Sep 29, 2011

Gears of War 3 Review

Gears of War 3 is the final installment of the Gears of War Trilogy on Xbox 360 featuring the Brotastic-Scruffy-McScruff-Scruff-Hard-as-Nails-Micheal-Bay-infused-blood-stream hero Marcus Fenix, who sadly to my dismay, doesn't have any relation to the Protoss hero of the same name from the original Starcraft.

But that is neither here nor there. Lets get to the meat and potatoes of this fantastic gore fest. The gameplay of Gears of War has always been about pop-and-stop cover based gameplay, and has defined a generation of shooters and has created a wealthy amount of parodies. People say the writing is cheesy, but sometimes you need the cheese. After all, most sandwiches aren't ruined by cheese, so why should this be any different?

The game is broken up into five main modes of play: Campaign, Arcade Mode, Versus Mode, Horde Mode and Beast Mode. Campaign and Arcade Mode allow you to play through the best story in the Gears of War Universe to date. Now it is no Mass Effect, but the story is at least compelling this time, and the cast of characters really find their own individual strides and development. Arcade mode allows the game to keep score of how well you are doing, and to compare you against others should you choose to play in Co-Op. Gears of War 3 also features 4 player co-op through the campaign, a first for the series. It certainly makes the game more dynamic, as the computer controlled AI, while better than most, still seems to get in the way.

Horde Mode from Gears of War 2 returns with a brand new revamp. Each kill garners you a certain dollar amount which is then in turn used to buy fortifications, turrets and ammo, changing the game into a survival mode into something that kind of plays like a shooter with a tower defense style twist. To keep you from just holding up in your base, every once in a while through each of the 50 waves, bonus waves come along with separate objectives. These range from finishing the wave in a certain time frame, executing a variable amount of enemies, or killing enemies with headshots. On top of all of that, every 10th wave is a Boss Wave, throwing enemies from the campaign mode into the mix, such as flying enemies armed with rockets, Beserkers that can decimate your base almost instantly or the massive Brumack armed with giant gun gauntlets and a huge rocket launcher on its back.

Beast Mode is probably my favorite mode, as it does so much right. Beast Mode is the reverse of Horde Mode, in which you play as Locusts and aim to eliminate humans. Each of the member of the Locust Horde plays completely differently from the last, with some being focused exclusively on melee damage and others having self-sacrificing explosion abilities. The advantage is it is only 12 rounds as apposed to Horde modes 50, so the sense of completion is easier to obtain. Beast mode on Normal, which is the default difficulty it is set to if you use matchmaking to play, takes around 20 to 30 minutes. In comparison, I spent 2 and a half hours in Horde mode the other day and didn't even make it past level 30.

Versus is a pretty standard mode, giving modes like Capture the Leader, Team Deathmatch, and Execution. All of these have been increased from four versus four from Gears of War 2 to five versus five and the game is generally better for it, as each player feels to carry more weight and feel more powerful.

The game is complemented with a wealth of unlockables. And that is where the complements stop playing well together. Everything is tracked, but nothing is equal. Lets start with an easy example, such as getting kills to unlock the Lancer execution. The execution is unlocked by getting 200 kills with the weapon. But wait, it isn't that simple. If you get a kill with the Lancer in Story Mode, your count doesn't go up, but if you do in Arcade mode your count goes up. Same with Horde Mode. However, none of these kills contribute to the medal for Lancer kills. The Bronze version of this medal is unlocked at 100 kills, yet you can get the execution, which requires 200 kills unlocked through three separate modes, where as you can only work for the medal in Versus mode. But wait! If you get the execution unlocked, you can still use it in Versus mode to help gain kills for your medal. Ribbons such as double kills and triple kills are available in all modes, except for Campaign mode, and certain Ribbons count towards medals regardless of the mode they are earned in. Why isn't their consistency across these unloackables?

Overall I would give this game a 9 out of 10. It is probably a strong contender for Game of the Year, but the holiday season is about to kick in. I will be playing this game for a while now, and I hope the community stays as active and as fun as it is right now.