The Good: The series made me like Baird for once! The controls are nearly flawless. Multi-player comes in a variety of deathmatch and objective flavors.
The Bad: Everything else? First and foremost, the campaign's story is lacking in every way: its premise, plot, and storytelling all disappoint.
In short, Gears 3 is the story of Adam Fenix's quest to eradicate the Lambent. When I began Gears 3's campaign, I didn't remember much of anything about Marcus's dad or his "glowy" nemeses... which was especially strange given that I had just watched the 2-minute "previously in" video that Gears 3 offers. Said crash course in Gears history discusses E-Day, the Hammer of Dawn, the Stranded, and Jacinto... then introduces the Lambent as if they were a brand-new threat. Am I not the only one who'd forgotten about them since 2008? This video doesn't even allude to Adam, and it's his project that drives the entire plot!
Speaking of Gears 3's plot, it follows a familiar three-act structure. And by that, I don't mean that it follows a traditional three-act structure; I mean that it follows a particular three-act structure: namely, the one outlined by South Park's underpants gnomes in their legendary business plan.
No, seriously. This is Gears 3's entire plot:
- Act 1: Learn the location of Adam Fenix.
- Act 2: Look for fuel.
- Act 3: Look for fuel.
- Act 4: Look for fuel.
- Act 5: Finally reach Adam Fenix.
Literally 60% of the game is devoted to looking for fuel.
Alas - even if Gears 3 had carried a decent plot, its narrative would've been undermined by shoddy storytelling.
Why do cut scenes interrupt gameplay so frequently and abruptly? Why does the game's camera force players to press and hold a button when it wants to focus on something important, instead of just auto-panning? And why does every handle, switch, and knob in the game shimmer like a sun-struck diamond, as if Epic thought that even the most experienced players might need constant reminding of how doors work? These hold-overs from 2006 didn't grate in 2008, but now, they serve only to annoy; I suppose that's just how rapidly game design has advanced in the past five years.
And really, that's the main problem with Gears 3: it does so little to advance even its own series. It features plenty of new locales, but none of them are memorable; it introduces a slew of new faces, but not one of them leaves an impression. Even graphically, Gears 3 is scarcely superior to its forebears.
When the first Gears launched, it offered a fresh experience: roadie run and grab cover, then down foes and curb-stomp them. When Gears 2 shipped, it revitalized that concept by introducing game-changing new weapons and modes, 5v5 matches, and the ability to use downed opponents as human shields. With the release of Gears 3, I honestly don't know that there are any new features worth boasting about. (Dedicated servers for online multi-player sure are nice, but they would've been even nicer three years ago.)
Don't get me wrong: despite all of these complaints, Gears 3 is a perfectly competent game. But considering that its single-player is a plodding mess and its multi-player feels like little more than a glorified Gears 2 map pack, I'm ultimately left wondering, "What was the point?" *
The Stand-out Moment: [Character name redacted] sacrificing himself to save the rest of the squad.
The Verdict: 8.0 (out of 10)
* Obviously, the point was to get suckers like me to hand over $60. And it worked!