- Publisher: Microsoft
- Developer: Epic Games
- ESRB Rating: “M" For Mature
- Genre: Third-Person-Shooter
- Pros: Great presentation; satisfying end to the trilogy; excellent gameplay; tons of content; best campaign in the series
- Cons: Dramatic moments fall flat
Imulsion - the fuel that powered planet Sera - has poisoned the Locust and turned them into a new enemy called Lambent. Now, mankind has to fight not only the Locust, but also the Lambent, and the war hasn't been going well. Humans have been nearly wiped out and only survive on relatively small groups on ships or in forts. When a possible solution to the problem presents itself, series hero Marcus Fenix, along with familiar faces Dom, Baird, Cole, Carmine (a new one), and newcomers Anya Stroud, Samantha "Sam" Byrne and Jayson "Jace" Strattonplus set out to find it.
The game actually wraps up the overall story really well. It comes to a satisfying ending that actually feels like an ending. Over the course of the 8-10 hour campaign, it also does a good job of really showing the high price mankind has paid in the war and has some really stunning moments where the scale of the destruction really hits home. Scenes where Delta Squad members get their own little moments of reflection, however, don't work quite as well. It is hard to elicit an emotional reaction in a story when 99% of the time the focus is "kill, kill, kill, run, run, run". Trying to make us care about the characters enough in that remaining 1% that we have any sort of attachment just isn't enough time and, thus, the emotional moments fall flat.
The gameplay isn't changed much from past Gears of War titles. It is still a cover-based third-person-shooter with nifty weapons, solid controls, and is fun overall. Everything does seem a little tighter - roadie run feels better and the window for getting a perfect reload seems massive now - but the core of the gameplay is the same as always. Which is a good thing.
The campaign in Gears 3 is definitely our favorite of the trilogy. It is really consistently fun throughout and there aren't any chapters that really stand out as being bad like there are in the first two games. There are no overlong vehicle sections - you do man a turret a few times, but it never lasts long enough to stop being fun. There aren't any sudden difficulty spikes. Just a really well paced, fairly smooth ride to the end. The campaign covers a surprising amount of ground with rather varied terrain, and the last half of the game is particularly good in just how different it is from the rest of what we've seen in the Gears universe.
The campaign can be played in co-op with up to four players and that really is the best way to experience it. In a fun twist, the campaign also offers an "Arcade" mode where you rack up kills for points and try to get high scores. Also nice are a selection of unlockable mutators that make the game easier or harder, or sometimes just funnier. All of these things add solid replay value.
Horde mode returns with a few key enhancements. It is still five humans against waves of Locust, but now you can set up a "base" and buy turrets, fences, and other defenses to help you last longer. It adds a fun strategic element because your resources are limited and deciding what to buy and when to buy it really makes a difference in how long you last.
Beast mode is a new mode that is basically Horde, but you play as Locust instead of humans. After you select a Locust (all the way from little Tickers on up to much bigger and more dangerous ones) you have a minute to kill all of the humans on the map. Destroying their base defenses adds time to your clock, so finding and destroying everything and everyone as quickly as possible is the name of the game. Choosing the right Locust character for the given situation is also important.
The crown jewel of Gears of War 3 is the Versus mode where up to ten players can hook up for some multiplayer action. There are ten maps and the modes are tried-and-true favorites like Team Deathmatch, Warzone, Execution, and Capture the Leader. Gears multiplayer is fun and interesting because it is paced completely differently from most other online multiplayer games. It is slower and more methodical and getting kills (particularly Executions) are especially satisfying.
Easily the best part about all of Gears 3's co-op and multiplayer offerings is that you can use A.I. bots in all of them and the bots actually put up a decent fight.
The game also has a great reward system where you earn XP and level up no matter what you're doing - campaign, beast, horde, or multi - where you earn new character skins and other stuff. Very nice.
Visually, Gears of War 3 is right up there among the best looking games on the Xbox 360. The environments are detailed and look nice with particularly good lighting effects. There is still quite a bit of gray and brown in the color palate, but the last few chapters make up for it.
The sound is also very good overall. Solid voice acting, great sound effects, and awesome music (including an awesome use of an infamous theme from Gears 1). What more do you need.
There is little doubt in our minds that Gears of War 3 is the best in the series. The campaign is great and is a satisfying end to the overall story. The presentation is top notch. The versus multiplayer has been fixed with most of the complaints gamers had about Gears 2's multi cleaned up. And Horde and Beast modes add their own unique fun. Better yet, you can play everything with bots if you don't want to bother playing with jerks on Xbox Live. The game has a ton of high quality content that you can enjoy online or off and a great reward system that lets you open up new stuff no matter what game mode you favor - not just online like most other shooters. All in all, Gears of War 3 is a highly polished, fun, feature packed title that is easy to recommend for a purchase.