Review by godpyre

"Gears 3 is a great game, but it feels like I've been here before"

In this third installment of the mega franchise, Gears of War, developer Epic Games attempts to finish the fight in this last episode of the Gears trilogy. The series has never shied away from gratuitous gore, over the top machismo, and addictive co-op/multi-player third-person cover based shooting, all of which are ramped up to the highest degree in GoW3. The promises in store for this final episode are a lengthier campaign, a larger emphasis on story, and some of the best multi-player the series has seen to date, but does it deliver? Has the series progressed to third-person cover based shooting nirvana or has it grown stale from relying on the same tried and true formula. The answers to both questions is a little yes and no.

Following the catastrophic events after Gears of War 2, namely the destruction of Sera's last great city Jacinto, the locust threat has been quelled temporarily only to unleash another far greater. The Lambent, an imulsion (think fuel, therefore explosive locusts) infused version of the locust who were introduced in the first game as lambent wretches, have grown in both strength and numbers. Meanwhile, the COG have been all but decommissioned due to Chairman Prescott's absence, leaving left over troops to survive with diminishing resources. Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago try to cope with their respective losses (Marcus' Dad on E-Day, Dom's wife in GoW2) as they attempt to deal with the increasing Lambent threat.

During a small skirmish on the Raven's Nest (a large ship housing the COG) against the Lambent, Chairman Prescott's helicopter arrives seemingly out of no where. Before Marcus can tear into Prescott for leaving the COG abruptly, the Chairman informs the Gears that he may have a solution to the Lambent threat but the only one that can help is Marcus' Dad, Adam Fenix. Unaware of his Dad's survival, Marcus and crew must gather resources and traverse a wide expanse of Sera's landscape to help Adam destroy the Lambent.

The story for Gears3 is longer and more "dramatic" than the two previous iterations. It unfortunately ends there in terms of positive things I can say for it. From a narrative standpoint it feels like a rehash of Gears2 in terms of dealing with an insurmountable threat and then finding a miracle cure for the problem that will cost lives along the way. As you progress through the main story, there is always a road block to everything and anything you will do which feels forced and overdone. We have a vehicle, but we need fuel, and an important part of the engine, but those are located in separate locations with enemies already waiting...for the third time! I play games and I understand this is a common pattern used in many games but it felt so overused in Gears3 that it felt more like Gears of "Bore", "Chore", "Snore", take your pick. When playing a game you want to feel like you are accomplishing something, doing different tasks, but in GoW3 it felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again. Opening the same two person doors, getting more fuel, more rations, always getting something to do something else only to be hindered by enemies in a pattern that is blatant, lazy, and worst of all predictable.

In terms of the characters themselves, if you've played Gears1 & 2, it will come as no surprise to Epic's cliched and heavy handed take on melodrama. The only people I could actually care for were Dom and Baird(small extent due to his smart alec nature) while Marcus remains wooden and Cole is still annoying (sorry Cole fans, he sucks, Whooo!). In this last iteration, for some reason or another, Epic tries to shoe-horn supporting characters by taking the spotlight off of the main four. I could care less about Jace, Sam, and Anya for that matter because in the first two games a connection was created between Marcus, Dom, Cole, Baird and to a lesser extent Carmine, that the writers decided to throw out the window for the last part of a trilogy. Luckily the game play doesn't suffer from shoddy writing, it suffers from something much worse.

Game Play:
Story aside, the game play is where Gears of War 3 really shines. The game runs smoother than it did before and introduces new weapon types, vehicles, and enemies to try to keep everything fresh. The new weapons range from cool and effective to awesome. There are incendiary grenades that have a wide area of effect, the one shot which is a long range sniper laser that kills everything, as well as the retro-lancer just to name a few. The retro-lancer is particularly great in that although it is less accurate it has greater stopping power and an awesome charging melee attack that I ended up preferring over the lancer chainsaw skin ripping bit. The unfortunate thing about these new weapons is that I felt they were few and far in-between (not so much for the retro-lancer but for most), I still relied heavily on the lancer and the boltok pistol due to their abundance.

Another new addition is the mech-suit vehicle, the Silverback. This mech suit is powerful, runs fairly quickly, and can shield the user with the touch of a button. The suit looks kind of like the mech suits in the third Matrix movie and handle exceptionally well. The only issue is, much like some of the new weapons, there are only specific times that you get to use the suit and they are barely used throughout the whole game.

The new enemies on the other hand are variants of the locust only this time infused with imulsion, giving them an explosive twist. Some of these enemies even have multiple forms becoming even more dangerous after a few clips have been unloaded on them. In this last part of the trilogy, Epic wanted to pull all the stops so they inserted larger battles against a brumak and a corpser that you fight on foot making the battle more intense and epic (on purpose).

These new changes are all well and good but speaking strictly in terms of the campaign, it all feels the same. After two iterations of Gears, the third game has the greatest challenge of trying to do things differently while also maintaining its fundamental game play. The problem isn't the game play, Gears of War 3 plays like a dream, it's smooth, responsive, and fun but at the same time I've been here before, and the changes to the game play veer closer to staying the same than trying something different to spice up the series. Epic played it safe and if you want to play Gears 1 & 2 again with little tweaks added in, that is what you'll get, but this reviewer wants something that will elevate the franchise and recreate the indescribable feeling of playing something new like when I played Gears of War for the first time.

Aside from the sameness of playing the Campaign, the multi-player is as addictive as ever and given new life with exciting, well implemented maps and modes. The maps this time around are large and filled to the brim with items to hide behind. They vary from an outdoor market by a beach, to a claustrophobic cityscape, and a battle worn Thrashball stadium to name a few. These maps are intelligently made and fun to traverse as you seek your next kill.

Horde mode and Deathmatch return while Beast mode is the new game play type. Similar to Horde mode you fight against waves of AI controlled enemies, but this time you play as the Locust, unlocking different types of players as you progress. You have to destroy Stranded and COG soldiers, breaking through their defenses and killing everyone before time runs out. All these mode types are a lot of fun and extremely well designed making it the highlight of owning Gears of War 3.

The presentation for the Gears series has been a highlight since the first Gears of War came out 5 years ago. This also marks the third time Epic has utilized the Unreal Engine 3 which carries with it gorgeous renders but also clipping, pop up, and lost textures. The game still looks phenomenal (when everything is where it's supposed to be) but one would think these graphical glitches would be corrected by now especially from the company that created the engine. This is a minor gripe but it can be an eyesore on an otherwise beautiful game.

Speaking in terms of how the game looks, for about 4/5 of the game you will see a lot of gray, brown, more gray, more brown, and hints of blue, yellow, and red. This is a dark game with dreary landscapes and it isn't until the last 1/5 of the game are you introduced to color. It's like the Pleasantville of video games. I was so starved for color that by the end of the game I was amazed they hadn't tried to implement more color elsewhere. Things are destroyed, I get it, but the last part of the game you're located on a destroyed area just like everything else yet it is the only place the sun still shines, come on.

The music on the other hand is grandiose, filling, and forgettable. The only sounds you will really hear is a lot of yelling, grunting, death-cries, and weapons fire. As for the voice acting everyone you know returns and does a solid job of voicing their characters. There is one cameo a little past halfway through the game though that is horrible in that it is forced and the actor is so noticeable you won't be able to separate the voice from the actor.

Final Comments:
Gears of War 3 is a great game, albeit one with delusions of a top notch script. The game's strength lies in its multi-player/co-op game play rather than its unnecessarily lengthy campaign. This game still stands as the best in the third person cover based shooter genre, I just hope if there is ever another iteration they do a complete overhaul and try to make it different than just more of the same.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 10/05/11

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

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