Gears Of War 3


Written by Chris Price
Photos and illustrations by Epic Games
25 Sunday 25th September 2011

Epic Games set Gears 1 apart from the refuse truck of copycats with bits like the ‘roadie run’ – a hunched dash from cover to cover – and its seamless transitions between objects once in cover.

The battle between underground-dwelling Locust armies and the supersoldiers of a new frontier (the COG) provided a macho and fun experience. And if you had a bunch of mates nearby, rather sociable too, with multiplayer modes that succeeded based on how cohesively you could operate as a team.

More of that please sir for Gears of War 2, where Marcus Fenix (not a typo) returns to further stomp a mudhole into multiplayer gaming, with Horde mode. Syndicating chunks of multiplayer levels, you and your buddies have to slot waves of baddies while reviving fallen comrades, all lashed onto a financial system allowing you ‘stick or twist’ with ammunition and weapons. Suddenly, all multiplayer modes wanted to make you feel useful (and led to my rather ugly man-crush on Battlefield: Bad Company 2).

So anyway, Gears of War is back as the final panel of the triptych of death – where said unit of COG soldiers return to fight both the leathery Locusts from game number one, the incendiary Lambent from game number two, and jam the two innocuous stories into one satisfying conclusion that will convince the 13 million plus existing owners that they aren’t going to jerk out some ill-conceived real time strategy offshoot (I’m looking your way Halo Wars).

The most prevalent thing about Gears of War 3 is that it genuinely looks like a whole skipfull of graft went into it. For example, when you depress the trigger your gun chatters away like Goldie’s teeth in a tumbledryer, leaving inky trails of smoke en route to whatever it is that’s trying to add holes to the existing ones in your body. Even sheathing your weapon (oo-er) results in a glowing orange muzzle cooling to grey ghosted by a smoking arc of bullet whisp as your chosen character whips it onto his back. Now that’s a-fucking-ttention to detail.

It’s also pretty detrimental to a fair whack of gaming product in reminding us what we usually take as acceptable when something so complete is popped in front of your googly eyes. I had to dig pretty deep to find faults – therefore, I got especially upset with low compression rates in some cut-scenes and the fact all the women in the game possess the same range of facial expressions as Kelly Le Brock in Weird Science. Also there’s a bit of clipping here and there, and the weapons your character is using won’t be represented in the cut-scenes.  And…that’s about it. Oh yes, multiplayer. But let’s talk about that later.

Its main problem is that if you don’t like Gears of War, you won’t like Gears of War 3. The single player game core itself has adapted very little since its first outing. It’s still the same unit of barrel-chested oxen clunking themselves about a slightly washed out palette of dystopian industrial zones. It’s still packed with dialogue inked in testosterone that sounds like it’s been written by a disembodied arm so packed with steroids that its developed a life of its own (aside from  three points in the game, where a human possibly nipped in and added some poignant emotional sections). It’s about a tight selection of useful weapons, thoughtful levels packed with flanking routes, moving in fire teams, reviving your fallen comrades and kerb-stomping enemies into submission.

You can play the single player with up to four people fulfilling the other roles but this reminds the player that the Gears story mode is reliant on funneling your group from invisible trigger to trigger while the game barks orders at you. Still via Xbox Live or LAN it’s a superbly fun way of experiencing the game. Horde Mode returns dressed to the nines with tweaked upgrades and fortifications, and the new Beast Mode lets you suit up as the Locusts and start kicking COG ass with enemies such as the cleaver-wielding Butcher to the incendiary Ticker. Multiplayer Maps are simple groups of outposts surrounded by cover, providing close quarter flanking opportunities (even though the majority of Team Deathmatch skills involves hiding behind corners and popping out to mulch a player with the one-shot Double Barrel Shotgun).

So Gears of War 3 is that tricky ‘third album’ where Cliff Belzinski and team have played it safe – but played it well. It’s not redefining a tried and tested formula, but compressing and polishing to perfection. It won’t convert the naysayers, but I get the impression that's not the point. GOW3 is for the fans – nods to every element of the Gears codex and self-parody. It's the most complete of an exceptional series of games. It might be violent, introverted and as discreet as a sandpaper prophylactic, but it’s eminently crafted, multifaceted and particularly good fun. If you like that type of thing – but I do, so there.


Gears of War 3 is out now exclusively for Xbox 360.

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