Like many big shooters though, Epic decided to host a privatized Beta- an early access demo to the multiplayer component of Gears 3. Currently in Week 3, the beta has done far more than simply allow gamers to test the waters and enjoy themselves. The beta offers unique rewards to be unlocked in the full retail game. Included amongst this list of items are a unique Cole Train costume and Gold Retro Lancer skin. This incentive to play the beta is very enticing, though perhaps missing the point of a beta entirely. Betas are supposed to be used so gamers can express distaste or approval about certain aspects of a game prior to launch, so developers can hopefully fix what isn't liked before launch. With Gears 3 though, the unlocks are often times seen as the only reason to play in the first place.
Luckily in order to unlock most of these sought-after items, you have to play quite a bit of the beta itself. You'll be playing around 100 matches before you can consider the beta “complete.” While not everyone is a glitch-entrepreneur or bug testing expert, most gamers can at least establish what they like or hate about the game. As a fan of the series since Emergence Day though, I'm extremely pleased with the direction Epic is taking their game.
Notable changes to the gameplay are the addition of two new weapons you can choose at the start of each multiplayer match: the Retro Lancer and the Sawed-Off Shotgun. The Retro Lancer is obviously similar to the modern day Lancer Assault Rifle, though it lacks a chainsaw and instead has a more realistic bayonet. Instead of walking behind someone to execute them, you can perform a running charge with the bayonet to skewer enemies from behind. The rate of fire is also quickened and the range of fire was reduced. As opposed to the almost symbolic GoW Shotgun the Gnasher, the new Sawed-Off Shotgun has very limited range, but has extremely high damage output. In other words: a point blank shot will always kill your enemy, and this is balanced by a low ammo capacity and long reload times.
Other new weapons include the Digger Launcher, the Oneshot and Incendiary Grenades. The Digger Launcher essentially rewrites much of Gears logic as we're accustomed to. It fires an underground mine in a straight path, then upon reaching a wall or target pops out of the ground and explodes. Meaning that if you fire a digger at someone behind cover, it will ignore the cover and kill them. While it may sound overpowered or very “un-Gears like,” it fits right in and is something to look out for. The Oneshot is similar to the Mulcher and Mortar, as it is a heavy weapon with limited ammo and high damage. Basically though, it's a huge ass sniper rifle that literally kills anything in “Oneshot” regardless of where the bullet strikes. With only three shots total though, is it any more powerful than a Torque Bow in the hands of a gifted sniper? Finally the Incendiary Grenades are a new explosive weapon, that engulfs a small area in a rather lackluster flame- the Ink grenade returns as both the more powerful and interesting alternative.
For the beta at least, game types have been changed somewhat drastically for the franchise. Instead of the beloved Warzone and Execution, we have standard Team Deathmatch- which finally allows for a fun gametype including respawns. Capture the Leader was introduced, which is like a hybrid of Guardian and Submission from Gears of War 2. The final game type of the beta is Capture the Hill, which is like Annex except players are not required to stay within the hill's boundaries to score points.
In terms of ridiculous changes or overhauls, Gears 3 doesn't feel all-too different than Gears 2. The graphics are wonderful, both as an in-game aspect and the artistic styling of menus. The multiplayer also feels much more modern, as you're required to unlock unique executions, characters, and weapon skins by completing certain requirements. “Ribbons” and “Medals” can also be unlocked by performing well, which rewards additional experience. This new unlock system keeps the multiplayer fresh and addicting without completely ripping off of Call of Duty 4 like so many games have attempted already.
While I was never quite concerned, I'm confident I'll be buying Gears of War 3 on day one. Not because I'm some rabid Xbox fanboy who only purchases the major Microsoft titles, but because it is legitimately a good game. Though the beta doesn't allow me to speak for the single player portion of Gears 3, I'm quite confident that the online multiplayer is packed with enough quality to warrant the purchase alone. For gamers wishing to hop in on the beta late you can pre-order Gears 3 at GameStop, or wait for the upcoming free passes offered by your friends already in the beta.