It’s been three years. Long for the satisfying crunch of another man’s skull under your boot? Addicted to hearing your enemies scream as you burn them alive? In desperate need to use your chainsaw for something besides carpentry? You know what you need? NO, not another trip to the Catholic Church! You need Gears of War 3 all up in your Xbox! Gears is back and offers the same ball busting, gut spewing pleasure we all know and love. With a few additions like Beast Mode and four player co-op, this is a package bleeding at the sides with content. Gears of War 3 includes the longest campaign Epic has ever created, and the most refined multiplayer experience in the series. Get on your athletic cup. This installment is so good, you’ll feel like you got kicked in the nuts.
The campaign starts about 2 years after you sunk Jacinto at the end of the last game. The COG military has collapsed and everyone is doing their part to gather whatever supplies necessary to survive. You play Marcus Fenix once again and assemble a team to kick some locust ass all over the planet Sera. The story kicks off with a data disk Fenix receives from the former COG chairman. The disk holds a video message from his father saying he knows how to stop the locusts, and it has something to do with Imulsion (Sera’s version of oil and the cause of 80 years of world conflict before the locusts showed up). The most curious detail in the video comes from daddy Fenix looking older than when they thought he died. Marcus sets out to find his father and unravel the secret behind what he was talking about.
For the first time in the series, you can grab three friends and hop right into the campaign (Previous installments only allowed two player co-op). The feature is nice but I can’t help but think it was a bit of a wasted opportunity. The first Gears ushered in a new era of co-op, allowing players to work together in ways besides just splitting up enemies to shoot. One player could hold a spotlight on the other so he wouldn’t get devoured by the game’s night loving critters. Some levels had you taking separate paths to open doors for each other in order to progress. It was a type of co-op I hadn’t seen in shooters and couldn’t wait for more. I expected Gears of War 3 to carry exciting new sequences like this with four players, but the amount of split paths and separate jobs are dramatically less than before. You still split up sometimes, but it’s always 2 and 2. Where’s my cool X-Men moments that can only happen with four people helping each other out? The feature definitely feels like just a way to get four players into the campaign instead of an exciting new opportunity for fresh gameplay.
The single player still packs a punch (did I just say that?) and delivers quality set pieces and theaters of war that rival the best shooters out there. Every act is full of something memorable and screams for multiple play throughs. As if this wasn’t enough, Epic also crafted us the best Gears multiplayer experience to date. As soon as you’re done ripping through the story, you can duke it out in competitive multiplayer, crush some A.I. in Horde Mode, or crush even more A.I. in the brand new Beast Mode.
Competitive multiplayer is addicting and has definitely come a long way from the glitch heavy Gears of War 1. Everything seems smoother in general. Any online game is susceptible to connection problems and exploits, but Gears of War 3 has finally reached the industry standard in multiplayer lag. You can fight online across ten maps in 5 vs. 5 matches. The game doesn’t boast a huge number of multiplayer modes and none of them are overly unique. A few variations of death match, king of the hill, and capture the flag. Each one has a Gears spin on it, but none of them offer a set of rules that can’t be found anywhere else. The series has always fallen short on modes, but the matches play so well, it doesn’t hurt the online experience a great deal.
If player vs. player bores you, hop in to Horde where fifty waves of A.I. locusts are just dying to get their head blown off by you. The Horde Mode, first introduced in Gears of War 2, allows you and four friends to fight as soldiers against the A.I. locusts in waves. At wave fifty, the game ends and the victory chants ensue. In Gears of War 2, the explanation could pretty much stop there. In Gears of War 3, there’s a lot more at your disposal. There is now an entire economy to get lost in as you fight the good fight. Every enemy you kill in horde gives you money. Money buys defenses (turrets, spikes, ammo). Buying defenses unlocks more powerful ordinance over time. This adds a whole new level to Horde and keeps you coming back. Your unlocks carry over from match to match, so you’ll want to hop back in numerous times just to see every piece of equipment you can acquire. A new unlock is a new cool way to rip a locust apart.
A brand new mode called Beast allows you to do the same thing from a different perspective. You are a part of the locust horde, charging towards a group of defending soldiers with your grotesque brethren at your side. Kill every last human you see. Unfortunately, Beast mode isn’t nearly as robust as Horde and doesn’t really seem needed. There are only 12 waves and it doesn’t offer anywhere near the depth of any other feature in the game. Killing some humans with a few friends is all in good fun, but you won’t be coming back to this one often.
Gears of War 3 is a fantastic shooter. It boasts a quality campaign everyone should play, with an online component that will keep you engaged for months. With the promise of DLC, it’s likely you’ll keep this disc in your Xbox for a long time. It isn’t without its flaws. The co-op could have been better, online modes could have been more plentiful, and Beast mode felt like an afterthought. However, each one of these is instantly forgettable when you’re screaming at your friends and blasting away grunts until 4am. Buy Gears of War 3. Love Gears of War 3. Ignore all of life’s responsibilities. Instant bliss is guaranteed.