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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Video Game Review: Gears of War 3; This Is How Trilogies Should End

It seems like so long ago, the first time I ever popped the original Gears of War, developed by Epic Games, into my Xbox 360 and took it for a spin.  Back then I knew next to nothing about the game, my brother had bought it and I happened to be sitting around bored with nothing else to play.  I remember comparing it to the few other shooters I knew like Halo and F.E.A.R and I was actually pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the tight controls, simple yet intuitive interface, and war-torn story of humanity’s last desperate struggle against the terrifying Locust.  Now, several years and two sequels later, I’m proud to say I’m glad I decided to give the first game a try as playing through and beating the climactic finale that is Gears of War 3 has felt like a journey of personal completion as well as the completion of a series.
Having played through the first two games isn’t really necessary to understand what’s going on in Gears 3 (though it helps), Marcus Fenix, the protagonist of both previous titles, discovers that his father Adam, long thought dead, is actually alive and hidden away in a secret lab where he has been developing a means to eradicate the Lambent, imulsion-mutated versions of the Locust, and, hopefully, take the Locust out too thus ending the war.  With his original team of Dom, Baird, and Cole, along with some new faces, Marcus sets out to rescue his father while battling Locust and Lambent forces along the way.     
Gears 3 features the same interface that players have come to love with returning features like d-pad weapon selection and an intuitive cover system as well as some new tricks like personalized executions for each of the game’s signature firearms as well as the ability to “tag” far-off enemies for computer-controlled allies to focus their fire on.  Those familiar with the game’s unique controls will feel right at home and even brand new players can pick them up relatively quickly.
 The game’s arsenal of guns and other weaponry remains pretty standard to the first two Gears entries with many old favorites like the Lancer Assault Rifle, Longshot, and Hammer of Dawn making a return along with new additions like the Sawed-Off Shotgun and Cleaver.  Most weapons in the game also have a bunch of different skins that can be unlocked to give a personalized touch to a player’s preferred means of slaughter.
Fans of the game’s story can dive right in to a lengthy five-act campaign that takes Marcus and his squad to several different locales and features some pretty epic battles against both Locust and Lambent forces.  For the first time in the series, players can actually team up for four-player co-op when tackling the campaign, with the first player assuming the role of Fenix and the other three controlling the various other members of Delta Squad.  In addition to newcomers Jace Stratton and Clayton Carmine, Gears 3 has another first as well with the inclusion of playable female Gears Samantha “Sam” Byrne and Anya Stroud.
All of these characters as well as many others can be unlocked for use in the game’s multiplayer modes as well.  In addition to the standard Versus (featuring many different game types) and Horde modes, players can now wreck havoc in the game’s new Beast mode which allows them to play as a variety of different Locust creatures as they work towards defeating increasingly difficult waves of Stranded and C.O.G. heroes in a sort of “reverse-horde” setup.
 Just like in Gears 2, a player’s progress is tracked by their overall level which is increased by earning xp from completing campaign acts and winning multiplayer matches.  A variety of different medals and ribbons that can be earned also contribute to a player’s xp and level and can even bestow various titles and other bonuses.  A player’s total xp earned is combined through all game modes which means that the game never feels repetitive or stale; if you want to take a break from the campaign you can go and play a few waves of Horde or a few rounds of Versus and your xp and level will continue to increase throughout all three different activities.
Overall Gears 3 is another solid entry for the Gears series and is just the sort of finale that Marcus and the rest of Delta Squad deserve.  Epic Games has already confirmed that while the third entry does mark the end of Marcus’s story, they will definitely be delving further into the Gears universe through a bunch of planned DLC for Gears 3 as well as the possibility of entirely new Gears games somewhere down the line.  In the meantime however, Gears 3 is a must-buy for fans of the Gears series and for any fps fans in general who want some new action to sink their time into.

General Gameplay Tips:
  • When an enemy is crawling on their hands and knees, you can hold down the Y button to perform a weapon-specific execution or tap it to perform a curb-stomp.
  • In Beast mode, you earn cash not only for killing Stranded and C.O.G. heroes but also for destroying fortifications, something to keep in mind if you’re trying to save up for some of the mode’s more powerful monsters.
  • Ribbons and Medals can be earned in private Versus matches.

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