There have been a few tweaks to the gameplay mechanics as well, and they serve to really fine-tune the third-person shooter genre elements that the first game pioneered. You can aim at an enemy and click the left thumbstick to ‘spot’ an enemy or ammo cache, pointing out to your AI or human squadmates of any incoming danger. Pin your sights on a squaddie and you can trade weapons and share ammo too.
This all becomes very important in the higher difficulty modes as the levels have been ramped up big time for Gears of War 3
. This is probably the hardest Gears
game you’ll play - certainly you won’t be done with it in a single playthrough in co-op mode. In single-player, it was a lot easier to handle thanks to the increased intelligence of the AI squadmates. I was able to run through Hardcore mode on my own with near-invincibility because I was constantly getting picked up from Down But Not Out.
Don’t expect any such leniency in Insanity though - it still goes down the ‘take no prisoners’ route that you’ve come to expect from past Gears
games. Get hit enough times - splat, you’re dead. My solution? Blindfire the shit out of everything. You’ll eat ammo, but at least you won’t die! Yeah, I’m not much of a gung-ho solider, really.
Overall, the campaign is an experience that you will not want to miss - especially if you’ve invested enough time in the first two Gears of War
titles. This is a longer story, with lengthier chapters than you would expect, and with gameplay checkpoints that really test your shooting skills. With scenarios that lead into one another like a good novel, I was always keen to see what’s next. By the time I reached the end I was quite satisfied with the questions the game answered.
Ultimately, while the campaign mode takes care of the ‘Hollywood Blockbuster’ side of things, the multiplayer is the reason why you will come back again and again to play Gears of War 3
like some kind of obsession.
From the second you load up your profile, you’re set in a party of your very own - with friends list and the opportunity to invite others just a button press away. This focus on multiplayer permeates throughout the entire game - no matter what menu you are in, this list of party players will always be visible on the side of the screen.
Many of the modes have been ‘remastered’ and it’s made for a much better experience. Team Deathmatch is now an elimination round where each team has a certain amount of ‘lives’ to spend before losing a match. Warzone and Execution are spins on this scenario, only the former gives players just one life and the latter only counts executions for kills. Wingman is largely unchanged from its ‘two-on-two-on-two-on-two’ action, but it’s still no less tense than it was in Gears of War 2
. Capture the Leader and King of the Hill have some interesting twists that force players to engage in pro-active firefights rather than camping up a hill.
Not that the maps would really allow for that. After a successful run on the Beta, some of the levels in Gears of War 3
have been tweaked to really offer an exciting no-holds-barred bloodfest. Almost all of the stages are symmetrical in design, with certain vantage points and areas of focus that can help turn a match around.
In the sandy Trenches level, it was easy for players to sneak up to the top of a hill to grab a sniper rifle and dominate the match during the Beta. With the addition of an underground tunnel network at the back that connects this hill with two spawning sides of the map, that possibility has been well and truly nerfed. There’s little sparks of multiplayer design genius in here that really help players - novice and hardcore - to enjoy a bit of even-handed deathmatching.
Perhaps the most addictive modes are in Horde 2.0 and Beast. Horde is possibly one of the best multiplayer modes to have been created in a third-person shooter, and in Gears of War 3
the inclusion of tower defence-style fortifications adds a whole new dimension to an otherwise straightforward concept. Beast, on the other hand, flip-reverses the idea and lets you become a member of the Locust, attacking human soldiers using a variety of creatures. While Beast is a much quicker experience at 12 waves to Horde’s 50, it’s certainly one of the more interesting features.
The icing on the big manly beefcake is the Stats and Awards section of the game, ensuring that your life will never mean anything without the collection of every single medal, ribbon, achievement, collectible and unlockable character. With a persistent experience bar that tallies up scores from every single mode you play, the replay value of Gears of War 3
is simply stratospheric.
Not that you’d need much incentive to keep playing anyway - I guarantee you’ll be sat up at 2am most mornings just getting stuck into Horde, Beast and the point-scoring Arcade mode to even notice that there’s a world of unlockables at your fingertips. Just one more go...
A blockbuster in every sense of the word. Gears of War 3 absolutely screams ‘Hollywood’ and has the immersive action gameplay to match. Vastly improved from its predecessor, with an engaging multiplayer system that will make you gladly keep playing for months and months to come. One of the Xbox 360’s finest.
SPOnG Score: 95%