Like most long running videogame franchises, Gears has quite a long and evolving story behind. To ensure gamers new to the series don’t get lost in what’s happened so far, Epic threw together a little video that brings everyone up to speed on the Gears story. The video is worth paying attention to for fans of the trilogy even if you’ve played the hell out of the first two titles and have the dialog memorized. Once you’re all caught up on Dom’s adventure to this point, it’s time to jump into the action.
As things kick off within a ship, the first thing that will stick out to Gears of War veterans is that this new installment looks much better than its predecessors. Lighting and filter effects have been kicked up a notch and environments look more like living and breathing worlds than flat background images like they had in previous releases. Areas of play are now much larger too. Buildings sport quite a bit more detail and don’t appear to be cookie-cutter set pieces like before. By that I mean everything has its own style and this provides a better sense of realism because buildings differ quite a bit in real life and now they do in Gears as well.
Gears 3 also delivers a more personal story and look into the life of Marcus Fenix; more so than either Gears one or two. The story itself provides a much needed balance between back story and new details to flesh out the world of Gears of War and its stars. The way things move from one character to another is executed so well that Hollywood would be wise to take a few cues from Epic on how to tell a story. Obviously I don’t want to ruin anything for fans who have poured hours of their time into the series, but it’s safe to say that fans will not be disappointed by the tale that unfolds.
Gears of War 3 puts more emphasis on group fighting now. Unlike Gears one and two where things many of the larger areas were clearly designed for two-player cooperative play, this title thrives on four-player action. The AI feels like it has received an overhaul. Enemies don’t single out a particular player, but fight for survival like human players and go after multiple members of your team. This means you’ll spend less time ducking and covering and have more openings to go on the attack. The hardcore fans shouldn’t worry though. There’s plenty of difficulty options that can result in you being pinned downed for hours in cover, but playing on normal allows for a faster-paced game than before.
Enemies won’t just sit back and be content to have a drawn-out firefight with you camping out in the same spot forever though. Given enough time, they will start to advance on your position. This provides players with the motivation to be more proactive and attack rather than sitting in the same spot and picking them off one by one.
Controls, like everything else feel like they’ve been tweaked and perfected. While there is a lot of factors in what makes this game the best Gears of War yet, the controls are near perfect. Those players familiar with the first two games won’t have to really learn anything new. It’s just that things feel tighter and more precise now. In fact, if you invested a lot of time in the first two games, you’re likely better off skipping normal mode and going straight to hardcore. You don’t want your first taste of the trilogy’s finale to be a cake walk, do you?
Gears 3 is undoubtedly the best game in the series, but not everything is perfect. Don’t throw me to the wolves just yet. These are minor gripes at best. Occasionally had some hiccups in the visuals. These came in the form of slight freezes on screen and frame skipping. We played it on both an older (fat) Xbox 360 model and a slim, but the issues appeared on both. It was primarily an issue that came up during game saves while the system devoted memory to that. There are still issues with team members popping up in front of you and taking some rounds in the back of the head, but it’s nothing that ruins the experience and isn’t frequent enough to cause any headaches.
Epic has done a great job of providing fans with a game that both lives up to the hype and builds upon the success of the Gears of War franchise. The story is top notch and everything in this release seems to have taken a step forward including the way players are driven from beginning to end with gameplay that unfolds more smoothly than any previous Gears title. Another massive Microsoft trilogy has come to a close and while questions are already being raised of whether we’ll see more entries in the franchise, players should focus on the now. And right now Gears of War 3 stands as the premier shooter of the year. All the ingredients for a game to be a hit are present. Fans of the first two games have likely already picked this sequel up, but those who have waited should bite the bullet and join the fight.