Sera’s an uninhabitable wasteland now. Mutated beasts are ravaging what’s left of the human race. Things are really going straight to hell. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Spoiler alert: this review will be no different.
Epic Games has finely crafted its signature cover-dependent, active-reloading game to both an art and a science. In a word: it’s incredible. Cooperative and competitive game types are better than ever, but the Campaign is — somehow — both the shining gem and the weak point of this trilogy’s swan song. It’s exciting, terrifying, and emotional, but it’s also not terribly satisfying when it’s over.
Previously on Gears…
The Gears haven’t exactly had an easy time over years since Emergence Day. Every character has felt the impact of years of war, and you can see it on their faces. In some cases, quite literally.
The Lambent are running amok. The Locust are taking over the surface, now that their tunnels have been flooded with Imulsion. COGs are treated less-than-human by pretty much all Stranded on the planet.
You wouldn’t think too many people would sign up for that kind of fun, but somehow, Delta Squad has brought in a few new members. Samantha Byrne, Jace Stratton, Clayton Carmine, and former dispatcher Anya Stroud now take up arms alongside Marcus, Dom, Baird, and Cole. While they’re pretty awesome in their own right (I particularly liked Sam’s use of the word “f**kstick”), we unfortunately don’t spend enough time with them to really care too much about them.
But, everything you knew from the previous games? For the most part: completely useless. Adam Fenix? Not dead. The Coalition of Ordered Governments? Pretty much a non-entity. Imulsion? [Spoiler Redacted.] The only thing you need to know? Everything in front of you must die.
Achievement Unlocked: Brothers to the End
The Campaign is pretty great. If you ever wanted to feel like Jack Bauer with biceps the size of a small Honda, then Campaign is where you need to be. Even among the Modern Warfares and Battlefields of the world, Gears of War 3 makes you feel like the baddest ass to walk the planet. The first half of the game takes place over the course of about three in-game hours, and, in that time, a battleship has sunk, an unbreakable stronghold is breached, and the eldest Carmine has nearly died about 47 times.
Gameplay is the same as you’ve seen from the previous games, but even the smallest details have been finely tuned. It feels the same, but better. The pacing of the storyline is very well balanced; plus, you get the benefit of enjoying it with three good friends. The new additions are welcome (the Retro Lancer’s bayonet charge is pretty damn satisfying when you nail it right), and the minor fixes sum up to an overall better experience. There are minor problems that occur every now and again (“I was clearly pressing A, why didn’t you go behind cover?”), but nothing that will detract from the polished experience.
As you’d expect, the writing isn’t exactly superb (“Kind of anti-social, aren’t they?” “Um, it’s pronounced ‘assholes.'”), but, by the time you hit the end of Act III, you’ll be so invested in the survival of the not-so-little humans that could that you might even have to fight the urge to shed dude-tears (Two words: Mad World.)
“I suppose you want me to say I’ve always loved you. But I don’t. I really, really don’t.”
And that’s why it’s so disappointing that the Campaign conclusion of this trilogy is so — for lack of a better term — uninspired. The final fight is so formulaic, the only reason you’d die is because of a cheap blast from Locust that snuck up behind you when your attention is skyward.
There are times in the story where you’re being overrun with Lambent that your heart jumps out of your chest at every Lambent Stalk that pops out of the ground (Two more words: Lambent Zerker.) Those times are incredible, and the feeling of accomplishment when you win is what good games are made of.
But that final fight is, uh, not. You don’t lose because of a lack of skill; you lose because your didn’t divide your attention exactly enough between the tasks at hand (especially when you’re playing only with AI, who, up until this point, was exceptionally capable at managing their share.) Maybe I’m alone on this, but I want a challenge, not a… technicality.
The ending scenes, I admit, do feel like the end of a trilogy, albeit a little saccharine for such a testosterone-filled game. It wraps up everything nicely; I was just hoping there were more. Perhaps a memorial to the fallen? I don’t know: perhaps I’m expecting too much Mass Effect in my Gears of War. Gears, after all, has been more about being able to chainsaw your opponent in half than it has been about exposition.
The Family Who Slays Together, Stays Together
As exciting as the Campaign can be, it’s the multiplayer that will keep you coming back. After Gears 2‘s less-than-stellar start in the multiplayer domain, Gears 3 is a breath of fresh air. Versus modes are fast paced and challenging, if a bit familiar (Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Capture the Leader, Wingman.) The new Sawed-Off Shotgun will be a welcome addition to adept shotgun rollers, and the bane to noobs like me.
For me, though, Versus takes a backseat to the new Beast mode and the completely revamped Horde 2.0. The new Horde is a true challenge that’s now part-tower defense, part-survival. As you rack up the kills over 50 waves of enemies, you earn cash that you can spend on fortifications to support and to protect your home base, such as barbed wire, turrets, or decoys. Every 10th wave is a boss wave that will test your mettle, and your ability to dodge roll. If you didn’t like dealing with Brumaks or the Lambent Zerkers in Campaign, you’ll hate this. Because there’s a possibility that you’ll be taking both on at once. And that’s not a good place to be.
Beast mode is pretty much the exact opposite. In Beast, you’ll step into the shoes (claws?) of the Grubs you’ve spent the past 2 games hunting, getting around the defenses of the Stranded and the COGs to deliver unholy death. And it’s awesome. There’s something really quite satisfying about taking down a COG with a well-placed Ticker, and something VERY satisfying about mutilating everything as a Berserker.
Final Verdict: Play It.
Gears of War 3 is highly recommended for anyone that enjoys a good shooter. You’ll feel like the head of the badass monarchy, and you’ll have one hell of a time. It may feel a bit familiar to Gears veterans, but I don’t think you’ll mind. After all, if the biggest problem that I have with it is that a boss fight is not that great, then the rest of the game must be pretty fantastic.
|Campaign is emotional and exciting. Feels like the end of a trilogy.||Campaign’s final boss fight predictable and uninspired.|
|Beast mode is super fun. (“We’re the two best friends that anyone can have!”)||Um… what happened to Ice-T’s character, Griffin?|
|Baird has fantastic lines.|