Review by Alex91

"I was completely blown away before I even had the chance to move my character."

After 3 long years of waiting the third installment of Gears of War has hit store shelves. I've played the previous two titles in the series for over 20 days each and after only one week and at least 70 hours in the latest installment I can safely say that this is by and far the best in nearly every single way. Never has a game not only met my expectations, but completely blew them away in such a short amount of time. Five years of playing these games led up to this title and while I may have not had a chance to experience everything yet, I've played enough to put this as one of my favorite games of the past ten years.

Story & Campaign
Gears of War 3 takes place two years after the events of Gears of War 2. The game kicks right off with a dream sequence from within the mind of the series main protagonist Marcus Fenix fighting off Locust left and right and foreshadowing events soon to take place. After this sequence the game quickly introduces more series regulars (as well as some new ones to the team) such as Dom, Marcus's right hand man who is obviously still struggling with events that happened to him in the second game. After a few intense battles the main plot of the game is finally introduced. Adam, Marcus's father happens to still be alive and is a prisoner to the locust. He has the solution to the lambent problem and possibly a way to help bring this years long war that has almost wiped out humanity to an end, it's up to Marcus to find his father and help bring this war to an end.

The campaign itself is a nonstop action fest. From the start and up until the very end it's a nonstop battle with the locust and lambent. This campaign is very much like the second. There will never be more than 1 minute that you are not shooting. Even most of the cutscenes include battles. There is almost no downtime. While for some this is a great thing, and I can see why, for me it's a bit boring. I love shooting locust just as much as the next Gears fan but sometimes it feels like so many battles are put into the game for no reason. Why must there be a brand new army around every corner? One thing I've always felt was missing from gears was a sense of exploration. I will give the campaign one thing though, the entirety of the third act is some of the best action and fun I've ever experienced in a shooter. It's a shame the other four acts can not live up to that sort of intensity. Even so, the campaigns in this series have always been very linear with not much incentive to play through again outside of looking for Easter Eggs or finding collectibles (and in this installment, there are a lot of both). Expect the campaign to take around ten hours or so to complete.

As always, to help out the monotony of going through campaign alone there is Co-op. It is now better than ever. For starters the traditional 2 player split-screen and Xbox Live play is in. While this is great and all, Epic went above and beyond this. New to Gears of War 3 is 4 Player Online Co-op and an Arcade mode where players compete for points to see who can get the highest score throughout campaign. This little feature does add a little extra incentive to play through the campaign more than one or two times. Those who love the Gears of War 2 campaign will love this one as well. There is more action to be found, a deeper story and just overall much more variety. However, for me, it's not my favorite thing about Gears. Even so, I have no problem saying that this game is worth a purchase for the campaign alone if you've enjoyed the first two titles and want to see the story conclude in a very unforgettable way. The game may be a tad boring to play through from my perspective, but the story within from start to finish was more than worth it.

The gameplay here is very standard for a Gears title. This is not a bad thing at all. If you've never played a Gears before, it's an over the shoulder Third Person shooter. It revolves around taking cover in conveniently placed chest high walls and taking out the enemies as quickly as possible with many weapons like the Lancer, a regular assault rifle with a chainsaw bayonet or a Sawed off Shotgun that makes any foe near it blow up into a million pieces. Not much to be said about how these games are played that hasn't already been said. Expect a very polished, fast paced shooter that rewards those who use strategy and teamwork. So many games these past years have tried to replicate what Gears has done, almost none have succeeded. At least on the level that Epic has presented us with. This is the ultimate Third Person Shooting series this generation has to offer. Watching a gameplay video will describe the gameplay of this game far better than words ever could. It's incredibly easy to learn, insanely difficult to master and very rewarding.

When the original Gears of War was released, the graphics were mind boggling. Never has anything so raw and gritty been seen by console gamers. It was the new standard for graphics this generation and even to this day five years later it looks fantastic. The third installment however improves upon the previous two titles graphics by leaps and bounds. The textures are cleaner, the colors are sharper, the lighting is superb and the effects are stunning. The game plays smooth as butter as well. I have yet to experience one frame rate drop even with explosions going off everywhere. It's absolutely incredible. That's not to say it's perfect though. One problem hasn't been fixed and it's mainly due to the limitation of the aging 360s hardware. Textures still take a little while to load up at times. For a few seconds here and there, levels won't be textured and it will look slightly awkward. Give this a few seconds and everything will look fine. It's a shame that this problem plagued every Gears to date. Even with this problem though, I have no problem saying that this is one of the top three best looking titles on the Xbox 360. It truly is jaw-dropping. Every animation, every environment, every drop of blood and dismembered limb is glorious. Not much else can be said, this game is nearly flawless in this regard.

This one is a bit tricky to critique. For both Campaign and Multi-Player sound is roughly the same as always. Not much new ear candy is added. The same one liners we all know and love as well as the instantly recognizable Chainsaw rev and Gnasher shot are all here. If you enjoyed the audio work of the previous two games, then expect more of the same here. It all sounds great. If you've never played a Gears before, get ready to laugh at all the cheesy one-liners throughout by the characters and be drawn into the atmosphere of the levels. Whether it's quiet wind going through an abandoned town or sirens going off in the distance it all sounds great. One thing of note to add is on the Multiplayer map of Gridlock. There will be a certain audio related thing to happen during games. You'll just have to play or look it up online to see what it is though. I'll just say it's a great throwback to the roots of the series and one long time fans will surely appreciate.

The A button does everything. This has held true for every title to date and this one is no exception. Even in this case the controls are the best they have ever been. No more accidental cover slides, no more rolling instead of picking up a meatshield. Everything has been fine tuned in such a way that little accidents such as picking up a gun instead of a teammate in the heat of battle is unlikely to happen again. Epic did an amazing job this time around and made sure that if a wrong move is made, it really is the fault of the player and not the controls. Never have I felt so in control of all my actions holding a controller. Absolutely flawless.

This is why many of us play Gears. The fact that so many have stuck around and played this series with the plethora of problems the previous two titles have had is astounding. I'm one of them. In the history of Gears there has always been so much potential for brilliant Multiplayer but there were always just so many glitches and so much lag that it really killed any sort of competitive atmosphere. Gears 3 fixes these problems. New to the game are dedicated servers and a much better hosting system when they are not available. After a good two hundred matches through various modes, I have not encountered any lag whatsoever. This is quite possibly one of the best netcodes I have ever come across within a game. Before getting killed and even getting kills in Gears usually resulted in me being confused and or frustrated with what just happened. Now, everything makes sense and no death feels unfair.

There are not many maps to play in, ten in all. One of which is Gridlock, the most loved map in the series hands down. Every single installment of the series now features this map. It really is that good. Every map has a different feel to it. Whether it's Trenches, a desert style map with sandstorms and mines. Sandbar, a bright and colorful beach with high cliffs and great sniping or checkout, a perfectly symmetrical supermarket, there are bound to be a few maps in here that you will love. I find no maps in this game to be bad at all. Absolutely brilliant design all around though a few maps do rely on high ground too much leaving teams stuck below in a very difficult position to get out of.

Gametypes are what you would expect from Gears. The two staple gametypes of Gears return, Execution/Warzone which are 5v5 Elimination Round Based games. King of the Hill, a capture the territory mode. Capture the Leader, Capture the Flag except the flag is in fact an enemy player. New this time around though is Team Deathmatch. What separates this TDM from other shooters is that there is a cap on respawns. Each team starts off with 15 respawns. Once they are all used up, they are gone for good. This keeps matches going fast and really allows new players a chance to get into the fight and not worry about dying in seconds without having a chance to play. This is by and far the most popular mode online and arguably the most fun too.

Balance this time around is incredible. As usual there is the Gnasher Shotgun, Lancer and Hammerburst to have in your load outs. New this time around are the Retro Lancer, a very powerful assault rifle at mid range and Absolutely deadly at close range. It even has a bayonet on it, if someones charging at you with this roll out of the way or be dead before you can blink. The other new weapon is The Sawed off Shotgun. Absolutely useless at anything beyond point blank, but up close it's a one hit kill and there is no way to survive. Get up close to one of these and you are dead on the spot. Many find this weapon to be slightly broken but it really changes up how certain situations are approached. You can no longer rush up to people with the Gnasher and expect a free kill. If a person is holding the Sawed off, you better think twice before moving in. There really is something for everyone in the starting load out.

Power weapons are more of the same, you have the Boomshot which is a Rocket Launcher with 3 shots, the Longshot which is your typical sniper rifle and so on. New this time around is The Digger, a weapon that shoots a projectile underground and launches up to kill whoever crosses paths with it. Also new is The One Shot. A 3 shot sniper rifle, get hit by this even in the foot, you're dead in one shot, hence the name. Very severe mind games can be played with this weapon.

Also this time around there is a small new feature added to really help the games get moving and prevent camping. Aim at an enemy and click in the left stick to mark that enemy on your teams screen for a few seconds, now if someones camping and they are marked the entire team is aware of their location and things will get very ugly for the person playing. It truly is a great new feature.

What else can be said? If you can't tell I'm a HUGE fan of the multiplayer in Gears and this time around, it's flawless. I will be playing this for years to come. I can finally retire from 5 years of playing Gears of War 1 and devote my time to this. Absolutely phenomenal and with over 60 medals to unlock through online play and 4 DLC packs planned, the fun will keep adding up over the next year.

Other Modes
There are two other modes that most people are interested in. One of which is Horde Mode. This is a 50 Wave onslaught of progressively more difficult locust on any multiplayer map with a boss battle every 10 waves. This is a great mode for those who love the battles in campaign but are not too fond of the Multiplayer. Team up with 4 others and have a blast killing locust. As mentioned earlier, there are now bosses every ten waves but that is not all added to this great mode. Now you can build structures to slow down the locust, build up bases and not have to worry about getting flanked in a second. You can even build Sentry Guns and Decoys to distract the locust! This adds a completely new dimension to the mode and it plays out fantastically. Simply awesome and if you liked Horde in the last installment, prepare to be absolutely blown away this time around.

The other new mode is called Beast Mode. This is just like horde except instead of fighting off the locust, you ARE the locust breaking through the humans barricades and taking them out one by one. Be a ticker and blow up some barbed wire fences. Be a boomer and blow everyone up. If you want too, be a Berserker (yes that's right) and smash everyone and everything without mercy. This is such a great mode and is an awesome way to break up the gun on gun gameplay Gears is known for. my only complaint with this mode is that it is only 12 rounds. Games in this mode can easily be completed in about 20 minutes or so which is a shame. I feel like a few more rounds to play through in this mode and it would be absolutely perfect. Even so, it's great while it lasts and I welcome it to Gears.

Closing Comments and Rating
Overall Gears of War 3 is the perfect conclusion to this trilogy. A great story. A nonstop thrill ride of a campaign. Amazing graphics. Fantastic sound design. Flawless multiplayer and addicting side modes make a very complete package. Outside of the campaign getting a little monotonous and the graphics having some small texture issues, Gears of War 3 truly is almost the definition of perfect. I really would love to give it a 10/10 saying that but my issues with campaign and some minor shortcomings really prevent it from being perfect. That being said, if you even have the slightest interest in shooters, do not hesitate to buy this fantastic game.

I give it a

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/21/11, Updated 10/03/11

Game Release: Gears of War 3 (US, 09/20/11)

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