Well, it’s been hotly anticipated, and now it’s finally here. Gears of War 2 was released a whole 3 years ago now, so it’s been quite a while coming. But gamers rejoice, the third, and maybe final installment of the series is upon us. So…grab your half-tonne armour, bunker down behind that waist-high wall, and read on for my thoughts.
Following on from the flooding at the end of the last game, humanity is in tatters. Marcus Fenix and the remaining COG forces are forces to wander around the waves on huge battleship-type craft…like beefy aquatic versions of the littlest hobo. Facing daily attacks from the new emerging enemy, the Lambent, life couldn’t get any more shit. However, Marcus gets wind that his father, who disappeared in events that happened before, is still alive, and may hold the key to turning the tides of the war. So accompanied by Dom, Cole train and Anya, now in full COG soldier getup, Marcus sets off to find his father, and maybe a new shirt or two.
What I liked:
Well firstly I want to mention the plot, and much has been made on other “gaming” websites that the plot is a bit “Stale” or “B-movie”. Knocking down the story in Gears is like eying up any Playboy model and moaning because she’s a bit thick. Gears is NOTHING but big butch bravado, and the tale it spins suits it perfectly. Plot threads get tied up, characters are explained further, and you really do get a sense that these meatheads have been through the grinder. Irritating characters, such as Cole train, are fleshed out, and one sequence in the game involving him actually brought a big smile to my face (all i’ll say is football stadium). I saw pretty much all the plot as soon as it was alluded to, I know what would happen to a couple of people in the game chapters before it did. Does that make the plot “Cheesy”? It’s just like most high brow movies i’ve seen in recent years. Metal Gear…cheesy overly written rubbish. Halo….sci-fi schlock. Call of Duty Blops….Michael Bay bollocks. And Gears is just as good as any of them.
The Epic engine is really working overtime in the game. In some parts it’s simply one of the most graphically impressive games this old jaded gamer has witnessed. The feeling of utter desolation in the environments is stunning. The interior of the ship in the starting level is very well done, all filled with salvage that has been gathered during excursions to land, and right the way through to the magnificent tower levels in the last chapter of the game everything looks stunning. One level in particular which is set where the hammer strikes nuked the living crap out of the city is particularly impressive. The character models too are extremely well done. Yeah, there is still something wrong with their chins, but it’s the little things, the COG tags, gloves, webbing and the tattoos that look amazing. The enemies to have been given a slight visual overhaul, the new various incarnations of the Lambent are particularly impressive, sprouting arms and gobbing huge blobs of slime about like your average Millwall supporter. At times the engine groans during cut scenes, but on the whole it’s gorgeous.
Gameplay is tighter that ever. After coming off a co-op session of Gears 2 just the day before the third game, I was initially shocked at just how fast and zippy the game is. I don’t think all that much as actually changed, it just feels a bit more slick. Combat is still as satisfying as it’s always been, zipping from cover to cover, grabbing new weapons, jumping on gun emplacements and blowing the brains out of anything that moves. However, the new Lambent enemies will have you swapping around a bit faster that what you did in the previous games, and now they can send projectiles over cover. The Locust also have a new weapon, the digger launcher which as it’s name implies, can burrow through the ground to attack you in whatever cover position you’re in. Think of it like being attacked by a rocket powered explosive mole and you’re about there. New Silverback mechs are well animated and entertaining, and a few new weapons, such as the vulcan gun simply make red mist out of anything that you point them at, which is always a laugh. It’s easily the most accessible of the Gears games, as the enemies don’t seem to take two full clips to kill just one of them any more, and you’re team mates are always in on the action, chucking grenades and sniping. The environments are bigger too, and there is more to play with regarding flanking, running around and if you want to fight on high or low ground. Experiment in the levels too, as there are a few little easter eggs to find (Cole Train+slide….you figure out what).
Multiplayer modes take what Gears previously built on, and ups them to the nth degree. I haven’t played a bad multiplayer map yet. TDM, wingman, all brilliant, and with the added new weapons and the sheer amount of unlockables and levelling up you’ll do in the game should see it last you for a very long time. Horde mode has been improved, with the ability to pilot the Silverbacks, and build varying defences, such as spikes, barbed wire fences, laser grids, guns….it really is brilliant. My favourite new mode however, is Beast. Simply put, it’s horde mode but you play as the various Locust. The Hammer of Dawn will strike and kill you all in a minute, and the more kills you get adds time to your counter, and money in your bank (if the Locust have such a concept of fiat currency). The more money you get, the bigger, more powerful beast you have access too. If you’re playing as a lowly ticker, right up to the sheer brilliance of playing as a mini corpser, it’s a game mode i’ll know i’ll never get bored of.
There is also one moment in act 3 that I thought was one of the most powerful scenes that i’ve ever witnessed in a video game. The whole build up was extremely well orchestrated, and when the scene played out, with the musical score that was played over the top, I have to admit that I cried. Not blubbing like a girl in the corner crying, but the tears definitely came down my cheeks. You’ll know the moment i’m talking about.
What I loathed:
Not much. As I mentioned, the engine does a great job, but at times it strains. A few times I noticed textures popping in late, and one jarring moment where I was running around with no weapons, only to have them pop onto my back when I confusingly tried to select them. The mission with Cole that runs essentially at the same time as the events that happen on the boat with Marcus at the very start is well done, but it’s slightly cheap as you know exactly what’s going to happen at the very end of the level. I’m being picky.
As I mentioned, it’s by far the easiest game of the series if you just play with the default settings. The combination of the enemy not needing too many bullets to kill and your party actually being pretty darn good for A.I means you’ll blaze through them like they were Lambent stained butter and you’re the hot knife. Play on the harder levels for a real challenge (I only died twice going through the campaign).
And another thing I loath? The fucking pricing of the DLC skins for the guns.
It’s hard to talk about why I love the game so much without revealing spoilers, which I don’t do. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s easily the best of the trilogy. It takes everything that made the first two games the multi-million selling games that they are, expands on them, gives it a graphical lick of paint and turns the action up to ten. There are around 3 levels in the game that are instantly my favourites in any video game, I thought the story tied everything up in an extremely satisfying way, with violence, revenge, tragedy and humour, and it leaves me with a warm feeling in my gaming gut. Multiplayer is brilliant, especially beast mode, and if this is the last we ever see of Marcus Fenix and the crew, it’s a fitting send off.
Well done, Epic games.
The score: 9/10
Gears of War 3 is available now. Check out the official website here.