Gears of War 3 Review: To All Gears, an EndOctober 04, 2011
Gears of War has always been a game series about the brotherhood of war. How, when the shit hits the fan, those fighting become a unit. A family. And each battle won, or lost, becomes something personal.
Nothing sums up the third, and last, outing of the Gears of War series better than the comparison to family. In fact, "Brothers to the End" is the official advertising tagline. And for good reason.
When we last left the COGS, Marcus Fenix, Dom Santiago, and Augustus Cole had just driven a towering Brumak into the bowels of the planet Sera is hopes of igniting a massive pool of Imulsion, a glowing natural substance that had been tapped and refined into a fuel, to wipe out the Locust and Lambent threats once and for all. Please don't make me explain that any further. You either get it or you don't.
Gears 3 opens with Marcus and the gang still fighting the war, but when word comes down that Chairman Prescott, the ex-leader of the Coalition of Ordered Governments, (who abandoned his people to the Locust threat), is still alive and coming back to speak personally to Marcus, things explode into what will become one final, devastating push to finally end the war.
Along the five acts that make up the game, we are treated to literally the best of what the series has ever offered.
The gunfights are intense and the action, violence and gore are ramped up, and the battles are relentless with barely any time to catch a breath before a new threat arises.
Player-characters are more developed with distinct personalities, even though most of the lines are classic '80s action movie machismo. EPIC GAMES also included female COGS in more prominent roles, though their lines and the lines of the men are essentially the same.
As you play through the chapters and acts, the levels vary much more in Gears 3 than in games past. Before it was walk, come into a clearing that was teaming with natural cover, and then a shootout would occur. In Gears 3, those clearings full of places to take cover don't always signal a fight, and sometimes, you have to fight without cover.
The cover system has been another trademark of the series, and in this game, it has been refined to near perfection. The options you have when in cover are varied between attacks or simple hiding, and the attacks in and out of cover aren't nearly as frustrating as in Gears past.
But along with the intense gameplay that has been the trademark for the five-year-old series, Gears 3 also packs a pretty decent story to tie everything together.
And there is an event that comes along mid-way through the game that actually forces you to pause, and reflect, and dare I say it, shed a tear. Because war is hell, and sometimes, not everyone comes home.
The handling of this event is beautiful, in as much that death can be beautiful, as the designers went back and used the very apropos song, Mad World, from the ad campaign from Gears 2 to hammer the point home. The end result is damn near perfect. I know I felt it, and I can admit I got a little choked up. Brothers to the End indeed.
Graphically, the game is still the high water mark that all Xbox 360 games strive to reach. The lighting and water effects are still some of the best I have ever seen, as evidenced by a chapter late in the game where you are assaulting a location at night in a rain storm. I found myself in awe of the environment, even as I was in the heat of intense gunfights.
This is the best looking game on the Xbox 360, even during heavy action scenes when it seemed like the frame rate was starting to slow, the graphics never suffered.
The music is used to much more effect. I have already mentioned one part where music was very important, but even the normal background soundtrack worked to keep the game moving with pulsing, orchestrated, cinema-like scores that I found myself humming between play sessions.
Another staple of the Gears series has been the stellar voice acting. John DiMaggio's portrayal of Marcus Fenix is inspiring, and while it isn't Shakespeare, the performance gives the character more life than ever before.
The multiplayer aspects of the Gears games have always been kind of Jekyll and Hyde. Gears 2 was famously buggy, and those of us that tried to get into it were actually rewarded with frustration and headaches. Gears 3 has tried to fix that by spending more development time with the multiplayer and the result looks good.
Included are the classic Horde mode, where you kill wave after wave of enemies as they swarm, and Beast mode, which allows you to play as the Locust assaulting the COGS.
Of course, you can also play with up to four friends in the various campaign (story) modes and difficulty levels both local and on-line.
There are various multiplayer maps on the disc (including a classic for the first Gears of War game) and more are coming as DLC in the coming months.
The game is not without its issues. I found fault with the senseless hidden artifact and COG tag hunt, as it is painfully distracting.
As a player, you know the story is pulling towards it climax, and if you're like me, you stop the action to search every corner of a room for a possible hidden journal entry or statue or a set of GOG tags that only serve to feed your achievements and overall gamer score.
I understand the need of something like this to artificially lengthen a game for replay value, but it feels so out of place in a high-action game like Gears 3.
It is an optional quest, and the developers must know that most gamers will seek them out, and in my experience, it killed some of the adrenaline rush that came from graphically dismembering my enemies.
The length of the game is just about right. Depending on the difficulty, the game runs close to 20 hours, and the replay value is high, even without the hidden object hunt.
Gears of War 3 is by far the best, most complete game in the series. The graphics are outstanding, as usual, and for the first time, all of the game's components really come together for an overall stellar gaming experience.
In Gears of War 2, the tagline was Hope Runs Deep. And Gears 3 is all about Brothers to the End. At the end of it all, never have two lines summed up a saga so well.
- Jon Hueber
Shop for Gears of War 3 on Xbox 360 at a discounted price from Amazon.com.