
Gears offers an 8-10 hour Campaign with 4 difficulty levels, and a ton of Cooperative and Versus Modes. But because the game mostly revolves around cover and shoot in arenas, there isn't a great deal of depth to the combat. The game starts to feel stale after a while. You can only cover, shoot, shotgun, so many times before you are ready to move onto the next game.
Maturity: Older Teens
Swearing, War Violence, Gore, and you Chainsaw guys to death. There is a maturity filter that tones down the violence and gets rid of the language, but this game will never be suitable for all ages.
This is definitely a very good action game and the most complete Gears game. The atmosphere is crazy-over-the-top and the structured gameplay makes it very easy to learn. The multiplayer modes will also keep you busy for days. Unfortunately, the gameplay never really breaks out of the cover-shoot-flank pattern and it does start to feel stale after a while.
Buy it if you love the Gears series and you want more. This one has the most to offer.
Buy it if you like very polished levels with over the top action.
Buy it if you love great graphics and the sounds of battle!
Buy it if you will take advantage of multiplayer!
Rent it if you have about 8-9 hours to complete the campaign and you aren't interested in multiplayer.
Avoid it if you want a breakout game that turns the Gears Universe on its head. This game is more of the same... Better... but more of the same.