As good as you could hope a sequel could be
Well, Gears of War 3 is pretty much exactly what I expected. Better, longer campaign with a signicificantly better plot and a much improved multiplayer experience. This is probably my favorite shooter since Halo 3.
So what did the game do right? Well, the netcode has been vastly improved, so the competitive multiplayer is actually playable even if your match isn't making use of the dedicated servers. There's a slew of unlockables so you have a lot of motivation to just keep playing. I really love how there an event callendar in the game, it's great to see that Epic has a plan for this game and activities for players to take part in on specific days.
The art direction is fantastic, the environments especially are a great improvement, theres alot of variety in the locations you'll be traversing.
While there aren't really any huge changes to gameplay(and really, why should there be?) some of the minor changes are appreciated like the ability to que up a weapon change while sprinting, the ability to trade weapons with allies and the ability to grenade tag meat shields and sending them hurtling towards foes.
Is there anything wrong with the game? Sure, but nothing very significant. In the campaign there are a few cut scenes that are prerendered and aren't hd, which standout. The seriously 3.0 achievement is just stupid.
4-player co-op, a feature fans have been begging for might not be as great as you might have hoped for. You'll likely have allies go down some what frequently in battle between the four of you and having to constantly revive each other can become a hassle, especially in the tougher fights. If just one of the players die you have to restart from the last check point.
It might sound silly to complain about the difficulty when you can always turn it down but it's either deal with some what frequent deaths or downs vs unchallenging foes. Ultimately, there is a solution, the arcade mode. It's a scoring system like Halo's meta game but in Gears turning this mode on allows players to continue the campaign even if a player dies(said player will respawn after a whole thirty friggin second wait). Which makes a co-op run significantly more enyoable/tolerable, especially on Insane. There is no downside to using it either, you'll still pick up achievements.
Gears of War 3 also alters the horde experience by including many of the bosses you encounter in the campaign in it's boss waves and adding a tower defense element to horde with fortifications like barriers, turrets and decoys. While fortifications are great you may be left wanting to return to the more simple classic horde experience. But it's still great and it really doesn't hurt to treat it like the old horde experience. Fortifications really only serve to slow down locust rather than out right handle them for you, for the most part, and they do practically nothing against bosses.
Beast mode is the new mode on the block and while at first it seems like the Horde mode flip flopped there's a bit more to it. You play as the locust trying to kill the CoG who are armed and hiding behind their own fortifications. It's a class based mode and the more damage you deal to the fortifications and the more foes you kill, the more money you earn which you can use to purchase which classes you want to play as and the more you do you'll be awarded with higher tier classes to play as.
Beast mode features a strict time limit to work under but the time limit is expanded the more you destroy fortifications and kill humans. It's a really fun mode but you probably wont stick with it too long since there are only twelve waves that end all too quickly. It's just not as an engaging experience as the competitive multiplayer or even horde.
While the multiplayer experience as a whole has just improved in playability, whats on offer is largely the same. You have warzone and executions, Gears' classic single spawn deatmatchlike variants with the main difference being that in execution to kill an oppenent you need to either headshot them or execute them. Annex has changed it's name to king of the hill and the original kill of the hill mode is gone. And meatflag and gaurdian have been merged into the "capture the leader mode" where players must capture and hold the enemy leader for a set amount of time.
Gears 3 seem to focus on taking what it already had, mostly cutting what it didn't need and refining it. The only "new" mode is team death match. Closer to what you'd expect to see in most shooter it's pretty much what you expect except that players share a set number of respawns.
I feel that while Gears of War 3 is very, very similar to it's predecessors it's multiplayer has been rehauled to the point to where I would encourage those who didn't like previous entries to still give Gears of War 3 a chance. The campaign has a satisfying sense of closure I haven't seen in a game... probably ever. The multiplayer is a satisfying and consistent experience. Gears of War 3 had pretty much everything I wanted... Except a theater mode. :P