The final part of Marcus’s saga is now upon us with Gears of War 3. Humanity is desperate and has one final shot to try and rid themselves of the Locust and the Lambent. Jacinto, the last human city, has been sunk and now the COGs are stranded. Not only do they have to deal with the Locust but now they have a whole new enemy to worry about. Gears of War 3 is a incredible game and the campaign is the best of the series. The Gears of War franchise has been one of the most iconic franchises to come out of this console generation and this third iteration is clearly the best. There are some really amazing story moments where the characters show a wide range of emotion and some events take place that might surprise Gears of War fans. Obviously the campaign is only part of the package and Epic has given you a lot of multiplayer content that should keep fans busy for a very long time.
The Gears of War 3 campaign begins with a prologue that begins very much like the original Gears of War. If you need a reminder as to what happened in the past two titles then the movie “Previously In Gears…” will quickly bring you up to speed. After the prologue the story for Gears 3 picks up two years after the conclusion of Gears of War 2. A lot has happened in that time and the situation has gotten much worse. People have been forced to adapt and take on new roles as a result. I chuckled when I saw what one of Dom’s roles was at their new “home”. In addition to the cast of characters everyone knows and loves Gears 3 introduces some new faces to the party. As the story progresses you will become more familiar with each character. There is also an arcade mode as well that functions the same as the normal campaign with the addition of adding some competition to the mix by adding scoring to the campaign experience. Another welcome addition to the campaign is the inclusion of four player co op. Gears of War fans have been asking for four player co op for years and, finally, it is here. As fun as the campaign is on its own, it is even more fun when you are rolling through it with three of your friends.
Everything received an overhaul during the development of this game and it shows. The dialogue is improved over the first two games and there were quite a few times when I chuckled at the one liners. The world of Sera feels more alive and it feels like you have a bit more of an impact. Instead of Sera merely existing to make things look cool it plays a big part in the story. The audio in this game was really well done and I really appreciated all of the audio cues. After fending off a huge wave of enemies there is this specific piece that always plays that lets you know that there aren’t any more enemies coming for the time being. The voice acting, in my opinion, was also very well done. Throughout the game you will go through different environments and climates. If you have complained about how brown the previous games were then you should really enjoy those times where you visit an area that is vibrant with color. There is one level in particular in the later part of the game that really took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting it and later on I will probably replay it again. There are consequences to events that took place in the first two games and the characters and environment really help to drive that point home.
It wouldn’t be a Gears of War game if multiplayer wasn’t prominent and Epic has given Gears fans a lot to play. There is of course the standard multiplayer with Team Deathmatch, Warzone, Execution, Capture the Leader, King of the Hill and Wingman. During my time with the game the matchmaking seemed to work great and I was able to jump into a game with no problems. There was no lag at all and the development team over at Epic seem to have fixed the problems that plagued Gears of War 2. The game also feels a bit more balanced which fans should be happy to hear. Horde mode also makes its return with some fancy new upgrades. Horde mode now has elements of tower defense games as you can build up items to help protect your territory. When you begin Horde mode you are told to build a base. Once you do that then the first wave of enemies starts to attack. You will gain money based on your performance during each wave of enemies. In between each wave you will have a limited amount of time to upgrade your area. Upgrades include being able to build decoys, building a barbed wire fence to slow enemies down and much more. Each of these items can be upgraded as you progress through the different waves and you will want to work closely with your team to effectively manage your defenses. With each passing wave the enemies get more difficult so it is crucial to be able to work as a team once you start reaching the more advanced stages. If you can build it then chances are it can be destroyed as well. The Locust and/or the Lambent is capable of destroying your defenses which will make it easier for them to get to you. I had a lot of fun walking the fine line of trying to keep the enemies at bay while simultaneously trying to make sure that everything I had previously built was still in place.
In addition to Horde mode is the brand new Beast mode. In Beast mode you get the chance to play as a Locust or Lambent solider and it is your job to take out the humans. Unlike Horde mode you have a time limit here and have to take out the humans within the allotted time. Killing humans and destroying their own fortifications will add more time on to the clock. The humans in Beast mode have access to everything you had in Horde mode which means they will have the same barbed wire fences to slow you down and the same turrets that will attempt to cut you down at a moments notice. It is a really interesting dynamic to be on the other side of the fence, so to speak, and experience what it is like from both sides of the conflict. The entire game is tied together whether it is the campaign, more traditional multiplayer modes, Horde mode or Beast. What that means is that the money I earn in multiplayer will transfer over to Beast mode and vice versa. As you go through the campaign your profile will be leveling up which will translate to the multiplayer modes. I went through the campaign first and by the time I started playing in multiplayer matches my character was almost at level ten. At the beginning of Beast mode you are given the option to choose who you want to play. Each character costs money to play so you have to balance your finances as well. If you play for long enough you will get enough money to where you really don’t have to be concerned about that and you can just pick who you want. The selection for Beast mode ranges from a Ticker for $75 to Bloodmount for $750, a Berserker for $5,625 and much more. You won’t have access to everything in the beginning, however, more characters will open up to you as you continue to play the game.
If you are the type of gamer that likes information and statistics then Epic has you covered here as well. You can check to see how you are doing on certain challenges such as unlocking weapon skins, the type of executions you have done, the avatar awards you have unlocked and more. Additionally they break down how many collectibles you have left to find in each act and which ones you have already found. I really liked this and always really appreciate when developers narrow it down for you so that you don’t have to go through the entire game again searching for that last collectible that you missed the first time. You then of course have the stats and awards which shows off all of the ribbons you have earned such as the Killing Spree ribbon, Mortarfied ribbon and much more. There are leaderboards as well so you can see how you stack up against your friends as well as the rest of Xbox Live.
Gears of War 3 is a really incredible game. It has definitely made it on my personal short list as a “Game of the Year” contender. Epic promised that this would be the best game yet and they delivered in every way. The campaign is a cinematic masterpiece and it was great to finally get some answers that we have had since the first two titles. I will definitely be going through the campaign on multiple occasions as I go through it with different groups of friends on co op. The multiplayer is a whole lot of fun and will keep fans busy for a very long time with all of the different modes. Gears of War has always been a very graphically impressive franchise and this latest iteration continues that trend. The graphical fidelity in this game is amazing and some of the scenery was pretty awe inspiring. The delay that this game suffered simply made sure that the development team was able to give it an insane level of polish. Epic really seems to have nailed how to get the most out of the Xbox 360 hardware and it shows with each new release. The bottom line is this: If you own an Xbox 360 Gears of War 3 is one of those games that you must own.