As the Final Gear Turns – Gears of War 3 Review

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.

Gears of War has become a bit of a standard for third-person shooters, and the latest title in the trilogy is no exception. Covering the final battles against the Locust, Gears of War 3 is set to bring a close to the series – and a violent and bloody one at that.

The game starts two years after the events of the second instalment, and sees both humanity and the Locust scavenging any food and any salvage they can use to get by on the war-torn planet of Sera. The COG has seen better days, now acting as isolated rag-tag groups rather than an overall government. The main cast of Marcus, Dom and the team make a return for the final fight though looking much more tired, not only from the war, but also the battle to find food and shelter. Overall, the stage is perfectly set for the end of the trilogy, even delivering some new and unexpected twists.

Gears of War 3 also provides an in-game video that summarizes the events of the first two games to bring late-comers up to date. There are, however, some events that happen between games two and three that are mentioned in-game and unless you’ve read the book Gears of War: Anvil Gate you’ll be slightly in the dark as to what people are talking about. I like the idea of cross-media, but in this instance it can leave players guessing.

The campaign feels very fresh with new enemies and weapons for your killing pleasure, while keeping the same tactical cover system that the series is known for. Levels practically say ‘here, have some new things’ to you as you’re playing, with characters in the first mission even making reference to an enemy’s first debut.  So even if it’s your first Gears of War game, you’ll know what has been added.

The addition of 4-player online Co-op and an Arcade mode keep the game feeling like it’s been updated since the last instalment. The Arcade mode keeps score of your kills and assists, to compete with friends, and allows you to add Mutations that make the gameplay harder or just add humour. The story mode’s length is about ten hours, which is solid for a shooter, and gives added replay value in the form of collectibles, higher difficulties, and competition for top scores in arcade.  All of the above blends to give the recipe for a campaign that has you coming back for more.

While the campaign sits high on a podium, the Versus multiplayer hides low in the shadows. The Versus experience offered in the third game is all too similar to the second, seeing very little in the way of new game-types or improvements. The only new features are: the expanded stat tracking and new medal system (allowing you to unlock awards, ribbons and titles for completing certain objectives), and the Mantle Kick, which allows you to vault over cover and kick anyone who happens to be on the other side. While the cover systems keeps the tactical feel to the game, it all boils down to two main strategies:  Running through a rain of bullets or mantle kicking to get close enough to shotgun someone, or finding the power weapons to just blow everything up. I found almost every round to consist of these two techniques, making the game frustrating very quickly. Also, due to the unique nature of  Gears 3, there ends up being a slightly steep learning curve that can dissuade new players, as they will often be first man out.  Aside from achievement hunting, the overall time spent on Versus felt wasted with no real reason to keep me playing.

The saving grace for the multiplayer is Horde 2.0 and its new counterpart, Beast Mode. Horde 2.0 sees you, and up to four other players, fighting wave after wave of enemies in an attempt to reach the final wave or die trying. At every interval of ten waves is a boss battle, pitting you against powerful enemies of the campaign. This survival mode has been upgraded with command posts for you to set up, allowing you a new place to set up fences, turrets and decoys. Provided, of course, you have earned enough virtual money from killing enemies and helping team mates. Beast mode sees you do the exact opposite: you play as the locust horde attempting to destroy wave after wave of entrenched humans. Using your virtual money, you purchase which locust beast you’d like to spawn as, ranging from a lowly Ticker to the hulking Berserker. These two co-operative game types take the cake and will ensure the game stays in your console for a long time.

Throughout the multiplayer modes, there was very little emphasis put into customization, which is strange for a modern shooter. You simply pick a character from each side, your starting weapon (from a meagre selection of 5 starting guns), and the weapon’s overall paint job. Characters and weapon skins can be unlocked by experience awarded from playing any mode, or exclusive special ones (such as the animated lightning skin or the dessert camo paints) may be purchased with Microsoft Points.

All gameplay aside, Gears 3 looks and sounds absolutely stunning. Graphically, the series is at its peak, with every texture loading properly the first time. Summer has arrived on the planet Sera and the main characters’ armour design reflects this, often with missing sleeves and external armour additions. The new enemies are equally well conceived, the intricate detailing making the new foes as impressively menacing as returning enemies. The gore engine is back in full force, allowing you to turn your enemy’s head into a bloody, pulpy mess, or beat someone to death with their own arm. The environment is also slightly destructible, allowing you to remove a certain piece of cover with enough effort, or take small pieces off of permanent cover. These features add a unique feel to every multiplayer round or campaign play-through, while not taking away from the cover system.

The game sounds just as great as it looks, with every character’s original voice actor returning. The locust horde sounds as frightening as ever, with each beast having a distinct voice or phrase that allows you to pick them out, even if you can’t see them. The attention to detail for sound effects is astounding, even catching even the difference between the sounds of taking cover behind a wooden crate or a concrete wall. The score steps up as well, delivering music epic enough to match its gameplay, especially during the creative use of the song ‘No Tomorrow’ in the game’s most emotional scene. No complaints here, everything is above and beyond what you’d expect.

At the end of the day and when the curtain falls, Gears of War 3 delivers a definite end to the trilogy on a golden platter. While the Versus multiplayer has its shortcomings, the campaign and co-op modes Beast and Horde 2.0 make up for it and then some. If you’re new to the trilogy, then the in-game summary is enough to keep you up to speed, but you should consider playing with a friend or picking up the first two games. If you’re a Gears of War fan, then you probably already own this. If not, what are you waiting for? Grab your Lancer and get busy killing those grubs!

Editor’s Note: As an added bonus for reading through the entire review, we are offering a Commando Dom DLC code to a random Facebook fan.  If you’d like to throw in for a chance to win it, just like our Facebook page and we will select a random winner from there!

Final score: 4 / 5

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

September 30, 2011 - 8:30 am