Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Gears of War 3

There's an old adage – 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Gears of War 3 is that expression in videogame form. Basically the same as Gears of War 1 and 2, Gears 3 is another fun blaster that's light on plot and heavy on action, ticking all the boxes long-time Gears fans have come to expect from their muscle-bound heroes.

Picking up some two years after the end of Gears 2, Gears 3's singleplayer dumps the gamer unceremoniously into the action, seeing Marcus and Dom et al battling to force the lizard-like Locust and their Lambent (and exploding) cousins off the deck of one of the many battleships that has become humanity's home. Basically, if you've played either of the previous games you'll feel right at home with Gears 3 – shoot, chainsaw, win, move location – rinse and repeat.

Sure, there's a few cool bits later on with miniguns, and a few set-piece battles so intense that they leave you short of breath, but the majority of the singleplayer game is same-old same-old.
Not to say that this is a bad thing – the game's campaign is a considerable length, filling some ten hours or more on hard, but it doesn't really push the envelope. That said, get a few mates round and boot up the four-player (and very long-awaited) co-op action on hard difficulty and you're in for a riot.

Outside of the singleplayer, the game's popular and varied multiplayer is on fine form, offering a dizzying array of modes to keep you playing for hours. Horde - the seminal survive-em-up mode pitting you and four others against 50 waves of the Locust Horde - is better than ever, having had something of a tune-up.

This time around, you can build defences, turrets, decoys and even mechs to keep the horde at bay, and regular 'bonus waves' and 'boss waves' keep the action fresh and intense – and really bloody hard too... my record was wave 43.

Competitive multiplayer has also seen a tightening of its belt, and now includes team deathmatch mode, as well as all the old favourites, such as execution and warzone. Thankfully, the lag isn't as bad as it used to be, though one-shot shotgun kills are still a constant irritation - and as usual, American players (being closer to the servers) typically win shotty battles. However, the addition of a sawn-off shotgun (which is very short ranged, but also blows everything to shreds instantly) cheapens the experience somewhat. I tended to stick to distance shooting – I felt less cheated that way...

The addition of a new co-op mode, 'beast', is a surprisingly fun change of pace. Placing the player in the boot, claws, armoured skeleton or chitinous centipede body of one of the Locus Horde, you and four others have to kill 12 waves of human players and COG heroes, spending the cash you earn destroying fortifications to upgrade to bigger and better members of the Horde. There's something to be said for crawling around as a ticker, eating rifles, battering razorwire and earning cash, before finally earning the moolah to become a berserker - and demolish everything. It's just a shame that you can't drop in as a member of the Horde on someone else's game of Horde – Epic missed a trick there.

Graphically the game looks good as ever, and both sound effects and score are second to none, bringing the gritty, dark world of Gears to life on your screen.

If you're a longtime fan, buy it. If you're new to the series.... buy it anyway.