Review by SolidFantasy
"No Tears For Fears, Just a Mad end to a Mad World"
The finale to the trilogy is finally here, and I'm going to just flat-out say it; I'm not really a fan of Gears of War. So when I'm saying Gears of War 3 is truly this damn good, I mean it. I'm not some IGN employee taking bribes to give hyped games 10's for being pretty. I write reviews so people can get real opinions from real gamers. I went in expecting to end up thinking the 3rd installment would be the same old stuff with better graphics. I was right on the graphics part as they are absolutely insane, but never in a million years did I expect a ridiculous amount of enemy variety, insane set-pieces that rival Uncharted 2, and here's the kicker; a somewhat gripping story with moments that actually evoked emotion out of me. This game has one of the greatest cut-scenes of all time and anyone that plays the game will without a doubt know which scene I am referring too. Gears of War 3 is easily the best of the trilogy and the best Microsoft exclusive since Lost Odyssey or Halo 2.
Story Gears of War 3 picks up roughly 1 year and a half after the events of the 2nd game. The COG has disbanded and most people have isolated to living on a ship. Then the Lambent attack there and all hell break loose. Soon after this Marcus learns that his father may be alive and that he has found a way to wipe out the Lambent and Locust. You will play as 5+ characters throughout the entire campaign including Marcus, Dom, Cole, Baird, Anya, and new characters such as another Carmine, Jace, and more. The reason this is all possible is because Gears of War 3 features 4 player co-op for the entire campaign. There are actually levels Marcus and Dom weren't even in which not only took me by surprise but also broke up some of the story elements well. The characters really haven't changed much (Marcus still yells every single one of his lines while Cole-Train and Baird have enough cheesy one-liners and hilarious dialogue to base a stand-up comedy routine on.). Dom though obviously has gotten some terrific character development and rightfully so. He's depressed and still grieving from the events in Gears of War 2 and has a pretty epic beard to prove it. Queen Myrah returns as the leader of the Locust and plays a big role too. The story is crafted very well and while some characters I just plain don't give a crap about, others like Carmine are just brilliant. In each game a Carmine brother died, watching and waiting to see if the tradition continues is like watching an early episode of South Park. If you're worried Gears of War 3 won't have a satisfying ending or answer all your questions about the series lore then don't be. Aside from a few things being left unexplained I was rather pleased with the ending. It definitely felt complete and satisfying. Also, it's worth mentioning again that the game contains one of the most well executed cut-scenes of all time. While the story certainly isn't anything deep, it is loads of fun and miles better than the previous 2 games.
Game-play: Bigger, better, more badass is what Cliff Bleszinski pretty much swore by while developing this game. Holy s*** did he and Epic ever deliver! The game plays like previous entries where you're mostly taking cover and popping out and shooting. You still have your Active Reload (press RB at the right time while reloading to speed it up), a 4 weapon at a time loadout, and your LT/RT shooting mechanics. A does various things like roll and take cover (which feels even more refined as you don't get stuck on a wall when you meant to roll or something like that). This is all what I pretty much expected but what I was not expecting was a sick amount of enemy variety (there must be almost 20 different enemy types between the Locust and Lambent), insane set-pieces, epic boss battles, and even more weapons. The favorites are back such as the Lancer, Hammer of Dawn, Torque Bow and more but there are also new toys. There's a Cleaver you can cut people to death with, a new Sniper Rifle and Shotgun, a Retro Lancer (that has a bayonet attached), Incendiary Grenades, and more. Even if by some chance the weapons get stale, you will not be prepared for the amount of enemy types. You'll be killing the basic Locusts along with all new Lambent enemies. Lambent enemies have glowing spots on them that when shot cause them to explode into chunks. This is so satisfying because the explosion effects in this game are the absolute best I have ever seen. Lambent enemies like to come of giant stalks that burst through the ground and can be killed by shooting their pods. These enemies are smart too and will at times rush you and flank you. One of the most pleasant surprises though is how smart your 3 CPU controlled allies are. They will rack up kills, revive you (you can also revive yourself now by tapping A), never get in the way; show you the way, and more. At one point I actually paused the game to see if real people joined my game. You can even direct their fire if you click the LS in while aiming. If you have friends though, by all means do 4 player co-op. I imagine the game is even more exciting since just like in the previous 2 games there are brief moments where you split up. They've also added a scoring system you can turn on or off so you can see who racked up the most kills throughout the campaign. There is also 2 player split-screen, and 4-player split-screen via system link.
The boss fights and set-pieces are pretty insane and probably some of the best you will ever see in a Third Person Shooter. Again whenever something crazy is going on you can hold Y to see a close-up view of the chaos with terrific presentation. You will fight a huge Queen Spider monster thing, Brumaks', a Leviathan, and some more stuff I won't spoil. Sometimes you will be shooting turrets from trucks as the entire damn highway collapses under you, hopping elevators, dealing with the environment around you being blown to hell and more. During a zipline sequence I shot at a barrel on a bridge. I was not expecting the ENTIRE bridge to blow in half along with the Lambent. There are mechs you can hop in and out of to blow stuff up with. There are just so many moments where the game wows you and it does it on a consistent basis. Tired of fighting Lambent? The game throws in the Locust. Tired of arena shootouts? Go defend an enclosed area by gunning down 100's of Locust on turrets. The game actually has a third enemy type too that I do not want to spoil. Even though I admit the campaign does start to drag at the end, for the most part it is insanely polished with terrific level design. Gears of War 3 does not take place underground so you will see many new locales including various sand dunes, a food store, a hotel, and even a stormy beach. And how could I forget, executions are back and the Lancer Chainsaw kill is as brutal as ever. This is by far the best campaign of all 3 games and is simply awesome from beginning to end.
Competitive Multiplayer: I can easily see people becoming addicted to this. You have 6 different game modes, 10 maps, DLC on the way, hundreds of ribbons, medals, and unlockables, and a level cap of 100. From what I played you have your standard Team Deathmatch where each team shares a pool of respawns. In Execution mode it's 1 life per all and you must kill with an execution. Warzone is pretty much the same without the execution part. King of the Hill is back and pretty self-explanatory. In Capture the Leader you must down and grab a specific member of the opposing team as a meat-shield and hold them for a certain amount of time. There's also 1 more mode that was basically 4 teams of 2 all against each other. Throughout my time with each mode I didn't encounter much shotgun spamming which I know plagued Gears of War 2. Everything felt balanced, fun, and just right. In the short time I've played I encountered some memorable matches already (in one game we went into Sudden Death about 3 times). If I had to choose a favorite mode I'd probably go with Capture the Leader which is hard yet very rewarding to win. The maps all feel perfectly sized and are nice choices from the campaign. Also I'm pretty surprised that the graphics don't really take a hit online since they are absolutely stunning. Getting into games is fast and pretty much flawless. There are a load of character skins, weapon skins, and medals. Getting the Onyx variant of every medal will take 100's of hours. If you're new to Gears of War there are special rooms (that are locked off to those experienced playing the multi-player) where you can learn the ropes. You can also make private matches and play with bots to further hone your skills. The game tracks a plethora of statistics for you to compare between your friends. Overall, this is a very deep experience with a few very minor flaws (minor shotgun spamming and making X the ammo pickup and teammate revival button wasn't such a good idea).
Horde/Beast Mode: Horde Mode is back and vastly improved. Instead of just trying to survive 50 waves of hell there's now a currency system. You earn money by killing enemies and reviving teammates. With that money you can purchase spikes to damage enemies, decoys, turret guns, mechs, ammo, and more. You can even upgrade all these objects and repair them after time. Yes, you essentially have Real Time Strategy elements in the new and improved Horde mode. Also you don't have to reach wave 50 in 1 sitting as the game actually saves your progress. Teammates can give each other money and even buy themselves back into the game if they die. On the flipside you have the all new Beast Mode where you go through 12 waves of killing humans and the heroes of the game. This time though you are actually playing as any creature the game has to offer that you want. They all have their slight control variations and moves. It's pretty fun playing as a Ticker and blowing up in someone's face or wielding a giant ball and chain, or playing as the Armored Kantus that are a pain in the ass to kill in the campaign. Of course you don't have access to every beast right away though, otherwise you'd have no challenge. The more kills you get the quicker you have access to better beasts for that session. Each beast costs a certain amount of money too. Both modes are incredibly fun and almost feel like a whole new game. Beast Mode is honestly probably my favorite online component. Both modes are team-based so keep that in mind. Each mode also has multiple difficulties, 2 player split-screen, and 4-player split-screen via system link.
Graphics/Sound: The game is nothing short of unbelievable here. You have an insane amount of detail including the most beautiful explosions ever put in a video game. There is an insane level of detail in the environments. When you bump into bodies made of ash they disintegrate, the sandy levels look insane as the dust blowing around has an unbelievable level of depth to it. Instead of stepping over objects like they're invincible they react when you touch them. Tomatoes get squished, boxes get kicked, the environments can be destroyed in real-time, and more. The environments are all varied as sometimes it'll be daytime while some parts take place during the night. One level is a stormy beach that looks insanely photorealistic. My only real complaints are that I felt Epic could have gone a step further in some areas. For instance throughout this beach level the characters never once get wet and it somewhat boggles my mind because this is something Naught Dog figured out with Uncharted 1. Also in God of War 3 Kratos got stained in blood as you killed and I was kind of surprised that there is no similar effect here, especially considering that Gears of War has the best blood effects ever in a shooter. Epic couldn't even make blood stain the environments like in Killzone 3? I'm not going to fault this too much because Gears of War 3 IS a technical beast and contains probably the best graphics I've ever seen. The game runs smooth too with no frame-rate drops or screen-tearing. From a sound perspective the game is incredible. Not only is there a loud and intense booming score but Epic actually licensed Mad World and it actually plays during some online matches and a critical story-point in the campaign. Ice T's band Body Count also created a song for the credits but that's a flaw if anything. It's bad enough he's a voice actor! OK, I'll admit he was solid as was everyone else. I just wish Marcus wasn't screaming 24/7. Regardless, the game is pretty incredible here.
Replayability: This category shouldn't even be necessary but I digress. You have a Campaign that's actually around 10 hours and can be played in 4 player co-op and also contains 4 difficulties. The campaign also features 50+ Collectables to find. There are numerous online modes, and getting every Onyx medal will take 100's of hours. You can also level up to 100 unlocking a ton of skins in the process. The best part is that you can earn experience in any game mode. This game is worth $100 if anything.
Best campaign of the 3
Improved Horde Mode
Incredible teammate AI
Crazy enemy variety
Surprisingly decent story
Casual Online mode for beginners
Lengthy campaign (10 hours)
One of the greatest cut-scenes of all time
Balanced and terrific Multi-player
Varied level design
100's of hours of content
Drags JUST A BIT near the end= -.2
Some characters are hard to give a crap about= -.2
X button reviving teammates AND picking up ammo/guns= -.1
Could have went a step further in graphics (see above)= -.1
The 12 Shotgun spammers left need to be banned from XBL= -.05
Verdict: I think Cliffy B nailed his goal of Bigger, Better, More Badass since Gears of War 3 is easily the best of the trilogy and the best Microsoft exclusive since Lost Odyssey. I give it a very high on my scale- 9.35/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/22/11, Updated 10/04/11
Game Release: Gears of War 3 (Epic Edition) (US, 09/20/11)
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