Gears of War 3 Xbox 360
Published by Microsoft Studios
Developed by Epic Games
What remains to be said about the Gears of War series? The excellent cover-based third-person shooter series from Epic Games not only managed to fill the hole left by the lack of a Halo title in the early stages of the Xbox 360's life but also went on to become one of the most memorable games of this console generation. A superb sequel cemented the series' place in gaming history and it's no surprise that at the time of writing (with the game having been on sale for just a week) three million copies have already been sold and the series has already brought in $1 billion.
Most likely, your first port of call in Gears of War 3 is going to be the campaign to see how events play out for Marcus Fenix and the other members of Delta Squad. Events for Marcus get off to a particularly strange start as he learns that his father, whom he thought had been killed long ago, is indeed alive. What makes this even more bizarre is that the news is delivered to him by Chairman Prescott who once deserted the COG and now picks a choice moment to return much to the irritation of the Delta Squad. I won't go into any other details for fear of spoiling what is the best campaign in the series except to say that as well as playing as Fenix, there are times when you'll play as Augustus Cole in events that run parallel to those you play as Fenix.
One of the great things about the campaign, which plays out over five acts, is that it manages to successfully tie up loose ends and leaves you feeling as though the storyline has been resolved. That's not to say there is no way there could be further games in the series but they would certainly have to be along a different story arc. Epic Games deserve credit for this because far too many games of late appear to be giving us an ending to a saga that doesn't feel like an ending and which leaves far too many unanswered questions. It's also worth mentioning that the campaign does an excellent job of accommodating both beginners and series veterans with its various difficulty settings and regardless of your experience with the series, you'll find a difficulty level that's challenging but never overwhelming.
The storyline in the Gears of War 3 campaign manages to successfully blend thrilling action with emotion and a smattering of sentiment and is genuinely interesting from start to finish. If that wasn't enough, you can add some extra spice to the campaign experience by playing in Arcade mode. Arcade mode adds competition scoring to the campaign experience. You are essentially awarded points for kills and other things as you attempt to fill your multiplier meter and earn higher scores. There are also a few modifiers in play too, which really help to freshen up the campaign experience for additional plays through. It's certainly a campaign that you're going to want to play through numerous times and that can only be a good thing particularly as the campaign offers support for two players locally (via split-screen) and four players online. In fact playing the campaign with other players definitely adds an extra level of satisfaction to the experience. That's not to say that your AI comrades aren't adept however, indeed they certainly get the job done, but the multiplayer experience is where Gears of War 3 really shines.
As you'd expect, the Gears of War 3 multiplayer experience goes far beyond co-op play in the campaign however. Whether you have a preference for co-operative or competitive play, the game has you covered. Don't expect the multiplayer experience to have changed a great deal but that's not really a disappointment when you consider that the series has certainly been memorable for its multiplayer experience. There's support for 10 players and modes include King of the Hill, Team Deathmatch, Warzone, Execution and Capture the Leader amongst others. The Horde co-op mode allows five players to take on increasingly difficult waves of enemies and offers a slightly refined experience from the same mode in Gears of War 2. With every tenth wave comes a boss fight to freshen up the experience. The Beast mode is a new addition to the series and allows five players to team up and play as the Locust forces which certainly offers a welcome change of perspective. A tutorial for Beast mode would certainly have been welcome however.
Whether you're interested in Gears of War 3 for the single or multiplayer experience (or both of course) what really matters is the quality of the combat and here the game does not disappoint. If you're a series veteran the chances are that you've already come across most of the weapons you'll find here but that doesn't mean you won't find them any less satisfying. The game still puts an emphasis on cover-based combat and it's just as gripping as before. The controls feel tight and the most natural of any console shooter I've experienced to date. The ultimate compliment I can pay however is that at no point did I find myself wishing I was using a keyboard and mouse, which is certainly something that does occur quite often when playing a console shooter.
Visually speaking, I don't think there can be any doubt that Gears of War 3 is the best looking game on the Xbox 360. The first game in the series was visually impressive and it's surprising that Epic have managed to eke out even more of the console's hardware. The war-ravaged environments in the game look stunning and the character models and those of enemies you'll face, particularly those of the behemoths look absolutely fabulous. A special mention must also be given for the sheer amount of variety in the enemies you'll face. This isn't a game where the same characters and creature models have been used over and over again. Care has been taken to ensure the enemies are as memorable as the game itself and the experience is all the richer because of it. The frame rate is mostly smooth although there are points when dips are noticeable but thankfully these are never detrimental to the experience. You can also enjoy the game in 3D if you have a compatible TV set.
Gears of War 3 is subtitled so you'll be able to enjoy the game's rather satisfying campaign mode. The 'Previously on Gears of War' video that you can watch to catch up on events prior to the game is also subtitled which is pleasing although to be honest it serves more as a refresher rather than being useful for those who have no prior knowledge of the series. If there's one criticism to be made of the subtitling it's that there are no speaker names placed alongside the dialogue to make it crystal clear who is saying what. For the most part this isn't a problem but there are times when the speaker is off screen and it's not always obvious who is speaking. There aren't any captions in the game to make you aware of enemies who are about to come upon you but in fairness you are almost constantly prepared to engage in battle so it's not that much of a problem. Objectives are shown in text and you are made aware when an objective has been completed. An indicator is shown to highlight the general direction you should be heading to complete the objective, which is useful in those times when intense conflict may make you feel a little disorientated. You're also notified in text when checkpoints have been reached so you'll know when your progress has been saved (for those rare moments when you have to go and do something else instead).
Gears of War 3 in many ways had a difficult job. The first two games in the series were something special but human nature being what it is, we all expect sequels to be even better. Thankfully Epic Games were more than up to the task and have managed to make the third game in the series the ultimate Gears of War experience. Everything about the game feels as though it's been honed almost to the point of perfection and without a doubt it's arguably the finest third-person shooter on any platform. Naturally, for fans of the series the game is a must but even those with the slightest fancy for playing a third-person shooter owe it to themselves to experience what is definitely one of the best games to date on the Xbox 360.