Booting this game up for the first time is like meeting an old friend for a beer or like visiting the old family home. This is Gears of War 3 and it fits like a glove. Strange that a series that has been entirely current gen manages to trigger so much nostalgia. A testament to the quality of each game and every game in the series, but it has come to an end, a bloody and emotional end at that.
From the off Gears is encouraging you to get your friends involved. The main menu consists of a party lobby on the right hand of the screen, always visible and allowing you to organise a social game from the off. Now you can take more buddies into campaign too, with four player co-op and five player horde it makes the game such a social experience. This also makes it incredibly easy to get into a game without fiddling about in menus making sure you’re in the right lobby.
The story itself is the best written of the series, if you go into the campaign mode you can see a brief video describing the events just before the game. It’s worth checking out if your new or a returning player, it gives you a good insight on what’s happened to the government and just gives you a good idea of what to expect. As you get into the game, you slowly get introduced to all your old favourites and there are some new faces as well. There’s some clever story telling here, at one point you experience the story from Marcus’s point of view then you snap back to experience the same set of events from Cole’s point of view. The massive twists that come in the game can at times be quite emotional, there is no doubt that this is the final of the trilogy, and what a fantastic final entry it is. Kudos to Epic for not trying to string it out more and more additions and semi sequels (*cough* assassins creed). The environments you battle through are quite varied, while always feeling like a wasteland. One location stands out in particular, it’s a town which is just covered in dust, with statues left where people were clearly trying to escape. It’s quite a sight seeing what’s left of families hiding or running and adds on yet more emotion. Presentation on the whole is top notch as expected, the lambent morph in front of your eyes and explosions are ever satisfying.
The four player co-op means that it’s never a lonely experience, even if you’re just playing with A.I. partners there are just plenty of bullets flying around you never really feel pinned down. The downside of this is that it does take away some strategy, in the sense that you can just blast your way through the opposition gradually. This doesn’t make it easy though, at times you will be up against countless numbers of enemies, so the extra guns certainly help. Just like the previous games it’s no walk in the park to make it through to the finale, even on normal difficulty I died more than a handful of times, but then that could be down to my lack of skill.
Now we’re going to take on the horde mode. This has changed quite dramatically from Gears 2, the concept is the same. You’ve got 50 waves of enemies to fight your way through that get progressively tougher. Only now they’ve taken some inspiration from, strangely enough, tower defence games. Every time you get a kill or progress you earn income, you can spend this to build up your defences. You can build barriers, decoy’s and gun turrets. You can also unlock some fancy weapons if you earn enough. Each item you build can also be upgraded to increase it’s effectiveness, so you can upgrade your barriers to barbed wire, then laser barriers for instance. All this adds a lot of thought and actually makes this mode that much more challenging, which is in no way a bad thing, just don’t expect to get far at all if you’re tackling this on your own or if there’s just the two of you.
Add to that the new beast mode, which is essentially horde, but from the opposite side. You can take on the role of some of the locust force. The difference here being that you can re spawn and that you can choose to spawn as different characters. The trick is to use the most effective character depending on the defences. It’s a fantastic addition and works out to be a lot of fun. There’s nothing quite like taking control of a ticker and sprinting at a group of gears.
Competitive multi-player is an evolution of Gears 2. One feature I do really like is the loading screen, believe it or not, this is a map of the currently loading area showing all spawns and weapon locations. It doesn’t really take the place of just getting to learn all the nooks and crannies, but it does give you a good feel when you’re playing a map for the first time. All the old favourite modes are in there, war zone, king of the hill etc. One thing worth noting about the weapon in the game, the balancing it absolutely spot on, you can not expect to be successful by just sticking to one weapon. You will need to adapt as every weapon has an advantage depending on the situation.
There is literally so much to this game, you’re definitely getting good value for money. Aside from all these game modes the game keeps stats on everything. You can even enable arcade mode on the campaign to enable scoring. There are tons of unlockables and tons of medals to earn. It will take you forever to get through everything this game has to offer.
A fitting end to an outstanding trilogy, Gears of War has matured so much and bought so much to the game industry, this trilogy stands out as one of the greats of this generation. Well done Epic.