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Gears Of War 3

Before Christmas 2011 – I swore an oath. It was a bold and irreversible move; a risky strategy that defied logic seeing as I’m a games critic. I promised to myself that I would only pick up two Blockbuster titles before Christmas. One of those was the indisputable king of sports games, Fifa 12, and the other – the indisputable king of third-person shooters: Gears of War 3.

“Gears of War” was the game that made me pick up an Xbox 360 in 2006. I was 15 and at that time and couldn’t even begin to appreciate what an achievement that game was. It really set the benchmark in terms of graphics and gameplay; I remember thinking from the first Chapter onwards: “This has to drop in quality from here on in. It can’t be this beautiful throughout. All the money must have just gone in this first bit to entice everybody.” And boy how wrong I was! The intense moments with the Beserker, the Krill in the darkness, your relationship with Dom, the online play… RAAM. Up until 2006, The Ocarina of Time was still the most impressive game I’d ever experienced. Fast forward a few years and what’s changed?

The scope, certainly. The sights of Cliff Blezinski are aimed higher that a bird-watcher with a sniper rifle, but I can’t help but feel this is more of a curse than a beauty. Gears 3 seems to have a hard time keeping its feet on the ground; which worked fine in the second instalment as Dom and Maria’s relationship was a fantastic excuse to go on a tremendous adventure – but here it just doesn’t stick. You race through the relatively brief game at an odd pace and key moments that should really stand out and resonate with the player are few and far between. I think it all falls down to the first ingredient which is required to make a successful game:

First of all, I’d like to start with “the ugly”… The narrative. It’s absolutely dreadful. I don’t know who they got in to write the story, but I think fan fiction would have delivered something far more satisfying than this cheesy Hollywood romanticized rubbish. Take any Michael Bay film; add some decent characters and a side order of obligatory “sexy” girls and you have Gears 3’s bulk. Marcus and the rest of the gang are now Stranded remnants of the COG Army, floating around the oceans performing menial tasks (such as “tending to the radishes”) whilst trying to avoid giant radioactive Stalk-like enemies that sprout out of the ground at random. Think of them like the Sci-Fi equivalent of an iceberg.

Marcus is being haunted by the death of his father, an event that took place well before the first game, yet after receiving news that he may indeed still be alive… well, you’ll just have to wait and play!

As always, Gears is an absolute feast for the eyes and ears. The bigger set pieces, the exquisite breasts of Anya, the dripping-with-radioactive-goo gangly new creatures called “The Lambent” – it all adds up to being quite the graphical package. What’s even more impressive is how well the Xbox handles it all – sure, there are load times – but they’re very brief and sometimes quite welcome to slow down the hectic pacing of the game.

For someone who has yet to see any footage of the game, think about how far Gears 2 surpassed its predecessor graphically, and once again that’s about the same level of update that’s gone into Gears 3. With the games industry starting to fit many big titles onto multiple discs (although Skyrim is a testament of how to make an epic fit onto one CD) – I find it pretty impressive that Epic have managed to pull the game off onto a single copy. There’s something particularly old school about that which I love.

Soundwise, we’re treated to some more convincing and beautiful voice acting courtesy of the great Gears cast. Throughout the trilogy it’s clear to see that each voice actor has really grown into their characters – utterly believable, dependable and entertaining to listen to. To compliment the energetic and suitable voice acting is a quality soundtrack that blends old classic tracks from the series with some more new injection to keep things modern. There’s also one of the best uses of sound I’ve ever seen used in a video game roughly half way through the singleplayer campaign too – so you have that to look out for! To top that all off, there’s one little treat on the multiplayer map Gridlock that I’d like you all to discover for yourselves, but because I love it so much I’m going to have to tell you now. Usually on the second or third round of a Wingman game, the piano instrumental to Gary Jules’ “Mad World” begins playing. The map starts to turn into a hazy blue/purple and then the sweet song fades in to jar beautifully with the intense action of the game. Fantastic idea, brilliant execution – and I hope they maintain that throughout the many years I’m sure the game will be played for.

But then we hit the “big” one… The gameplay. It’s a famous saying – it’s not about how good something looks; it’s all about the gameplay. For the most part, I’d agree with that – but I’d substitute the word gameplay for “narrative”. If the story is no good, you don’t really feel involved with a title. You can often find yourself not really caring, just playing through a game for the sake of its popularity so you have something to talk about to your friends. As you may have already noticed, this game’s story is so tame and cheap that the gameplay takes a huge knock from it. It’s like a never ending domino effect: If that certain part of the story is poor then the accompanying gameplay set piece won’t really be justified, therefore the map won’t be organic, therefore the online play will suffer for that specific map… yada yada yada, you get the jist.

It’s more of the same, and that’s no bad thing. I certainly didn’t get bored throughout my playing of the title – it just didn’t seem to follow a sensible and coherent path. The pacing was all out of whack, the locations were tenuously strung together and characters involvements with the events that were unfolding throughout the game were unbelievable. There’s genuinely a moment in the game where the gang for some reason need to go to the island of Mercy, the place where Dominic’s wife was buried… A) Why was he brought along? What character in their right mind thought it was a good idea to bring him for the “funzies” judging by how badly he took her death in the second game? B) Dom utters one sentence briefly about her and moves on. No one really takes much notice. Then about 20 minutes later out of nowhere – his behaviour seems completely erratic, borderline lunatic and unjustified. I’m not kidding, that whole “Act” is so bizarre. Oh and speaking of bizarre – there’s a moment where you’re just stood around for 40 seconds watching the “Mother Corpser” run around like a spastic with one of the worst next-gen animation loops that I’ve ever seen. Look out for that!

I’m giving the game a bit of a hard time I’ve noticed, and it doesn’t really deserve that. Well… It does and it doesn’t. The shooting segments are as solid as ever, the guns have a lot of weight to them and you genuinely feel the impact you’re having on your enemies as you blast them in the face and deplete their numbers. The gangly Lambent are also fun to destroy – especially the huge creatures who explode in vast explosions of yellowish light. Yet equally – the gameplay does get repetitive, and there isn’t enough variation (despite a few nice attempts at underwater and driving sequences) to keep you totally satisfied. The slow walking with your fingers to your ear whilst you receive Intel from your squad-mates is still as irritating as ever, but I think I understand why it’s done. So often in videogames now sounds get overlapped, making it quite difficult to hear important information or objectives over the sounds of screaming enemies or explosions. By slowing you down I feel the game is attempting to eradicate any issues like that… I think.

One little touch I liked was that throughout the single player campaign, you are actually levelling yourself up for when you hit the online multiplayer. Unlike most games that treat the single player and multiplayer modes as two separate entities, how well you perform in the campaign now contributes to the level you are online! A great little extra that I definitely appreciated.

So yeah, more Gears, bigger scope – but definitely the worst campaign of the three games (which is a shame to admit). On a total contrast however, is the online…

Online is also as brilliant as ever! You can’t deny the tireless amount of effort that must have gone into Gears 3’s multiplayer by the Epic team. . It’s easily the best of the three games and will provide players with bundles of entertainment for years to come – the replayability factor is seriously at an all time high.

You have various different modes that you can either play online or offline; solo or with buddies. There’s your standard head to head games (now dubbed “Versus” matches) – which includes favourites such as Team Deathmatch, Wingman, King of the Hill and Capture the Leader. I did really miss my old favourite from Gears 2, “Guardian”, but in many ways Capture the Leader is now like a cross between Meatshield and Guardian.

There’s an upgraded Horde mode which pits you and your friends against waves upon waves of increasingly difficult enemies. The mode is now revolutionized by a cash-and-go system which means the more kills you receive = the more money you earn. This money can then be used to upgrade barbed wire blockades and decoys amongst other things to make your life slightly easier when it gets to the tougher modes.
There’s also a mode called Beast, where you can play from the perspective of the enemies. I know you might be thinking “we’ve done this before on Team Deathmatch when you play as the Locust” – but this is a whole new ball game. You can play as anything – from the minute tickers to the multi-legged Corpsers. This is extremely entertaining (if a little short – at only 12 rounds) and offers a nice contrast to the repetitive run and gun gameplay.

The servers are dedicated and fair, and you’ll only experience lag or jittery-ness if you yourself have a bad connection to the servers. A great package for those of you who are serious about online gaming! You can’t go wrong with the value Gears provides!

My name is Albert and I have been gaming since I ever got my hands on a Game Boy Color. You could say I am in love with the gaming industry and pretty much anything involving games. I have written about games briefly for another site and I hope to broaden my horizons through Explosion. I am currently a sophomore majoring in Communications and I take plenty of time to relax on the Xbox 360 mostly, but I'm open to it all!