Late 2011 is currently set to see the emergence of several third installments of best-selling shooters, including Resistance, Modern Warfare, Battlefield, etc. However, the first of these inevitable blockbusters to prise our student loans from our greedy little fists is the hotly anticipated Gears of War 3.
Previous installment Gears of War 2 split fan opinion right down the middle, with arguably the dominant response being that of disappointment: with glitchy, frustrating multiplayer, unbalanced weapon strength, and a comparatively forgettable story mode. Naturally then, there was a lot riding on Gears 3 to redeem the series. Thankfully, the game does not disappoint.
To cover some basics, Gears 3 plays exactly the same as the previous two games (which is in no way a bad thing), still basing gameplay on cover-based shooting. However, this third game greatly improves on the second installment on several levels.
Firstly the single-player campaign. The last game proved to be a rather lackluster attempt to try and pad out the walking hulks of testosterone that we assume to be ‘characters’. It didn’t really work. However, this third outing succeeds in this respect. Without revealing any spoilers, we do begin to relate and empathise with our protagonists, making the game much more engaging. However, seeing the towering-pair-of-biceps-with-a-bloke-attached Marcus Fenix cry (growl) out in emotion still seems forced and borderline laughable.
The campaign also introduces more brutal weaponry including the ‘Retro Lancer’, an apparently older version of the game’s signature weapon, and the only firearm which makes an assault rifle with a chainsaw bayonet (which, despite being introduced in 2006, still hasn’t gotten boring) seem ‘refined’ in comparison. It’s a bit pointless, but just a bit of gory fun. The multiplayer thankfully greatly improves on Gears 2, with much more immersive maps and a smoother, more engaging experience, including new game modes and multiplayer awards which will leave you thirsty for more.
However, the game still suffers from slight power unbalances. The new sawn-off shotgun is ludicrously powerful, meaning shotgun duels are usually very short-lived affairs. Furthermore, the single player isn’t without slight fault. The game still suffers from the main Gears problem of being too stuck to a linear path — enter room; kill everything; repeat ‘til credits roll.
The plot, in true Gears style, is dramatic and cheesy. Although enduring in parts, it can become predictable and occasionally cheap, with easy plot devices making little sense but keeping the story flowing.
Gears of War 3, despite tiny foibles, does prove to be an immensely satisfying third installment in the series. With an engaging (albeit entertainingly corny) campaign and one of the best multiplayers out there, Epic have responded brilliantly to fan criticisms and delivered one of the best games of the year.