Trying to find a better 3rd-person shooter is an ill-fated task.
Despite the fact that Microsoft’s sophomore gaming hardware is arguably one of the best consoles ever shipped to store shelves, one knock against the platform (other than, you know, breaking a lot) is that its exclusive software is lacking when compared to its fierce competition. Halo’s great, sure, but other than a handful of intellectual properties Microsoft has relied heavily on 3rd party support from developers around the gaming industry. If there’s a game being developed, you will most likely see it on the the Xbox 360.
This is why it’s so refreshing to see that Gears of War 3, Epic’s third and final installment in Marcus Phoenix’s story of war and survival, is not only one of the best games on the Xbox 360 but it’s easily one of the best games of this hardware generation. And that’s not a statement to take lightly, either. Sony sure has its fair share of Resistance, Killzone, and Ratchet & Clank games, but they can’t even hold a candle to Gears of War 3; it’s not even an argument. Gears of War 3 is the real deal.
Taking every feature from the preexisting Gears of War games, Epic has tightly tuned the already stellar shooting and cover mechanics whilst throwing in a myriad of fun multiplayer modes, too. The result is the best Gears game to date. Everything ranging from the new 4-player campaign, the added tower defence-style base building in Horde, and the new Beast mode; Epic has stepped up their game to a whole new level. Unfortunately for other game developers, 3rd person shooters for years to come are going to be compared to Gears of War 3—likely never besting it.
Gears of War 3 takes place just months after its predecessor (Gears of War 2) where the humans on the planet “Sera” had no other option than to sink its last remaining city: Jacinto. Despite this, the COG team we’ve come to love (consisting of Marcus, Dom, Baird, Cole, and others) have managed to take refuge on a giant tanker that roams across the seas, scarcely stopping for supplies and fuel.
As unsurprising as it may sound, shit goes down. Since the Lambent have pretty much taken over the entire planet—plus there still happens to be pockets of surviving Locust around—the Gears have no choice but to put an end to it once and for all. Why risk it? They decide that they might as well try something after receiving a strange video recording of Marcus’ dad who, by all means should still be dead, is still alive and kicking.
The strong points of the Gears of War franchise has never been about the overarching narrative, and in Gears 3 it’s no different. Like Epic tried to do in the previous title, Gears of War 3 feels a lot more melancholy and less “bro-y”. Cole still has his ridiculous moments and Baird is always an asshole—the narrative still has a good amount of bro moments. But it also makes you care about the characters, one thing that the past Gears games have never done well. As a conclusion to a trilogy, it does a good enough job at tying up loose ends while only opening up a small amount of plot holes.
The thing that has made the Gears of War franchise such a well-respected and incredibly addictive series is its tightly-tuned third-person shooting. And in Gears 3 it’s the best it has ever been... in any third person shooter... ever. Simply put: I’ve never played a third-person shooter that’s as sharply crafted as Gears of War 3. The cover-based, put-in pop-out mentality works better than ever whilst also boasting a new set of gameplay and weapon improvements (like the unique executions).
This all fits well with the insane amount of features and modes Epic has packed onto a DVD. You can play with up to three other people in the campaign on 4-player co-op (or by yourself if you so choose)—giving you the options to either play it normally or in the new “arcade mode” that keeps track of points of each player. Earning kills boosts your score whereas you can also do mission objectives to gain points as well.
The most improved aspect of Gears of War 3 has to be its online multiplayer component which (thankfully) wasn’t broken since the day it was released. If you’re into the competitive side of things Gears 3 has a multitude of options ranging from Team Deathmatch to King of the Hill. Cooperatively Gears of War 3 has also improved adding tower defence-style of base building into its famous Horde mode. Here you can set up a base on any of the multiplayer maps and continue to build fences, turrets and other things around your base with the money you earn from kills. If you didn’t already love Horde (I know I did) than you will probably find it more addictive now. There’s nothing better than spending a night mowing down enemy after enemy while building up a fortress only to have a Brumak tear it down in seconds.
There’s also a new mode called “Beast” (and mixed with “mode” sounds like a transformer’s call from the Beast Wars animated series from the 90’s). Beast is actually quite fun pitting you (the Locust) against 12 waves of human heroes. The idea is to run into their Horde-like base and kill off every remaining character until they’re all dead. At the start of the match you’re given a small number of Locust to play as but as you gain more money from kills you can buy more expensive—and more fun—locust forces. The Berserker, for example, is like driving a tank through a building; you just mow down enemies like there’s no tomorrow.
The multiplayer suite Epic offers in Gears 3 is made more addicting with its progressive upgrade system seen in, well, every online shooter known to man (started with Call of Duty 4). You gain experience from basically everything, including the campaign, Horde, Beast, and competitive multiplayer. Once you level up you can unlock characters, and other goodies. You can also complete challenges to unlock skins for your starting weapons which look completely badass.
Visually Gears of War 3 is absolutely stunning. Games may have outdone the Gears franchise in terms of visuals on consoles over the years but Epic has still done some amazing graphical work with Gears of War 3. The most striking aspect of the visuals are all of the colours. The original two games had a more grey and brown look to them whilst Gears 3 has a variety of yellows, reds, greens, and even white. The character design and animations are still top notch, too. This is definitely one of the best looking console games out there. The only problem? Compressed CGI. DVDs don’t cut it anymore, Microsoft.
As with any sequel to already phenomenal games, Gears of War 3 doesn’t reinvent the wheel—it just does everything much better. And by better, I don’t mean, “yeah, it’s pretty good.”—no, I mean better as in, “this is one of the best shooters on the market today.” The multitude of features that’s packed onto this DVD is absolutely staggering, and trying to find a third-person shooter better than this is an ill-fated task. This is a conclusion that cannot be missed.