Back in the day I would say Gears of War 3 is a game that warrants the purchase of an Xbox360. Today after seeing how Microsoft has been doling out nothing much casual stuff in recent times, I can happily say it is now the game that has managed to redeem the Xbox360. It is a violent, bloody and an unapologetic conclusion to one of the Xbox360’s most beloved first party titles. If you own an Xbox360, there’s no two ways about it; you have to buy this game.
The game puts players into the war hardened boots of Marcus Fenix once again as he strives to end the Locust menace plaguing his planet since Emergence Day. Unfortunately this time round, he has a new menace to deal with in the form of the Lambent. Now these guys are bad news not really caring about who they infect and kill going after both the human as well as the Locust race. And the whole concept of the enemy of my enemy is a friend doesn’t really work here so you’ll pretty much kill everything that isn’t human.
You one ugly mofo man
Epic are fierce believers of the “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” philosophy so if you’ve played either of the previous games, you’ll know exactly what to expect here. You’ll play as one of four burly macho dudes, spend a lot of time taking cover, chainsaw enemies in half, blurt a ton of cocky one liners and grin from ear to ear at the over-the-top violence. While I have no problem with this formula, I do wish Epic had switched things up a notch because after three games, doing the exact same things albeit in different environments can feel a bit stale.
Yes there are new enemies, weapons and enough set-pieces to give Naughty Dog a run for their money but at the end of the day, Gears of War is a giant laundry list of clichés. Throughout the game’s eight odd hours you’ll go through the whole gamut of conventional video game missions like flipping switches, surviving many ambushes, watch people sacrifice their lives for the greater good and so on. Thankfully they’re hidden by the game’s near perfect pacing and its relentless action. Towards the end of the campaign however, I still felt a bit of boredom setting in. It was like Epic had kind of run out of steam and were just forcibly increasing the game's length.
Horde mode is a blast
You can run through the entire campaign by yourself or team up with up to three of your friends over Xbox Live to tackle it co-operatively. While playing solo, friendly AI does a fairly decent job of backing you up. Sure they do stupidly charge into a horde of enemies at times but for most of the game they can hold their ground in battle just fine. The campaign’s just the tip of the iceberg in Gears of War 3 and you can continue the co-operative experience by engaging in some Horde or Beast mode.
Horde mode returns from Gears of War 2 with some Tower Defence like features. For those who haven’t played it at all, it’s very simple. You need to survive 50 waves of enemies, each of which progressively get tougher. After every round you’ll have a few seconds to regroup and purchase supplies like ammunition and explosives. This time round, money earned from killing the enemy can be used to further boost your defences like setting up fences, turrets, decoys and lots more. After every round you can either fix your damaged defences or even upgrade them to become tougher. If a turret or a fence is destroyed during a particular wave, you will not be able to repair it until that wave is over. Team co-ordination is essential because if a team mate dies, he has to wait out the entire wave (unless he has enough money to buy his way back) making it that much tougher for the remaining survivors.
Beast mode is kind of like Horde mode only now the tables have turned so instead of humans, you play as the Locust or the Lambent. Your goal is to kill every human before the timer runs out. This ends up getting pretty intense because once the humans start setting up defences, it becomes a real bitch to kill them in time. Unlike the Horde mode where you have to wait out an entire wave, you can continuously respawn for a nominal fee. You can chose to enter the game as one of many classes so you can opt for being a grub soldier or become a devious little tick who can take down multiple enemies by blowing itself up. Team co-ordination once again is crucial to survive.
At the time of writing this review, I couldn’t find a single versus server that had humans in it since the game had not released but like I mentioned in my Beta impressions, the game now ships with bots which means you can practise your skills and learn the maps before you head online. I’ll probably have a write up on the online modes once the game releases but from what I hear it’s largely the same as its predecessors. No surprises there.
Nothing can stop the Cole train
Gears of War 3 has to be the best looking game on the Xbox360 right now. Even though the Unreal engine is nearly five years old now, Epic have squeezed every last drop from it to create a devastated but utterly gorgeous game world. Yes, like most Unreal 3 engine games this one sports excessive shades of brown but Epic really kick off the diversity with some very colourful levels and bleak levels. They’ve also gone all out as far as set pieces are concerned giving the Uncharted series a run for its money. And that’s really saying something.
Thanks to the chunky nature of your enemies, killing them is a highly satisfying experience be it with the pop of their skull after a well place shot from your sniper or the sound of flesh exploding when your shotgun meets their face. Chainsawing someone in two while the screen shakes violently and his blood explodes all over your screen never gets old and the new executions are just plain nasty in a very awesome way. The cover system also remains unchanged but Gears of War always had a very fluid and practical cover system so changing it would have been stupid.
Get your defence on
As much as I loved Gears of War 3, I need to point out once again that this is essentially the same game you’ve played before with newer weapons, enemies, more explosive action and a coat of paint. If you weren’t a fan of the Gears of War franchise to begin with, this one will not change your mind. However if you enjoy this series for its frat-boy mentality, highly polished visceral action and near perfect production values, Gears of War 3 will not disappoint.
Xbox360 Elite sourced from Microsoft.
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