The trilogy goes out with style...
Posted 1 year ago By - Rory Young
The Gears of War franchise, developed by Epic Games Studios and published exclusively for the Xbox 360 by Microsoft Studios, has become one of the most valuable properties for the console. The first Gears of War, released in late 2006, has sold over five million copies. Gears of War 2, the well-reviewed yet much-maligned sequel, also found its way into the consoles of five million gamers. If history is any indicator, Gears of War 3 will come close to this mark (if not, surpass it, and soon). It sold over three million copies in the first week alone, a staggering number considering it can only be found on a single platform. The franchise has become an institution among Xbox 360 gamers, that much is obvious, as it has also spawned a variety of different media properties including novels, a comic book series, action figures, weapon replicas, and an oft-delayed film project. Clearly, Gears of War is a financial giant for Epic and Microsoft. However, as seasoned gamers, we all know that money doesn’t always equal quality. How did Gears of War 3 fare in that department? “Forge” onward, dear reader, and I’ll tell you...
Once again, Gears 3 is a third-person shooter, with an over-the-shoulder perspective and all the run-and-gun cover-system action you can handle. Just like the previous entries in the series, players have four weapons available at any one time, which can be chosen by using the D-pad: a primary weapon (usually a Lancer or a Hammerburst), a secondary weapon (a shotgun, Boomshot, etc...), a pistol, and grenades. Any weapon can be swapped out with weapons found on the ground from fallen enemies. Heavier and more powerful means of destruction can also be carried, such as the Mortar Cannon and the Mulcher, but it slows down the protagonist considerably. Also returning to Gears 3 is the active reload feature, and the player HUD.
We pick up the story a year and a half after the events of Gears 2. Since Jacinto was flooded, all of the survivors have picked up and moved to an island called Vectes to regroup and rebuild human civilization. Lambent, infected with Imulsion, start to burst from underground, forcing the COG off the island. Chairman Prescott, leader of the COGs, has abandoned them, so the group disbands and seeks out the mainland to find any safe places that might be left.
The beginning stages of the campaign finds the player in control of two squads. Marcus Fenix and his crew are on board the CNV Sovereign with other survivors, while Augustus Cole takes a crew into the ruins of his hometown to look for supplies. It is at this point that most of the plot points are set into motion, so I will stop with story details right here in an effort to stay away from spoilers. And trust me, Gears 3 has plenty to spoil!
The campaign for Gears of War 3 can be played in the traditional single-player fashion, or in four person co-operative play, a first as the previous games only featured two-man co-op. Once again, there are four levels of difficulty: casual, normal, hardcore, and insane. Let me just say that having four players through the campaign is certainly a welcome, and overdue, addition to the series.
In terms of narrative, I found it to be not as strong as Gears 2. I was more emotionally invested in what happened to Dom in the second installment, than what happened in the third. Call me cold, if you want, but it’s just one man’s opinion after all. The plot is still engaging, however, and helped along by the fact that one of Marcus Fenix’s family members, once thought dead, unexpectedly reappears. It is a huge plot point that drives the entire campaign, and it holds up well from beginning to end. Each Gears game has had an entertaining storyline, and Gears 3 is no different, but from the very first game, we all know that the single-player experience is not where Epic keeps the cookies. THAT shelf is reserved for the multiplayer.
With three million people (and counting) are experiencing what can be considered the most robust set of multiplayer modes on any console, this is most certainly where the most beef is in Epic’s burger. In Gears 3, the player is able to gain experience points through both the single-player campaign, and through all multiplayer modes. Experience points allow you to level up, and in the process, unlock different weapon and character skins that are playable in the different modes of the game. Performing certain tasks in Versus, Horde and Beast modes earns you medals, which also have experience points attached to them. Challenges encompass such accomplishments as being the final man standing or killing two enemies in a row quickly. The Versus modes include the standard Team Deathmatch, Warzone, Execution, Capture the Leader - which is a variation of the Guardian mode from Gears 2, King of the Hill, and Wingman.
However, that is not all. In the new Beast Mode, you take control of the Locust Horde along with up to four other friends. Your task is to eliminate all of the human forces before the clock runs out; sort of a reverse Horde Mode, if you will. There are twelve waves in Beast Mode, and four units of Locust to unlock. As you eliminate humans, destroy defenses, and pass each wave, you earn money to unlock larger and more powerful members of the Horde to use in subsequent waves. Humans also have “heroes”, characters such as Dom or Marcus, who can only be killed through executions or one-shots. They don’t bleed out. Whatever time you may have left over at the end of each round, is added to a total time counter which is carried to the next round. With a solid group of five players, it can be completed in a matter of 15-20 minutes. Beast Mode does great in a pinch, when you don’t have four plus hours to spend trying to get to level 50 in Horde Mode. This is a fantastic addition to Gears 3, and there will be (and has been) the comparisons between Beast Mode and Versus from Left 4 Dead 2, and rightly so. Beast Mode is just as fun, given that you can zip yourself into a Kantus suit and see what it’s like to use their powers for a few minutes. If Gears of War 3 only included Beast Mode and Horde Mode and dumped Versus altogether, it would still be worth the purchase price.
The massivly popular Horde Mode returns, enhanced to a whole new level, earning the moniker 2.0. Essentiall, take the formula that was Horde from Gears 2, and add some different tower defense spices and flavors to it. Boil it for a few minutes, and voila: you have the best game mode to come out of this generation of consoles.
As waves progress, players earn money. With that money, there are five types of fortification defenses that can be purchased: barriers, decoys, sentries, turrets, and the awesome Silverbacks. At the beginning of each match, you must establish a command post. Each command post covers a corner or small area of the map, in which you can then purchase the aforementioned defenses. As you purchase more and more of a certain defense, the level of that defense rises, allowing you to upgrade to a better item. The barriers, for example, start off as road spikes. As you level them up, they can become razor wire and laser fences. The ghost images of potential fortifications appear in a countdown at the beginning of each round. You have thirty seconds to build whatever you can afford. The fortifications can be destroyed by the enemy, so it is best to designate one player in the group to keep an eye out for any repairs that may need to be made. Don’t worry though, funds can be shared amonst teammates with a quick press of a button. In addition to earning cash for completing waves, Epic has added in bonus objectives. Such achievements as completing a wave in a certain amount of time, or killing all enemies with a headshot, will net the whole team a cash bonus.
Even in death, there are a couple of ways that you can help your remaining teammates. You can enter the ghost cam, which allows you a birds-eye view of the battlefield. From there, you can “tag” enemies, which the surviving teammates can see on ground level. A cash bonus is collected if a tagged enemy is killed. Also, if you have enough cash on hand, you can buy your way back into the wave and continue the fight. As with previous iterations of the Horde Mode, teamwork and communication are absolutely imperative if you are to survive in the later rounds. Fortifications must be used logically and efficiently in order to be useful.
There are gamers out there that complain about “tacked-on” multiplayer components. The most recent example that I can think of is Mass Effect 3 (a game we haven’t actually seen yet, so complaining isn’t quite fair), and last year’s Bioshock 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. What we have here, with Gears 3, is the exact reverse. Gears of War 3 is a multiplayer game, with a single-player game tacked on to it. As I mentioned, this disc would be sufficient for its price if only Horde and Beast Mode were included. While the storyline of the campaign is passable, it is certainly not the focus of the game. I consider this a good thing, because it allowed Epic to really sink their time and resources into the multiplayer modes. Horde 2.0 is the best multiplayer experience going right now, and Beast Mode isn’t far behind. While there is no noticeable upgrade to the graphics from Gears 2, it is still gorgeous to look at, and overall it’s brighter than its dark and depressing predecessor. All that being said, Gears of War 3 is a must-have for the Xbox 360 owner. It’s a great cap-off for the trilogy, but it’s a shame that we may never see another Gears multiplayer experience ever again (Ed Note: Yeah, right...). So grab some friends, some snacks, and get your Horde on!
+ Great with friends
+ Trademark Gears visuals
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Release Date : 2011/09/20
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Microsoft Game Studios
Developer : Epic Games
Category : Action
ESRB : M
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