Giant Bomb Review

191 Comments

Gears of War 3 Review

5
  • X360

Gears of War 3 is a fantastic follow-up that answers important questions about the nature of the Gears universe while backing it all up with an even bigger, better multiplayer suite.

Some enemies will now burst out of the ground in a completely radical-looking way.

Closure has become something of a rarity in today's video games. Blame it on whatever you want, from the business need to keep popular franchises running until we're all in the grave, to an increasing focus on multiplayer games, but these days it feels like most games set up at least as many questions as they do answers. That's part of what I like about Gears of War 3. It answers questions. It leaves things in a dramatically different place than they were at the start of the game. If this were to be the final game in the Gears franchise, it'd be a satisfying place to leave things... not that I believe for a minute that we'll never see a Gears of War 4 or Gears of War: The New Class or something along those lines. But instead of immediately making you wonder about the next game in the line, Gears 3 seems like it's built to last, with both a surprisingly touching story and a set of multiplayer additions that attempts to address the issues that plagued the previous game.

Gears of War 3 is about damaged goods. While it's expected to see Dominic Santiago's continuing mental breakdown after the loss of his wife in Gears 2, almost every character you can think of is feeling the effects of this longterm war, and the story spends just enough time focusing on the ways that some of the different characters are unravelling to make the game feel like it's about more than just hiding behind boxes and shooting monsters in the face. The game opens with Marcus dreaming about his father, and, as you might expect after the ending of Gears 2, much of this game deals with the revelation that Adam Fenix might not have died all those years ago. But the people in and around Delta Squad aren't the only things breaking down. With the COG effectively disbanded, there's no government left to back up these soldiers, forcing them to scavenge and trade with other survivors in order to continue the fight against two enemies: the battered-but-definitely-not-beaten Locust and the wild, infected Lambent creatures, which in the two years since the conclusion of Gears 2 have continued to mutate into something that now only occasionally resembles their original "irradiated Locust" look. The human forces appear scrappy and divided in Gears of War 3, and it's exciting to watch their campaign unfold.

You can play through the five acts of the Gears campaign in a few different ways. The online co-op option allows up to four players to play simultaneously, and there's a new arcade mode that turns on score tracking, giving you points for kills, assists, and so on. As you earn points, a points multiplier meter fills, giving you an opportunity for higher scores, but if anyone on the team goes down, that meter quickly begins to drain, giving you a real incentive to keep everyone alive. You can also enable mutators that alter the game a bit. Some make it more difficult and give you extra experience points, like one that requires you to active reload every single time. Others make it easier and reduce the XP you'll earn, like one that gives you infinite ammo. Others are just there for kicks, like one that adds a laugh track to the game. They all sound interesting, but you'll have to play for tons and tons of time if you want to unlock them all, which is pretty unfortunate.

The good news is that you can spend that tons of time in just about any mode. That includes the game's versus multiplayer, which offers the same sorts of game types found in Gears 2, so if you want to capture and hold points there's King of the Hill, or you can always go for more straight-up modes, like Team Deathmatch. TDM works with a respawn counter, giving each five-person team 15 respawns to start with. This helps make every death count and keeps matches moving. The game also seems to be attempting to give new players a fighting chance with a new "casual" option that jumps you right into a TDM match. But if you reach a specific skill threshold, this option is locked out, forcing you to go up against the regular Gears players in the standard setting.

Beast mode lets you play as different Locust classes as you chow down on humans.

This is the part where dudes roll up behind you every 15 seconds and blow you into chunks with a shotgun blast unless you are too busy rolling up behind them with a shotgun of your own. Great. OK, perhaps that's oversimplifying things a bit, but my point is that Gears 3's multiplayer gameplay hasn't changed dramatically, so those same players who were absolutely raw at Gears of War 2 will pick right up where they left off. Ideally you'll get matched up with players who are at or around your skill level, but my early experiences with the game ended up reminding me that while I think the competitive multiplayer in Gears is well-designed and exciting, playing it against people who play a lot of it is frustrating in an "I guess I'll just turn this off now" way, not a "Gee, I'm going to strive to get better so this stops happening" sort of way. I will grant you that this is more of a personal issue and not an actual problem with the game itself, and for those of you in a similar situation, there's always Horde mode.

The wave-based survival mode that first popularized the style returns with some solid enhancements in Gears of War 3. Horde mode is still all about five guys working together to take down tons of AI enemies on the game's multiplayer maps. But now it almost has a tower defense sort of feel. You'll earn money for kills, and between rounds you can spend that cash on barriers that slow the enemy's progress, turrets that you can operate manually, decoys that distract your foes, and so on. Every tenth wave pits your crew against a random boss battle--you might end up facing two berzerkers, or maybe an effing brumak will show up and ruin your day. Picking up weapons or refilling your ammo also costs money, which means that the new Horde mode is a mix of the old Horde mode, some sort of tower defense-like structural accoutrements, and the Zombies mode from Treyarch's Call of Duty games. While I'm not a huge fan of those inspirations, they come together really well and make an already solid Gears 2 mode even better.

There's also a new mode called Beast that, in some ways, acts as an inverted Horde mode. It's another five-player co-op mode, but now you're playing as the Locust and attempting to kill humans that have holed up behind barricades and other obstacles in the game's multiplayer maps. It's also class-based, requiring you to spend the money you get for each round to spawn as different Horde species. Tickers are the best at bashing through the barbed-wire fences and other obstacles that slow down your team, so it's best to select them up front to expose the humans before moving in with bloodmounts, boomers, serapedes, and other heavy Locust artillery. The catch is that all of this starts with a 60-second timer, requiring you and your team to move extremely quickly if you want to complete a round, though not quite as quickly as that might sound. Everything you attack adds a second or two to your timer. It's a fast, frantic mode that feels nicely different from anything else on the disc. It's a pretty cool change of pace.

All of this online action will, theoretically, work better than it did in Gears of War 2. After numerous complaints about host advantages and other online shenanigans, the game's matches have moved onto dedicated servers. This is a behind-the-scenes change, for the most part. You won't see a server browser or anything like that, and the only place where you get options about which weapons you want to allow in a game or which map you want to play on is when you're setting up a private game. You can also play against bots in those private games, if you like, but only in the versus multiplayer. Bots can't play Horde or Beast with you. Bots can, technically, also appear in public quick match games, but I suspect that once the game is widely available, you probably won't see a lot of non-human players in those matches.

The Lambent creatures blow up real good.

Visually, Gears of War 3 is a step up from the previous game. The campaign takes you across a lot of different locations, and you'll see some great weather effects and lighting along the way. You'll also see plenty of great explosions, and some of the best bangs come out of the Lambent creatures, which pop in a really satisfying way when you take them down. That said, the game's cutscenes often suffer from frame rate issues, as they have in the past. The game also has 3D support, but I found the 3D mode to be sort of a blurry, murky mess. Even with the brightness cranked up, it was difficult to see enemies in some cases, and on-screen text is chunkier and a lot harder to read. Your mileage may vary, I guess, but my official advice is to leave the 3D mode alone. It's not worth it.

Gears of War 3 manages to leave a question or two unanswered, but those holes aren't big enough to drive a sequel through. When the next Gears of War comes along--and lets not be naive about these things, we'll almost certainly see another Gears of War game someday--it'll probably have to be a fairly dramatic shift, from a story perspective. The members of Delta Squad have finally found some closure, and, for all of the derisive things the world lobs at Gears' totally-broed-out motif, the story even manages to be touching on multiple occasions. It's a joy to play, and the game's expanded set of multiplayer options will give you plenty of things to keep you busy for a good, long time. Oh, and Ice-T's pretty great in it, too.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
191 Comments Refresh
Posted by mracoon

Damn, I forgot to leave a bet in ici. From the way Jeff has been talking about the game it was clear that it was going to get 5 stars. Really looking forward to getting my hands on it.

Moderator
Posted by zombie2011

Can't handle the HYPE.

Posted by Addfwyn

Never really dug the other Gears games, but hey...if I can find a friend with it, I'll check it out for sure, seems like a pretty glowing review. No sense in not trying it.

Edited by FoolishChaos

To me, GoW is all about using the gun appropriate to the situation. In jeffs case, he only ever wants to use the assault rifle. So when he decided to jump in front of the cover the shotgunner is blindfiring from, he will be in trouble. If you want to keep using the assault rifle, you have to put yourself in a position where it is advantageous over the shotgun. If you can't because hes got friends flanking you, then its time to pull out the shotgun. Don't be surprised if you die because you refuse to. The lancer's chainsaw is not supposed to rain supreme over the melee range. That is the shotguns job.

And yeah, with GoW's map design, the shotgun is in alot of cases, the advantageous gun to use. In most other shooters the assault rifle will take that perch. But not in gears of war. Thats just a fact really. It differentiates the game and gives you a different experience. I like it, its more visceral.

I played a ton of the first GoW, but only played two for maybe a month. Looking forward to getting destroyed by the veterans :)

Posted by GamesPlayer

Sounds great from the review, but I've read so many like this when Gears of War 1 & 2 came out, and when i finally got the games, they were unpolished, glitchy, laggy...pieces of s**t...so burnt out on this series that I'll wait for a price drop, whenever that happens.

Posted by ptys

Looks like a nicely polished game, I'm going to save my third person gameplay appetite for March 6th though.

Posted by DonPixel

Thanks Jeff, Incredible review this seems to be something I want to play nowadays, goodbye Ak47s and M4s

Posted by emem

Very nicely written.

Everything in the QL looks so much better than what I've played in the first and seen in the 2nd game. I honestly did not expect Gears 3 to be good, so I'm pleasently surprised.

Posted by dropabombonit

Great review Jeff, I'm back at uni next week so I can't play this on my brothers 360 but I'm sure my mate Josh will get it so I will play co-op with him

Posted by GunslingerPanda

5/5?

Really? REALLY!?

Posted by GetEveryone

Absolutely a day 1 purchase. Still trying to fight my way through 2 (hasn't got me hooked yet, but I'm dure it'll come). If it's anywhere near as enjoyable as Resistance 3, then this will have been a great month for games.

Posted by Zaapp1

Nice review Jeff. This makes me glad I pre-ordered from Amazon. And they even threw in $20. Like this wasn't going to sell on it's own?

Posted by baron_calamity

Cool review. Now I want to go play it. Question: I haven't played a Gears of War game before, would it be ok to start with Gears 3 or should I play the other 2 first?

Posted by LordXavierBritish

I still haven't played through any of these.

Maybe I should do that.

Posted by Wuddel

No 360 owner anymore (sadly somehow), but I am very happy this turned out so well.

Posted by AlisterCat

@GunslingerPanda said:

5/5?

Really? REALLY!?

Your eyes do not deceive you.

Posted by Luck3ySe7en

@baron_calamity said:

Cool review. Now I want to go play it. Question: I haven't played a Gears of War game before, would it be ok to start with Gears 3 or should I play the other 2 first?

If you've got a buddy to play the first 2 games with, then I'd recommend playing through them. Either do some "couch co-op" or pick them up for yourself.

Posted by JerichoBlyth

I am pumped! :-D I'm getting it delivered on Saturday! Can't wait!

Posted by ComradeCrash

Sounds awesome! Can I still play this without playing the other two, for the story I mean?

Posted by Winsord

I was kind of expecting this one to not differentiate itself enough from Gears 2, but evidently I'm pleasantly surprised. The addition of the barricades and monetary aspect to Horde is pretty cool, and Beast mode sounds kind of awesome. Gears has never been a series I've gotten into much, but I'll probably pick this up a little later after a price drop or during a sale, and have some fun with it.

Posted by DancingJesus

Looks incredibly polished.

Nice review Jeff!

Online
Posted by Zacagawea

Hot damn

Posted by asantosbr

I wanna play it already, cmon amazon uk send my damn copy...

Posted by Afroman269

Awww yeah!! So fucking ready for this game.
Dom's "fuck it beard". Awesome, Brad.

Posted by MildMolasses

@WiqidBritt said:

I'll probably play this mostly on normal, I've always felt that the enemies take way too many bullets to make playing the game 'tactically' feel right.

I agree that the enemies do take a lot of bullets, but considering that they aren't human and are posing a serious threat to things not currently in a state of being totally fucked up, I'm ok with it. Compared to games with human enemies (Uncharted: Drake's Fortune comes to mind) it makes total sense for the Locust to be bullet sponges.

Plus, from the sounds of it, they have greatly tuned the hardcore difficulty to me more in line with the "you play games, but aren't a machine" philosophy. I'm currently replaying the first gears on Hardcore, and it ranges from manageable to unpleasant at times. This one however will probably be done on hardcore if it is indeed to be considered the more normal style.

This game does look great. Competitive MP has never been my thing, but it sounds like there is more than enough content in here to extend my playtime past the campaign. I can't wait. Let the bleeding out of my wallet begin as the holiday release schedule is officially underway

Edited by ProjektGill

I'm actually surprised how happy I am that it got 5 stars instead of 4. I know scores are highly irrelevant these days but it brought a smile to my face that Epic was actually able to close the series out properly.

I might actually spend more than a month with the multiplayer (considering Gear 2 was busted for close to 5 months) because Horde 2.0 sounds fun. It still sucks that all these other games are coming out this year because I really want to pick this up but money is tight these days.

Also great review Jeff, answered everything I needed to know.

Posted by Shuborno

Sounds like it's Gears and it's good. Works for me.

I hope I like the new Horde mode since Horde was by far my favourite Gears 2 multiplayer mode.

Posted by FoxMulder

Maybe that one day in the far flung future when 360's are cheap due to the next gen arriving, I will get into the Gears of War series...for now Uncharted is my third-person cover based shooter of choice!

Posted by Bouke

This sounds like a game i can enjoy :)

Posted by ze_ro

I fear Mass Effect 3 might be the only time I will ever boot up my xbox again :/

Posted by vonFlampanker

Damn it all, I was hoping I'd be able to hold off until this one was cheap. Glad to see it getting such a good review nonetheless. I like when stuff is good.

Posted by Brendan

@ze_ro said:

I fear Mass Effect 3 might be the only time I will ever boot up my xbox again :/

You'll be able to get it on the PS3 as well. You could even pay for the game if you sold your Xbox, in fact.

Posted by Brendan

@GunslingerPanda said:

5/5?

Really? REALLY!?

It sounds like you were biased coming in to this, which doesn't make your reaction anything but your own fault.

Posted by xxDrAiNxx

Video Game Hall of Fame - Gears of War 3 !

Posted by Terjay

Neat. I'll probably pre-order it then.

Posted by GaspoweR

Oh God...need to preorder from Amazon, dammit!!!

Posted by ze_ro

@Brendan said:

@ze_ro said:

I fear Mass Effect 3 might be the only time I will ever boot up my xbox again :/

You'll be able to get it on the PS3 as well. You could even pay for the game if you sold your Xbox, in fact.

yeah I know but I've had my previous ME journeys on the xbox so I feel I must finish the fight on the same system. And I don't wanna sell anything, it's nice to have all these devices.

Posted by Vorbis

I wish I could enjoy this franchise again but I fear Vanquishes fast pace and Space Marines get-in-there mentality has killed it for me. Tried to play Gears 2 again recently and I just couldn't get into hiding behind cover and waiting for a clear shot.

Still, reviews sounds great for those who still enjoy Gears.

Posted by LEGITLakers

Sounds like a good game, but I never played Gears 2 and I don't have fond memories of all the no life nerds who play the multiplayer. I think I'll stay away from this one, the first game didn't have a compelling enough story for me to continue buying this boring series.

Posted by kollay

"Anya, Gerstmann gave us five stars."

In all seriousness, good review.

Posted by Gordo789

"my point is that Gears 3's multiplayer gameplay hasn't changed dramatically"

well I guess I'll be sticking to the single player.

Posted by radioactivez0r

Only ever played a bit of the first one and couldn't really get into it, but K-mart has the Triple Pack for $20 this week, and I have a roommate who digs co-op games. Perhaps it's time to give it another shot and move up to the big time if I dig it. I mean, 90+ scores have to mean something right?

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Sooo.... It's a 3rd person shooter with a heavy emphasis on taking cover?

Posted by Everyones_A_Critic

I'm disappointed to hear the multiplayer hasn't changed much. It's a third person shooter, not a fucking fighting game, anyone should be able to play without going 0-22 every match. Oh, who am I kidding, I'll still buy it and break a controller ten minutes into my first match.

Posted by MustardDragon

Early Tu Brute?

Posted by Peacemaker

I really don't play gears for the MP but it may hold me over until CoD and Halo. I am excited to play the single player. Other reviews say the single player mode is a decent length too which is nice.

Edited by Sammo21

I'm seeing a lot of 5 stars getting thrown around for this game. Glad to hear it. Hopefully the multiplayer isn't broken when the masses start playing this game as everyone raved about Gears of War 2's mp and it was an absolutely broken mess (still debatable if it is now)...played well in the beta so can only hope it keeps up the pace.

Also, Griffin is super easily unlocked. I got the DL code from Facebook in like 2 minutes...

Posted by thornie_delete

@ArbitraryWater said:

Sooo.... It's a 3rd person shooter with a heavy emphasis on taking cover?

Yes, but it's the BEST 3rd person shooter with a heavy emphasis on taking cover. If I'm going to play this type of game, it's going to be Gears and only Gears.

Edited by CakeBomb

I just can't get past the genericness of it. It's so brown, dull, with ridiculous characters and boring gunplay.

Posted by Jayzilla

This will totally be a rent for me. A week of shooting stuff and ducking behind cover? Sold...err Rented!