For the past week I have once again been immersed in to the beautiful destruction that is the war-torn planet of Sera. I’ve been roving with Delta squad, battling Lambent and Locust alike. Yes that’s right, like approximately 1.3 million other gamers around the world, I have been lost in Gears of War 3.
Now, let me be perfectly frank, and say the Gears series is without a shadow of doubt my favourite shooter series… ever… BAR NONE! And I don’t care if people disagree and say, “CoD is the better shooter, it actually takes skill to play” (I shit you not someone actually said that to me on launch day) because industry consensus is that CoD is a game for kids. It’s all good pointless fun and no challenge. But Gears is a game for adults. If you can hold your head up and say you’ve beaten the Gears games on insane people look at you with mixed awe and concern for your mental wellbeing (seriously, they’re a challenge. I’m playing insane on 3 now and yeesh… it’s tough).
The gameplay is more of the same from the franchise… which I actually like. If the mechanic of the game isn’t broke, don’t fix it. It is what it is, an epic sci-fi military war story with real emotional depth. My friend and cohort, Codename Valeforia, hasn’t played the first 2 games to any great degree, but I dragged him to the midnight launch where we got to play the improved Horde 2.0 for an hour before I handed over my credit slip and received my new shooter standard, because like it’s predecessor, Gears of War 2 (click to read that review in a new tab), it seriously does raise the bar for all shooters.
The story picks up some 2 years after the events of Gears 2 and things on Sera have gone from shit to worse for Delta Squad. Returning in their roles as professional soldiers are Marcus, Dom, Baird and Cole, but a few new faces now join them. First amongst them, and probably the most familiar, is Anya. She has been a recurring character throughout this trilogy but now she is no longer just a controller. Oh no, she’s a gear. And let me just say, she kicks ass… seriously. But she is not alone; joining Anya is Samantha Byrne, who is also amazingly kick ass.
Before I go on about the other new addition to the game, I’d like to just say that Epic have really, honestly, set an impossibly high standard for shooters with these additions. Never have I seen females in shooters that were playable who weren’t Lara Croft or Samus from Metroid. It really is an astounding addition and it opens up the series in a multitude of different ways and I have to wonder, if Karen Traviss hadn’t written the game, would they be there at all. Thank you Karen and Epic for showing what a vocal number of gamers have been saying for years… female characters actually work in storylines of war.
The next new guy in the roster is Jace. He’s cool, he’s funny (at times) he’s basically filler for when Carmine isn’t around (yes there is another Carmine). And for some reason I find myself getting so emotionally invested in the lives of the characters (this has only really happened before with Red Dead Redemption and Assassin’s Creed) that I actually found myself with tears in my eyes during one point of the game. If you’ve played then you’ll know what I mean, if you haven’t I’m not spoiling it… It’s too powerful. And it takes a lot to bring me to tears.
Visually, as always, Epic have pulled out all of the stops with their flagship, it’s a gorgeous world of massively destroyed proportions. The skybox and backgrounds feature fully animated smoke plumes and the light rays are beautiful. Yet inside all this beauty is a deeply disturbing sense of tension crafted into the build of the actual game, which comes from the suffering of the humans inherent in the storyline.
Again, like with the previous chapter of the trilogy, there have been innumerable little efforts from Epic in the finer details of the game. The armour, again, has numerous independent light sources, the detailing and personalisation of the characters’ colours is an intricacy that is so often washed over by shooter developers, namely Activision and Treyarch. During fire-fights, if your screen is of sufficient quality, you can watch new dings and scratches appear in the detailing of the weapons and armour.
Not only with the offline have there been many improvements, but also with the other gameplay modes. Horde, which others have copied, and quite frankly failed in emulating, is back with a vengeance. In the new Horde 2.0 you get rewarded with cashy money for each kill, assist and/or revival of a downed teammate and bonuses for wave completion. And with the cash come the improvements… purchasable, upgradable fortifications, turrets and decoys to draw the fire and slow the Locust… however they wouldn’t do this if they hadn’t also changed something else of the horde would they?
Now not only after every tenth wave does the difficulty increase BUT also on every tenth wave you have to face a “boss” Locust… i.e. a Brumak, a Lambent Zerker, a Corpser… this not only increases the challenge but actually makes the progression more satisfying… Kill a Brumak, difficulty goes up… feel a sense of accomplishment for doing it well.
However, as much as I love this game, and I really do, it can’t be said enough, it is not without it issues. Sometimes on coming out of a cut scene the textures take a few seconds to render. It can take a while to find a match, but that mostly due to the NAT settings of gamer’s Internet connections (if the NAT isn’t open it’s restrictive of players). I also feel it’s a little bit cheeky of them to charge so much for the weapon skins but the season pass for the big DLCs is a good idea so I suppose it balances out. The other problem isn’t Epic’s fault. It’s parents: there are 12 and 13 year olds playing this game, and it goes to show that a lot of parents still don’t understand about the age rating system of games. But that’s just me apparently thinking that 12/13 is a touch young for Gears (when it’s given an 18 overall).
This is the perfect conclusion to this story arc. It nicely wraps up the loose threads left from earlier in the series; it has a depth and story that is rare in anything other than RPG’s or novels. I recommend playing the games from the 2006 debut and giving the story the attention it so rightly deserves. Then once you’ve beaten the story, go out and prove yourself in the multiplayer modes. It’s not a game for everyone but if, like many others, you have grown tired of FPS titles like Cock of Dookie Call of Duty, Halo, Medal of Honor and so many others, then Gears 3 is the game for you. It really is a master class in quality shooter builds and I applaud the efforts of the team and I just need to say… Thank you Epic games for building a sci-fi military epic with emotional depth.
Happy Gaming and be careful you don’t end up swimming in glowy gravy,
(P.s. this is a shoe in for game of the year awards)