The Gears of War franchise and I have had a complicated history. Those of you who read last week’s blog know that I loved Gears 1 but there were some problems with Gears 2 that really affected my view on the series as a whole. It seems that Epic Games heard, not only my complaints, but also those of their fans, and improved on the Gears of War formula. After playing Gears of War 3, I can safely say that this takes what was good about Gears of War 1 & 2, refines them and takes out what made Gears of War 2 such a poor iteration for the franchise.
The story of Gears of War 3, for those who are new to the franchise, starts 18 months after the sinking of humanity’s last stronghold against the monstrous Locust. With the city sunk, the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) has fallen apart and our main characters have been living on a ship just hoping to see the next day. The overall theme of the last two games has been one of brute force and retaliation against the Locust Horde. But Gears of War 3 subverts these themes with an overall narrative about survival and struggle, which in my opinion makes the story in Gears of War 3 one of the best in the franchise. I was more invested and motivated after the first act in Gears 3 than I have ever been in the franchise. That’s all I can really say without giving spoilers to those who are currently, or thinking about, playing Gears of War 3.
In addition to the campaign, which can be played with three other players, there is Horde 2.0, Beast Mode and the multiplayer. Horde 2.0 is, just like its namesake, is the next version of the innovative Horde mode. Horde 2.0 takes five players and puts them against 50 waves of increasingly difficult enemies with each 10th wave being a boss wave. The interesting facet of Horde 2.0 is the currency system that allows you to build turrets and barriers, both of which can be upgraded. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Beast Mode, which allows you to play as the Locust Horde against A.I. controlled humans, which also increase in difficulty. This proved to be just as much fun as Horde Mode adding a much needed element of variety when you’re tired of being the humans. However, it only lasts twelve waves and feels short-lived.
However, the biggest and possibly the best change since Gears of War 2 is the multiplayer. Running on dedicated servers, rather than choosing a player to establish a connection for everyone else, Gears of War 3 has an actual competent multiplayer. Gears of War 3 offers a slew of modes which include the long awaited team deathmatch and capture the leader, in which one player is the leader and the other four have to protect them. Some maps offer an interactive element that changes how people play in the maps. For example, on one map, a horn will sound and the map will be covered in a sandstorm that makes for more intense combat. In addition to that, there is a map that literally sinks and changes the playing field that skews your aim. There is also a complex leveling system that unlocks character skins, for both humans and Locust, as you continue playing. Be warned though, some players are really hardcore and play this game religiously. Epic Games did put in a casual mode, that gives the player an aim-assist, for those that have never played a Gears of War game but you’ll eventually graduate to the big leagues.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better game that is worth the admission fee in 2011. Gears of War 3 comes with a 10- to 15-hour story, which can be played with three other people, two modes that can be wild fun with friends and multiplayer for your competitive edge. If you’ve never played a Gears of War game, this is a perfect entry into the series. And if you have played a Gears game before, what are you doing reading this review?!?! Don’t walk, Run and get your copy of Gears of War 3.