Thursday, 13 October 2011

Game Review – Gears of War 3

Formats: Xbox 360

You have to go back all the way to November 2006 to relive Emergence Day. 5 long and arduous years on and the battle against the Locust invasion culminate in fantastic fashion. Gears of War 3 concludes its story with an engaging and thought provoking campaign while ensuring it still provides the most exhilarating online experience on the Xbox 360. A wide range of cooperative and competitive modes both offline and online, ensures utmost entertainment as you fight for survival against the Locust and Lambent. Make no mistake; this is one finale you won’t soon forget.

Reoccurring themes in the Gears of War universe are tragedy, death and destruction. The third installment in the series is no different as it tackles similar issues in dramatic fashion. This is a story of humanity clinging for survival during the darkest of hours, living in a state of solitude aboard vessels and outposts with hope all but lost after the final attempt to wipe out the Locust failed. As both humans and Locust try to survive while Lambent forces grow in numbers, the war looks all but lost for our valiant heroes. However, a spark of life reignites as Marcus Phoenix and Delta Squad return once again with feisty female additions to the team, and between them provide an engaging and entertaining cast of characters looking to end this war once and for all.

Everything about Gears of War 3’s story suggests that it has gone a step further than its predecessors. The once seemingly brute-like characters all fill out, especially the likes of Cole-Train who gets an entire segment dedicated to his past concentrating on his illustrious football career. The story lets you become invested as Marcus and his team takes you through twists and turns, pushes through the most dramatic of battles – only to bring you to a dramatic ending. The story jumps quite frequently and is told in an intertwining fashion, but come the finale, everything slots perfectly into place. While the early couple of chapters can be considered quite slow, the pace certainly picks up as the COGs have all that much more to fight for – culminating in a tense conclusion.

It can be difficult to find a spare moment to engage in the emotional turmoil that your characters go through when you’re under fire almost all the time. Your enemies are relentless, smart and come in large numbers. Not only will you have to move swiftly and efficiently to kill your foes, but you have to seal their geyser-like spawn points to ensure enemy numbers stop, for the time being at least. At your disposal are all the weapons series veterans would expect, along with some larger-than-life additions including the powerful One-Shot sniper and the Digger launcher.

The campaigns greatest asset is the introduction of 4-player online cooperative and 2-player split screen. Although the AI is efficient, nothing is more exciting than taking on Gears of War 3 with your friends. The sense of comradery is already emphasized throughout the game before you even go near a pad, so when your friends join you in Gears of War 3, it becomes a momentous occasion in modern video gaming.

Of course the action doesn’t just stem from campaign mode – Gears of War 3 provides the most refined and entertaining version of its incredibly successful competitive online mode. A host of beautifully designed maps allow you to take centre stage and unleash bloodshed on other players. Fan favourite map Gridlock makes a dramatic return to the multiplayer inventory but now as a nighttime map. You will be happy to hear that all the frustrations from Gears of War 2 have been dealt with, including poor matchmaking, sluggish movements and other general inconsistencies. Gears of War 3 feels faster and more fluid, which is ironic considering the size of the characters. Nevertheless the action is frantic, weapons are powerful, unlockables are plentiful and maps are diverse – the key ingredients needed for a successful competitive multiplayer.

A more engaging level-up system has also been implemented (as was seen in the beta), setting you targets to earn certain medals and advance up the ranking system. The medals in particular act as an indicator to other players at what you specialize in or enjoy doing in Gears of War 3. For example, should you rack up 500 kills with a particular weapon, you will then be able to wear a badge proudly that indicates your accomplishment. You also unlock a plethora of new characters to use from the Gears of War universe, weapon skins and plenty of other cool additions that make it difficult to put the game down. Unfortunately there have been times when my Xbox crashed and upon reloading the game, I received a penalty for apparent disconnection. Although this disconnection wasn’t logged under my profile, I still lost experience points that dropped me down a few levels – which was frustrating.

Another game mode worthy of note is the new beginners multiplayer lobby. We all know how intense and brutal Gears of War can be online, so Epic have ensured that newcomers can get a chance to play against each other and get to grips with the game. Once they’ve had a little bit of practice, they can then jump in to the real deal and start competing with players who are already sitting comfortably past the Level 80 mark (scary stuff).

If getting killed by other players over, and over, and over again gets tedious, you can always vent your frustrations out on the AI in Horde made. A team of up to 5 players can try their hand at surviving wave after wave of enemy Locust (50 being the limit). A strategic element has also been put into place here, allowing you to build defensive structures in between rounds, all of which serve different purposes in an attempt to elongate survival. A polar opposite game type called Beast Mode is also present, allowing up to 4 players to play as the Locust and try killing AI posing as survivors. Once again a currency system is available, but instead of defensive structures you spend your money on unlocking and using more powerful types of Locust. This is an incredibly entertaining way to pass time on Gears of War 3 and makes for a fantastic divergence to the more mainstream elements of the game.

Gears of War 3 continues to impress with a fantastic visual design. It doesn’t matter what game mode you find yourself in, every single location, character model and explosion looks beautiful. Epic have pushed the console to a very impressive limit and you will struggle to find anything on the machine that looks better than this. The same goes for the fantastic audio – a terrific soundtrack helps compliment the atmosphere portrayed throughout the game and while somewhat cheesy at times, the voice acting is engaging and does get pretty deep.

Gears of War 3 is a perfect example of how to go out with a bang. This is a testament to all of Epic’s fans and it is clear that the series has evolved in an exhilarating and engaging manner. Embracing the masses with an engrossing campaign and a frantic online competitive mode, Epic has led us up to this one, glorious, moment and it’s certainly something each of you must experience. Gears of War 3 is the iconic third-person shooter and the perfect ending to the series.

9.5 | Gameplay |

Gears of War 3’s gritty action is a refreshing way to get away from the conventional FPS model we all know and are bored of. Fantastic action along all the game modes makes this instalment in the series the best and most enjoyable yet. 

9.5 | Presentation |

Probably the most beautiful game you will see on the Xbox 360. Presentation is perfect all the way down to the subtlest of details, both visually in game, throughout the menu systems, online and in the story.

9.5 | Replay Value |

Never before has GOW had so many unlockables in its online mode – it’s impossible to put it down! An arcade mode to repeat campaign chapters is also present, alongside Horde and Beast modes, it’s just so much take in!

9.5 | Final Thoughts |

The iconic series ends in spectacular fashion. This is the pinnacle of 3rd person shooters and all others games in this genre will now be compared to GOW3.

Igor Kharin, CeX UK Contributor
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