A gripping conclusion to Epic Games X360 trilogy masterpiece.
Since it's release in 2006, I've been a huge Gears of War fan. In fact, within the last decade I would put Gears of War up there alongside the greats like Oblivion, Resident Evil 4 (and 5), and Halo 3 as being one of the best. It introduced us to not only a new science fiction/fantasy world, but it gave us one of the best and first real co-operative experiences over Xbox live. And let's not forget to mention that the original Gears of War was released at a time when there wasn't a whole lot to be played over Xbox Live on the 360, so for almost an entire year, I spent every single night playing the multiplayer component of this game.
When Gears of War 2 released in November of 2008, my expectations where undoubtedly high. And while the single player campaign offered an even better story then the original game, the multiplayer fell off along the wayside. Things that I grew to accept in the original game, such as host advantage and the countless bugs you could exploit to your advantage, well they just weren't bearable a second time around for me. However that isn't to say that Gears of War 2 was a loss or anything, but it's multiplayer component just fell completely flat right out of the gate. What Gears of War 2 did introduce that changed and revolutionized the industry though, was horde mode. If you look around today, literally every big title has some sort of "horde" mode attached to it.
So flash-forward to 2011, and with the huge promises of dedicated servers for online mutliplayer, a four player co-op campaign (a first for Gears), and an even more expanded Horde mode, you can bet your ass I was excited as hell to get my hands on the finale of this trilogy. Gears of War 3 is truly the best game that Epic games designer Cliff Blizenski has created. It goes above and beyond everything I loved about the first game and expands and answers just about every question I had with the story. The new additions to Horde mode are fantastic fun, and yes, the multiplayer works this time around, with dedicated servers crushing any signs of host advantage.
The campaign is a bit shorter this time around, I think I clocked in at around eight in a half to nine hours when it was all said and done, and that was done in co-operative campaign mode. The story is a great wrap up to everything about Gears of War, and it answers just about every question you've ever had about this series. However, and I will throw out a huge and major plot *SPOILER* here (DO NOT READ THIS NEXT SENTENCE IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SPOIL THE STORY), the story does take kind of a bad turn by killing off a major character half way through. I won't reveal what character dies, as that would be too much, but let's just say that this persons death could have easily been avoided, and I felt it was rather stupid to kill this person off the way it was done. Seriously, this was the kind of thing I expected at the end of this game, not the middle. *END SPOILER*. With that being said, campaign is great as a four person game. It works well and is a huge blast with four people. However, because the campaign was designed for up to four people this time around, I would highly recommend that you play with at least three people on any difficulty higher then normal. It isn't the hardest game or anything by any means, but it does have a few moments that honestly if I didn't have anyone helping me, I probably would have gotten stuck. I will also note that only the lancer and the hammer-burst are worth using in the campaign, as every other weapon is rendered useless. Don't bother picking up that shotgun, because it won't do you any good here. But trust me, this game ends exactly how you would want this trilogy to end.
Beyond the excellent cooperative campaign, you have Horde mode 2.0. The biggest change to horde is that they have implemented a system allowing you to create fortifications. You earn cash for your kills that is used on these fortifications, and you level up these different fortifications perpetually. It works really well, and it is easily the biggest advancement I've seen in this kind of game mode since literally every other game has stolen it since it's incarnation in 2008. Once again, Epic games proves it's on the cutting edge with this game mode. If horde mode isn't your thing, there is a new mode called Beast mode. Beast mode is essentially horde mode from the other angle. You control just about every locust/lambant enemy offered in the game, and your goal is to stop the human resistance. There are twelve waves. I found this mode to be extremely fun, but not one I would play often.
And then we come to the biggest thing for me, multiplayer. With dedicated servers, Gears runs like a dream this time. All hopes of host advantage are crushed, and the multiplayer has never felt more balanced. That isn't to say that Gears is the best multiplayer game out there though, as I will still highly advocate that Halo 3 is the definitive Xbox live multiplayer experience, but Gears offers things up rather nicely this time. However, the people over at Epic need to realize that no one wants to play multiplayer when these servers go down. On two separate occasions I've been in matches where the dedicated servers weren't up, and when that goes down things like host advantage come right back into play. This hasn't been a huge problem, but it is something that needs to be addressed. I will also throw in here that for achievement whores like me, the Seriously 3.0 achievement is a gigantic dick-kill to anyone's mood on thinking about 1000ing this game. Yeah Cliffy B, we love your games, but not that much.
In a year in which we have more then 10 triple A titles coming out this fall that I'm actually buying myself, it's easy to overlook some titles. Gears of War 3 isn't a title anyone is going to overlook, however, Gears of War is entering into a predominant Call of Duty world this time around. It will be interesting to see how the multiplayer holds up in six months. Gears of War 3 is the end to a trilogy that defined the Xbox 360, that's for sure. And while it might be the last in the trilogy (three games make up a trilogy, obviously), I highly doubt it will be the last time we see Marcus Fenix and crew.