Genre: Action Developer: Epic Games Publisher: Microsoft Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 20th Sep 2011 Platforms:
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This is the moment fans have been waiting for since Emergence Day in 2006. After a long campaign the third chapter of Marcus Fenix and his band of brothers draws to a close. Make no mistake. This is the final curtain and easily the best incarnation of this ground breaking franchise to date.
After using an orbital laser known as The Hammer of Dawn to try and eradicate the underground Locust menace threatening the colonised world of Sera, humanity has paid a heavy toll. Most major cities have been decimated, remaining ruined husks of what were once vibrant and high populated metropolises. Fighting a losing battle, governments and the military are in complete disarray with pockets of resistance mounting an almost hopeless assault against an overwhelming menace.
The gravity of the COG’s - and mankind’s - predicament has heavily affected these battle-hardened warriors, all of them suffering from the constant onslaught. There’s a sensitivity and melancholy which filters through the entire campaign, with a heavy price paid for mere survival. Dom is still grief-stricken by the loss of his wife and even the enigmatic Cole longs for better days when a trip down memory lane after a firefight has him longing for his lost Thrashball glory. This is no all out military assault, but a last ditch effort against two overwhelming enemies hell-bent on mankind’s eradication.
If the ordinary every day Locusts living deep within Sera’s bowels weren’t enough to deal with, fans will finally get to take on several Brumaks (awwww yeah!) and a dangerous new foe birthed from the rich fuel source - Imulsion - known as the Lambent. Once infected by Lambent stalks - pulsating with Imulsion - Locust are transformed into more powerful versions of themselves, exploding in death with their life’s blood damaging much like a Xenomorph's acid blood. Even your trusty chainsaw bayonet doesn’t get you off scot-free, with characters still taking damage after expertly filleting Lambent into steaks.
After hinting at it for two sequels, four-player co-op is finally on the board - as are female lead/playable characters - giving Gears 3 a different third perspective (wink wink) from the previous bromantic sausage-fests. A decrypted message from Adam Fenix - Marcus’ long absent scientist father - springs the COG into action as they mount a rescue mission to recover him and any research data on the enemy they can use to their advantage.
If you’ve ever played Gears of War before, you’ll feel at home with the controls in all of about fifteen seconds. The all purpose action button continues to lead the charge, letting you effortlessly move about the battlefield. A vault-kick has been added to the repertoire (which can be devastatingly followed up with a shotgun blast to ze face if you’re quick on the trigger), but that’s not all Epic Games has in its bag of tricks.
Armoury upgrades include the One-shot rifle that takes down enemies exactly as its name describes, the Sawed-off shotgun for up close and personal pacification, the Retro Lancer with a nasty looking bayonet - as well as all the other death dealing devices we’ve come to know and love over the years. The Silverback exo-suit makes its debut and has oh-so-many wonderful ways to bring the pain. If machine guns are a little too disco for you, you can clamp that puppy down and fire rockets that satisfyingly turn any enemy type with an “L” into minced meat clusters. It also doubles as a handy cover option in co-op - and can quickly turn the tide of any skirmish.
While making my way through the single-player portion, I was a little dubious of what the friendly AI would have to offer, given that most of the time you pray they actually do hit something and spend most of your time wishing you had friendly fire to get the useless bastards disguised as ‘squad mates’ out of your way. That feeling dissipated quickly after the opening volleys were fired. They’ll intelligently use cover, take out enemies and will even execute downed Locusts. Artificial Intelligents? The hell you say!
On the whole the game looks, runs and plays smooth as silk, though there were occasional rendering issues (almost a trademark of the Unreal Engine) as well as slight audio sync discrepancies at times. Complimenting the sexified visuals is the strong voice-acting cast, with John DiMaggio, better known for his work as the lovable rogue robot Bender from Futurama, taking point. He’s ably backed up by Lester “Terry Tate” Speight as Augustus Cole the irrepressible ex-Thrashball man-child, Gears fanatic Ice-T as the abrasive and abusive Griffin and a dose of local talent thrown in for good measure.
Leading the charge for girl power is Australian Claudia Black as Sam Byrne, who thankfully doesn’t reinforce the “ocker” stereotype. She adds quite a bit of playful banter with Baird and is more than up to the task with a deep sci-fi and gaming pedigree, playing characters in Crysis, the Stargate TV series and of course, reprising her role as Chloe Frazer in the upcoming Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
There were no latency issues in co-op and the considerable multiplayer content will ensure countless hours of awesomeness. Horde Mode makes a return where you fight wave after wave of Locust and Lambent enemy types with up to four other soldiers of fortune. The new twist is the inclusion of barricades, barriers, decoys and spawn points adding an element of classic tower defence to the frantic gameplay.
Beast Mode turns Horde on its head with you fighting against the COG working your way up from exploding Ticker to crazed Berserker, though there’s no playable Brumak in the mix… yet. As the recent beta proved, the multiplayer is just as fun as ever with tight maps and weapon position knowledge the key to victory with a nod to classic old school gaming rather than a perk riddled XP based system (thank god).
Gears of War 3 is the absolute business. It plays extremely well on your own, as part of a co-op experience or if you’ve got the minerals to jump online and leave your mark. The 10-12 hour campaign is a fitting swansong to the series and the multiplayer offers a refreshing change to the modern military slew of first-person shooters soon to descend upon us. Get into it.