By MooseyMcMan 9 Comments
Okay, worst probably isn't the right word. "My least favorite" would be more accurate, but hey, I have to have something "eye catching" to get people to read something about a game that came out last year and everyone already knows about.
By now everyone knows what the Gears of War franchise is about, and probably knows about all the improvements the fine people at Epic Games made to stuff like the Horde Mode in Gears 3, and the inclusion of new things like Best Mode. Bear in mind that I didn't play any of that. I don't pay for Xbox Live, and I didn't feel like trying to play Horde Mode on my own (which I think is possible, but I'm not sure). When I got this copy (which I borrowed from my cousin), I started a new campaign on Hardcore, and I played through to the end, on my own.
But in order to better understand why Gears 3 is my least favorite of the trilogy, I think some background information on my experience with the other two games is needed. I bought Gears 1 back in '06 when it came out. I played through it on my own, in co-op with a friend (mainly split-screen), and since that was during the one year when I had access to Xbox Live Gold, I played a fair amount of the game online. And I loved all of it. There is a reason why so many games have aped the formula established by Gears of War, which more or less invented the third person/cover based shooter sub-genre (yes, games existed with all these mechanics before, but Gears is the one that made it a thing people cared about).
Then, in 2008, Gears of War 2 was released to much fanfare. By which I mean people kept complaining about how the online was messed up. But whilst those people were complaining about that, I was playing the campaign. Again, I played it on my own, and in co-op, and I loved every last second of it. I thought that they improved on the original in every way. It looked better, there were new weapons, the vehicle sequences were fun (at least I liked them) instead of being awful like that one sequence in Gears 1. It was a bigger and more ambitious game, and I loved it, and continue to love it to this day (even though it's been quite some time since I played either Gears 1 or Gears 2).
Nolan North who, according to the internet, voiced the character Jace in Gears of War 2, but not in Gears of War 3 (and yes, Jace is in Gears of War 3). Already the game was doing things I didn't approve of.
In all seriousness though, I came into Gears of War 3 with high expectations. Everything I read or saw about the game sounded fantastic. They had once again revamped the graphics to make the game look even better, and they went out of their way to create even more variety in the environments (something that they did well in Gears 2 as well, though I always found something compelling about the oppressive grey-ness of Gears 1). And I think these high expectations were part of the reason why I ended up feeling a little disappointed by the game, as opposed to Modern Warfare 3, which I recently went into with low expectations and was blown away.
But where to begin with what I didn't like? I suppose the weapons is a good place to start, as the game involves a lot of shooting. Most weapons from the first two games are left unchanged, so the Lancer still works the same as it ever does. I think they changed the Hammerburst again, but I never really used it in Gears 2, so I'm not sure (I can say with confidence that it does not have burst fire, so they should have changed the name (it did have burst fire in Gears 1)). One weapon that did change was the Gorgon pistol, which was a new weapon in Gears 2, and my favorite pistol in that game. The gun fired in four round bursts, and carried 16 shots (so four four round bursts). It was such a weird little gun that I found using it compelling, so I held onto it for much of the game. But I must have been in the minority, because it was changed to a regular-ass fully auto gun, which sounds like it would be better, but I didn't like it. It was far too inaccurate, and I felt using that pointless when I carried the Lancer all of the time, so I just carried the Boltok revolver instead.
More critical to how I play Gears of War, however, were the changes made to the Longshot sniper rifle (which still "morphs" depending on how it is held in the game (ie, the "bolt" of the bolt action rifle switches sides, which always stood out to me as a silly oversight in the design of that weapon)). The gun still handles the same way it always has (single shot bolt action, scope, etc), but they changed how you can get ammo for it. In the first two games, you could get Longshot ammo from the ammo boxes found throughout the game, meaning you could play through most of the game with the Longshot, as I tended to do in both Gears 1 and 2. But in Gears 3, you can no longer get Longshot ammo from those ammo boxes. It's only from Longshot rifles found in the game, meaning that ammo for the gun is severely limited, and that you can really only use it when the developers want you to. And since you can only carry a max of 24 rounds at any time, it's not like you could load up in a spot and then carry it with you forever. So I ended up not using it anywhere near as much, and I just thought it was weird to make such a change in the third game in the series.
Both of those aren't huge issues, however. Even in the previous games, I would often switch out the Longshot for a shotgun or something else if I felt the situation warranted it. More critical to why I liked this game less than the other two are the enemies. Most of the enemies from the first two games return, but there are a bunch of new ones as well. Yes, making new enemies for a game is a good thing, because it's always better to have variety, rather than the same old thing rehashed for the third time. The problem is that the rehashed enemies are way more fun to fight than the new ones.
See, the problem I have is that a lot of the new enemies seem to have been built around the idea of getting players out of cover and moving around. Enemies like that existed in the first two games (Gears 1 had the wretches, and Gears 2 added tickers), but Gears 3 adds a couple more enemies like that. One are these weird spider-ish things that just run at you, and the other are basically fast zombies that run at you and melee you. Yeah, zombies. Those well loved and interesting enemies that fit well into a game that is best when you are in cover shooting at guys who are also in cover.
And there are other enemies that have attacks that seem to have been designed specifically to force you out of cover. There's one that throws these larges gobs of orange goo that are one-hit "kills" (more on why I quote that later), and another that has a Stretch Armstrong arm with a blade at the end, which is also a one-hit "kill." And on top of that, there is a new weapon called the Digger that sending a grenade through the ground that pops up, and can go beneath cover. I like that weapon, however, because unlike those orange gobs and arm blades, the Digger can be used against the enemy.
Now, those enemies thankfully do not make up the brunt of what you fight in the game. There's certainly a lot of them, but I want to say that most of it was fighting regular-ass Locust, which is the same tried and true stuff from the first two games (minus throwing grenades into holes). But even when fighting the "better" enemies, I still found the game a little...flat? That's not really the right word, but the game didn't feel as exciting to me as Gears 2 did. Or as well designed as Gears 1 was. I don't really have any concrete examples as to why, but I didn't like the level design as much in this game, or the set-piece moments. There's no vehicular sections, aside from a couple of decent (but not great) mounted turret bit (though some people will find that to be a plus), and the boss fights are bad. Not only are they not fun to fight, but they last way too long. The Gears games aren't exactly known for great boss fights (aside from that one on the raft in Gears 2), but these don't do anything to help their reputation. I almost want to say that this game's final boss is worse than the boss in Gears 1, but it's been years since I played Gears 1, so I can't really comment definitively.
Speaking of difficulty (because by worse, I meant harder), Hardcore mode in Gears 3 is weird. On the one hand I want to say it's harder than it was in Gears 2 (and maybe Gears 1) because it feels like the amount of damage needed to die is way less than it was before. Conversely, you don't really die most of the time in Gears 3. What I mean is that instead of dying, your character falls to the ground waiting to be revived, like if it was being played in multi-player. So if it's hard to die, large parts of the game become trivial because you always have three AI characters to revive you. Even if the spots where they "split-up," the other two always manage to get back to you within about 30 seconds. It is possible to die, of course, but I was never able to figure out what exactly was causing death, so it ended up feeling super contrived as to what could or couldn't kill you. Sometimes I felt like explosions would kill me, but then I was clearly put into "revive me" mode by a Torque Bow shot (which is explosive, for those who don't know), so I don't think that was it. I know it's possible to bleed out (I had that happen once or twice), and enemies can curb stomp you, but I also had plenty of instances where I would just die without going into "revive me" mode.
And on top of those game play related things I didn't care for, I didn't like the story as much as in the first two games. Yes, the first game didn't have much of a story (at least in the game, I know the series has a lot of back story), but I think that was a case where less was more. Not that I didn't want things to be explained, I just didn't like some of the "twists." For example, the one about Imulsion (which I will not spoil). I'll just say that I thought that one was really dumb. And there were some other things that didn't make sense, weren't explained at all, or contradicted things in the first two games.
I know that story was never really the strongest part of these games, but The Cole Train definitely was. And one of my biggest complaints with Gears 3 is that The Cole Train just up and disappears from the story for a large portion of the game. Yes, there is a lot of The Cole Train early on (including a section where you play as him, which includes one of the best Cole Train moments), but it wasn't enough to make up for his absence later in the game. And yes, I remember that there was a large lead up to The Cole Train's appearance in Gears 2, but his intro in Gears 2 was better than his best moments in Gears 3, and that wasn't even the best Cole Train moment in Gears 2 (his little "speech" to the Locust Queen wins that award). And then, of course, there was The Cole Train Rap in Gears 1, so I feel a little disappointed with the amount of Cole Train in Gears 3. Too top heavy, left me wanting for him through large stretches of the game, and with only fake Chris Rock (or at least I thought Jace sounded a little like Chris Rock) and Claudia Black to (poorly) fill the void.
Ice T, who apart from holding fake guns in images that are much taller than I initially thought, voiced the character Griffin in Gears 3 (a much smaller role than I was hoping for), and whose band did a surprisingly shreddy song that plays during the credits of Gears of War 3.
I know most of what I wrote sounds negative, because it is, but remember that while this game is still my least favorite of the three, I still think it's a great game that everyone who likes gun-based-combat games should play. I just liked it less than the other two. I still wholeheartedly endorse it, however. So if you haven't played it yet, play it.
That's it. Nothing else on the immediate "play this" list. With Yakuza Dead Souls and Asura's Wrath still just a bit over my price range (well, Dead Souls is probably worth the money, but I got Yakuza 3 and 4 for real cheap, so I was hoping I could do the same, and Asura's Wrath is still way higher than I want to pay (I want to pay $20)), and those are about the only new-ish games out there that I want to buy. I could probably borrow another game from my cousin. He has Killzone 3, and isn't playing that, so I guess I could play that. Or maybe I'll go back to Mass Effect 3 and beat that on Insanity (though I know at least one person who will tell me to "forget about Mass Effect 3"). I'll probably do that. I have to S-Rank it at some point. I did for the first two, so I'm obligated by law to do it for this one.*
Oh yeah, E3 is soon. I'm really hoping that Nintendo shows off a bunch of awesome stuff. I love Nintendo, and in my heart they will always be my favorite, but I hope that the Wii U has more games worth buying than the Wii did. Don't get me wrong, I played most of the Nintendo published games like Skyward Sword, Super Mario Galaxy, and a lot of the good third party stuff like No More Heroes and Red Steel 2. But my collection of Wii games is dwarfed by the number of PS3 and 360 games I have. So I hope Nintendo blows us all away once again.
So far as Sony and Microsoft go, well, I'm not expecting much. Sony is probably going to push hard for Vita, which I don't really care about (not unless there's a serious price cut or a ton of games I want for it), and Microsoft's will probably be mad-boring once again (at least past the obligatory Call of Duty opening).
*Not really. By which I mean the obligated by law part. I did S-Rank the first two Mass Effect games.