Gears of War 3 Review - September 25th 2011

Guns with chainsaws, burly marines stomping on heads, and zippy one liners have defined this franchise ever since its debut way back in 2006. As an unashamedly violent showcase of third person gunplay done right, Gears of War led the pack and set a new standard for the genre. The follow-up was more of the same, but the out of the box multiplayer was a massive letdown. And now Gears 3, which supposedly will be the last hurrah (at least for this trilogy), is attempting to right the wrongs of its predecessor.

Epic Games are once again at the helm, and it's fair to say that they've managed to cram in a lot of content this time around. The lengthy campaign is bolstered by returning favorite Horde mode, flip reverse version Beast mode (where you play as various Locust enemy types attacking the COG), and an expanded online multiplayer suite. It's a well rounded package, with a huge amount of replay-ability. Campaign co-op now supports up to four players online (as well as two player split screen), and a new calendar of events should help keep the community thriving. There's something for everyone here, and none of it feels like an afterthought.

One of many gruesome, weapon specific executions.

The set piece heavy single player is absolutely gorgeous, and new enemy the Lambent are suitably gruesome albeit wonderfully designed. The level of detail is pretty staggering, especially when you consider that (a heavily beefed up) Unreal Engine 3 is powering the proceedings. There's some creaks and groans here and there, particularly in offline co-op where the frame rate struggles to keep up with the action. But they're negligible stutters that barely have an impact on your overall enjoyment. Epic have pushed the boundaries once again, and delivered a title with a varied color palette (green, yellow, AND brown!) that truly shines.

Thankfully, the gameplay matches the visuals. You're constantly propelled through each area at a blistering pace, as "the next big moment" is always just around the corner. The super fast pacing captivates and dazzles in equal measure, which allows the quieter, story driven moments to carry more weight. It was never going to be Shakespeare, but this is easily the most comprehensible installment in the Gears of War saga to date. The plot is pleasingly straight forward. You won't feel like you need to read the novelizations or dive onto Wikipedia to understand what's going on. There's multiple playable characters, and your reasons for doing things are pretty clear cut.

Four player online co-op has been added.

Weapons feel much more balanced than in the previous games, with a fine selection of new armaments to round out old favorites. The Digger Launcher is genuinely terrifying when in the hands of the opposition, as previously solid cover points are rendered useless by its burrowing explosive ammunition. Then there's the Retro Lancer which, while an absolute beast to control, comes equipped with a bayonet for some high risk, high reward impalement. A single player only Cleaver isn't particularly spectacular in its own right, but as the only true melee exclusive weapon in Gears, it manages to carve (no pun intended) its own niche for some laugh out loud dismemberment. Incendiary grenades (when planted on a wall as proximity mines) are also a lot of fun, and the One Shot rifle fits in nicely with other power weapon like the Mortar gun and Hammer of Dawn.

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