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Without a doubt, the sheer amount of improvements made to just about everything in single player to the insane upgrades to Horde, like all of the tower defense stuff made it an almost completely different game. And then there's Beast, tons of multiplayer options and some of the best visuals in any game this generation.
The campaign is fantastic, giving every member of Delta their moment to shine and has some of the most emotional moments I have ever felt in a game (yeah, fuck you.) I honestly don't think any other shooter series has as much personality as Gears does. The first game is fantastic and Horde made 2 a very good game, but was brought down by a kinda meh campaign. I loved the more WW2-ish feeling the first game had, but the improvements made in 3 overshadow anything in it.
I picked 2 because I don't play multiplayer, and I thought Gears 3 had a disappointing story. Not that the series is known for its amazing storytelling, but 2 was crappy in a good way and it felt like it knew the story had to serve the game and not the other way around. The giant worm makes little sense in the fiction, but it's a great idea for a level so they found a way to work it in there. It was just fun.
I'm really split on this, as they all have truly outstanding sections. The first game had the rain-drenched thunderstorm that just oozed atmosphere and left my jaw on the floor, 2 had the incredible section when you're trying to escape from the inside of a giant worm (followed by my favourite piece of John DiMaggio VO) and Horde Mode and 3 had Ice T. Hmmm, I'll go for 2 I think, but I think this series really was a cracking one.
While I don't think any game in this series is nearly deserving enough of being considered for the "best of the generation", I surprisingly enjoyed 3 quite a bit after having not really cared for one and thinking 2 was okay. Strictly speaking of the single-player. I'm not at all fond of Gears' style of multiplayer.
If you're talking which is game simply the best, it's Gears 3 without a doubt. It had the most refinements to the gameplay, 4 player co-op, improved horde mode, the best story of any game in the series, the best presentation of any game in the series, and vastly improved multiplayer. It was also probably the least important, because the first game popularized cover based third person shooters and Gears 2 created a co-op mode that pretty much every shooter since has copied.
I still voted Gear 3. I view it as the absolute perfect Gears game, I don't think you could really make a Gears game much better than Gear 3.
I have to do as I have on all these and vote Gears 1 (2nd most influential game this gen? Could be argued most... that or CoD 4) but I think Gears 3 was really outstanding as far as refinements. Horde mode in that is better than anything in the series.
Close but I still have to vote 1. So influential.
The art wasn't bland. It had a great look. It just wasn't colorful.
Gears was the first "next-gen" experience I had, so pretty hard to shake that first wow.
It's funny how time changes things - I don't remember anyone at the time of GoW's release crying about bland colours - it wasn't until ever other game that copied Gears came out that we got into this "games are so grey right now" phase. The original Gears really popped at the time.
Just played through Gears of War 1 and it totally holds up. The atmosphere is thick as Fenix neck, the monster and world-designs are amazing and the shooting is still top class. Gears of War 2 was kind of a dissapointment to me, the campaign felt slap-dash and lousy (that giant worm part was fucking awfull) so I never bothered to play Gears of War 3.
Gears 3 has one of the best multiplayer mode's of any game. Each weapon could be used to good effect and it had a lot of great maps. The horde mode is just simply incredible with new additions and bosses added to it. The campaign was long and fun and had a better art direction then previous games. I'll go with Gears 3.
Gears 1, while short as fuck, was such an amazing experience. Truly the first '' next-gen '' experience for the 360. It was the definition of what you'd want from an Xbox360 game back in the day. It redefined graphics and gameplay for third person shooters. Plus, it never had any framerate problems, always staying smooth. What an incredible series, although Gears2 disappointed me with its subterranean campaign. Gears 3 reached near perfection with its superb campaign and great MP. I hope we'll get something like than on the Xbone.