Giant Bomb Review

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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
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Posted by Hi_Voltg3

I, for one, can't wait to play this with my homies.
Posted by shadowwolf9

@LEGITLakers: You sound incredibly ignorant.

Posted by AsszStake

Jeff only gives 5 stars when a game is super legit, so i'm gettin' this game! btw. GREAT REVIEW JEFF

Posted by MormonWarrior

Got it preordered on Amazon. Can't wait!

Posted by Chiyou_2

I preordered this game not really wanting it, just because ebgames had a trade 2 in for $50 credit deal going and it only worked for a few games, one being this one.. I woke up this morning and saw a bunch of reviews and now i'm stoked! Hope its honesty and not just a flood of money that has been turning out all these great reviews (because GoW is advertised on almost every site today).

Posted by phish09

Glad to hear the series has not dropped in quality. I was a little worried based on some of the more tame gameplay that they've shown off that maybe Epic had peaked. Anyway, game sounds amazing. Tuesday can't come soon enough.

Posted by lasersanchez

Fucking PUMPED!

Posted by Downloaded

Dude, your comma splices are ridiculous.

Posted by DrDarkStryfe

I agree fully with the review. I finished it myself last night, and was just blown away at how Epic did not take the easy way out with story. That, plus at just how amazing a character Cole became through the first Act, and leads to one of my favorite sequences in the series.

Posted by Chango

Very cool; looks like I'm going to have to buy a 360.

Posted by Lobster_Ear

I will never make the mistake of buying a Gears game after Gears of War 2. Just too similar to the first. Not my thing.

Posted by MichaelBach

I'm pumped up for some gears 3 now!

Posted by JoeyRavn

Are you saying this game I don't like is better than that other game I like? Grrrrrrrrr.

Posted by bybeach

I've got it pre-ordered. I only do SP. Now I can tell how much I am missing, even if Ice tee is also invested in the MP (bah). Just the same, Gears has always manged to ripped me 60.00 for a once play-through cause well, I like it..Even for the wisp of the story that looks like is going to finally coalesce. So looking forward to it.

Posted by waypoetic

I'm shocked. Giantbomb gives a firstparty 360 game 5 out of 5!?

Posted by foxhound421

You know, I've played through both Gears campaigns and messed around with the multiplayer but, while I DO enjoy this series, neither game has really stuck with me. Not like Reach, or Bad Co. 2. I always end up selling them on eBay a week or two after finishing the campaign.

I want to know whether the end boss battle is as much of a disappointing cop-out as it was in Gears 2. That was one of the few times a game ending actually pissed me off.

If I can defeat my compulsion to buy every new AAA game that comes out, I'll probably pick this up during some Black Friday sale when it'll be $30-40.

Posted by Meltbrain

That's great to see. I was pretty stoked for Gears 3 but knowing that it wraps up in a satisfying way definitely seems exciting. Can't wait!

Posted by thornie_delete
Posted by StingingVelvet

Wish these games came to PC. I liked the first one and this one sounds like a homerun. I can't justify buying an Xbox just for Gears and Halo though.

Posted by TheSouthernDandy

Space Marine ripoff...

Posted by Undeadpool

Gather the roommates, warn the significant others, Horde Mode is BACK!

Pre-ordered and can't wait. Honestly, I'm really glad to hear that the game doesn't just end on a "WHOOP! We GOTCHA!" cliff-hanger.

Posted by Egge

Gears of War 2 was the very definition of a 'meh' release to me, and since that game came out I've drifted too far into PC territory to be really excited about a console exclusive. Still, this review has convinced me that I need to at least check out the singleplayer campaign at some point.

Posted by rame

I just Pre-order on Amazon (same day delivery) so how stoked was I to see the review today?! Thanks for affirming my purchase I look forward to playing with you all on Horde and putting a shotgun to your back during King of the Hill mode.

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

Good informative review. thanks Jeff

Edited by MetalMoog

Traded in 19 games last night and preordered this and BF3 with the money! Don't feel so bad about getting ass raped by EB now!

Posted by shadystx

Gears is probably my most memorable title of this generation because it was the first game I bought this gen that made go "wow", Devil may cry was that game last generation.

Yes the graphics were very impressive when it launched back in 06 and obviously games have come along that look even better but gears was the first for me, Also the the cover based gameplay was very fresh to me, i had never played a game like gears before, | had played games with a cover mechanic but not like gears, GOW just felt so snappy and responsive after the tutorial I was effortlessly sliding into cover at speed popping out killing a bad ass monster jumping over the cover running and sliding into the next cover to get close to my next kill, It just felt great IMO and no other third person shooter with a cover mechanic has done this part aswell as gears has IMO.

I cannot wait to play this game, Gears 1 was also the game I played most online ever apart from fifa, I am not a huge MP gamer but the 4 vs 4 matches felt good to me and I was able to get some strategic MP gaming going with strangers which is nearly impossible in games like COD.

I am just gutted that money is very tight at the moment and i cannot afford to pick this up, I have got it top of my rental que and sent a game back so it arrives the day comes out hoping to get lucky, but i will be buying it at the end of the month was my pay hits the bank.

Posted by Wiseblood

@waypoetic said:

I'm shocked. Giantbomb gives a firstparty 360 game 5 out of 5!?

Let's see, the last time that happened was Forza 3 almost 2 years ago. But go ahead and keep crying, fanboy.

Posted by MeatSim

Definitely glad that I pre-ordered this.

Posted by princess_zelda

finally Important Questions about the GoW universe are answered, like "which space meathead has the biggest gun" and "will americans ever get tired of this 'space marines vs. aliens' shit"

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

Spoiler - New enemy type: Orks!

Just pre-ordered on Amazon because of this review. Damn you Giantbomb. /shake fist

Posted by MisterMouse

haha no surprise there.

Posted by TheHBK

You know, this review could have been condensed into that last sentence. The other stuff the game does is just extra.

Posted by FreakAche

Sigh. I guess I really should give the Gears series another chance, since people seem to like it so much.

Posted by Sweep

DUDE YES

Moderator
Posted by shuref00t

Gears 3 so totally crept up on me! Didn't realize until the guys were talking about it on the last Bombcast that it's releasing next week.

"LET'S DO THIS!" -Benjamin Carmine, R.I.P.

Posted by WatanabeKazuma

Already pre-ordered but the QL has definitely got me excited, game looks sharp!

Posted by Hargreaves93

A good review and it has made sure I definitely get Gears 3 now!

Posted by I_n_s_o_m_n_i_a

Great review Jeff. This is the only Xbox game I'm getting this year and I can't wait to pick it up.

Posted by PrivateIronTFU

Jesus, I can't believe this game comes out next week. And I'm running ridiculously low on miscellaneous cash. Thanks a lot, better than expected summer games! You wiped me out.

Posted by ProfessorEss

@princess_zelda said:

finally Important Questions about the GoW universe are answered, like "which space meathead has the biggest gun" and "will americans ever get tired of this 'space marines vs. aliens' shit"

Well excuuuse me princess. Sorry I had to :)

Man I can't wait to see what happens - and then get the band back together for some of that sweet sounding new Horde mode.

Posted by TheHBK

Didn't they delay this from March 2011 for a reason? I don't think it was explicitly to add kinect support but they were gonna use the extra time to do that. So nothin?

Posted by Corvak

Unfortunately, no Gears 3 for me for a while. My 360 Slim has decided to get the disc tray error, so I have to send it in for service =/

Posted by MormonWarrior

Also, remember this? It's amazing...

Posted by Mikewrestler5
@Downloaded
 
Mind showing some examples?
Posted by tourgen

alright!  I can't wait.  I'm picking this up.  Expanded horde mode sounds amazing and more than I was hoping for

Posted by Quacktastic

@TheHBK said:

Didn't they delay this from March 2011 for a reason? I don't think it was explicitly to add kinect support but they were gonna use the extra time to do that. So nothin?

For marketing. They needed to have a tent-pole release for the fall so it was moved.

Posted by CHIEFMEGADETH666

Cant wait for Gears 3...looks Amazing! This is why i choose 360 over ps3.
Everyone knows if you only got enough time for 1 console, you go 360 baby!
Not a hard choice by any means.

Posted by Afroman269

@Quacktastic said:

@TheHBK said:

Didn't they delay this from March 2011 for a reason? I don't think it was explicitly to add kinect support but they were gonna use the extra time to do that. So nothin?

For marketing. They needed to have a tent-pole release for the fall so it was moved.

Ya it was moved because MS needed a big game for the fall but EPIC used that time to their advantage to polish the shit out of this game and it shows.

Posted by KinjiroSSD

Awesome. It's great to see two franchises with mediocre second games bring their A game for the finale.

Posted by Afroman269

@KinjiroSSD said:

Awesome. It's great to see two franchises with mediocre second games bring their A game for the finale.

Too true.

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