The Fight for Sera meets its climactic end
After a nearly three year wait, Xbox 360 gamers and fans alike can come back to Sera and join Marcus, Dom, The Cole Train, and company in the battle against the Locust threat. Gears fo War 3 picks up about two years after the end of Gears of War 2, where humanity has by all intents and purposes lost the war against the Locust. The Coalition of Ordered Governments, or COG for short, has been disbanded after the fall of he last human stronghold named Jacinto. However in a strange twist (spoilers if you haven't played Gears of War 2) the Locust have been dealt a possibly greater blow by being driven out of their subterranean homes, and now both Humans and Locust must deal with a brand new threat named the Lambent. As muscle bound action games go, Gears of War 3 has an interesting enough premise to not fall to the genres usual trappings. It is suffice to say that this is the best set-up in a Gears game since the first in the series. It still has the same "dude-bro" dialogue its always had, but if you're expecting Academy Award winning diatribe then you obviously didn't get he memo. The real fun of Campaign mode is playing with three other friends cooperatively, and with the addition of the new Arcade mode, now competitively. You can seamlessly hop in and out of a friends game or set up a public lobby to play the campaign with random strangers.
The real meat of Gears of War 3 is in the vast array of multiplayer modes available to the player. You can go blow for blow in familiar game modes such as Execution and Capture the Leader, as well as the new team deathmatch mode.
As a testament to how finely tuned the third Gears is, it is safe to say there are no imbalances found in the online play. Whether its between the balance of the weapons or the rules of each game mode, Gears of War 3 maintains fun high octane shoot outs while still rewarding players for playing smart and using skill. With that said there may be the occasional sawed-off shotgun death that may cause you to launch your controller in a fit of rage, but glitches and errors are very few and very far apart, a huge improvement from Gears 2.
Gears 3 also features the Horde mode 2.0, bringing it back from the second title. The new Horde mode has vast new improvements that turn it into Tower Defense-Lite. You're no longer tasked with just defeating 50 waves of enemy Locust, but now you are able to build and upgrade structures that aid you in your fight. As you kill enemies you gain cash which you can spend on barriers, turrets, weapons, and ammo. Every ten rounds you fight a boss wave which will pit you and your friends up against Berserkers, Reavers, and even a Brumak if you're unlucky. You will also have random challenge waves which task you with completing a certain goal such as killing 10 enemies in a thirty second time window. You're also able to mix up the fun in Horde Mode by applying what are called mutators. these are modifications that can either make Horde Mode more fun or more difficult, with added XP multipliers for the boost in difficulty. With five player co-op and the ability to play privately or with others through matchmaking Horde Mode promises to reel you in for hours on end.
Accompanying Horde Mode 2.0 is the second wave based challenge packaged into Gears of War 3, Beast Mode. No this is not Cliffy B's idea of a joke, Beast mode pits you and four others against waves of enemies, but this time you try your hand at being the bad guys. You play 12 rounds as various Locust creatures and gain cash through destruction of humans and the very constructs you have available to you in Horde Mode. As you gain cash you eventually gain access to more powerful Locust creatures that give you a fighting chance against the insurmountable odds. The great thing about Beast mode is that their is an emphasis on completing waves quickly. When set in contrast to Horde Mode which will often take hours to complete, you get a wide berth of options at your disposal.
The graphics of Gears of War 3 really push the limits of the current Unreal Engine. Simply put, Epic's decision on having the game take place mostly on the surface paid off really well for them. The brown and grays of Gears 2 are nowhere to be found and you now get a look at a beautiful yet scarred world. The variation carries over from the game modes and into the visuals, as you'll find yourself in rundown cities, deserts, and encountering a varied rogues gallery of foes. Also, Gears would not be Gears without the occasional rainstorm level. The audio is one of the most unique mixtures of sounds, whether its the growls and grunts of the Locust or the rich sounds of the various weapons, Gears of war 3 does not disappoint. Its also important to mention that Gears 3 is 3D compatible, if you have the set up available.
Last but certainly not least, Gears 3 much in the same vain as Modern Warfare, and almost every other game that followed right after, has a vast array of persistent stats. It seems that everything (even inactivity) is rewarded in Gears 3 and many different stats count not only in multiplayer but also throughout all of the other modes. These count towards ribbons which grant you extra experience at the end of a match, as well as medals which allow you to unlock new characters, weapon skins, or monikers. While not as replete with features such as heat maps and emblem designing, its interesting enough to look over as you wait for your friends to connect your lobby. All-in-all, Gears of War 3 is the best game in the series, bringing a solid finely tuned package to the latter half of the "next-gen" console life. Although there may be an occasional annoyance with sticking to a wall or two, and one too many sawed-off shotgun newbs, the online is a blast to play and the single player is expertly composed. Gear of War 3 is in no way pretentious, and really, in the end we don't play because the game makes a moral statement, but rather because it provides endless fun.
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