Gears of War 3 the (apparent) final entry in Epics blockbuster trilogy is pretty a much a by the numbers sequel. It retains the strengths of the first two games in the series, tweaks a few minor things to make the overall experience more enjoyable, yet still has the flaws that will supply series haters with ammunition to condemn it. However given the stellar foundation that the game has a by the numbers sequel isn't actually a bad thing.
With Epic focusing on Gears already existing fan base and essentially just refining and tweaking minor flaws we have been given an entry that is sure to deliver for longtime fans of the series, but will do little to convert those who've already written it off. Those who've already written it off however are missing out on one of the most polished and for lack of a better term badass games released during this console generation.
The story has never been the main draw of G.O.W, and things aren't any different this time around. Oh sure Epic tries to darken the atmosphere. Jacinto has sunk, the C.O.G. is no more, and the titular Gears are little more than scavengers who now reside on boats and forage their food from ghost towns. Right and it resolves the issue of Marcus's dad who's apparently returned from the dead,,,, but the problem is that I don't care. The script and the voice actors both fail to convincingly deliver and the emotional aspect of the story ultimately doesn't have the impact I'm sure the developers hoped it would.
The voice actors on the other hand do a much better job spouting off hilarious one liners, than they do showing the grief caused by the death of a loved one. That's typical for the series though, after all Cole Train didn't exactly become one of my favorite game characters because of his depth. Character development happens abruptly with one character taking their life after showing no previous signs of depression, while a late game possible romance that springs up unexpectedly goes nowhere.
We (I) don't play Gears for the narrative however, we play Gears to kick alien ass with futuristic weaponry, in some of the most gruesome ways possible. On that front the series succeeds although no moments from the campaign are as iconic as the death of Kim or Tais suicide via gnasher. The gameplay on the other hand perfectly encapsulates the series and I can only describe it as near perfect.
By stripping away the brumak wrangling and tank riding the developers at Epic managed to focus on the core gunplay of the series and it is now tighter then ever. Subtle tweaks include the ability to kick people in the face as you jump over cover or mark your enemies for your teammates to see. While seemingly minor on their own they add up to make Gears 3 the most satisfying entry and it is one of the few games around that can make you actually forget about the controller in your hands. It's just that good.
A few new weapons such as the highly advertised retro lancer and the sawed-off shotgun show up but don't be surprised if you don't find the new toys holding your attention for long. The Gears arsenal has always been well rounded and these new additions don't really stand out from the crowd, but at the least they also don't unbalance the game. And to be fair decorating the end of your bayonet with an enemies corpse after a well placed retro run does have a certain thrill to it.
The level design also improves from Gears 2 although it fails to match the brilliance of the original. Gears 2 spent far too much time underground and did nothing to help against the claims that Gears only has three colors in it's palette; brown, black, and slightly darker black. Gears 3 doesn't return to the Locust tunnels and contains much more shades of blues and greens than both of it's predecessors combined. One underwater sequence in particular is visually breathtaking and secures Epics place as developers of some of the most graphically stunning games out there. Destroyed beauty has been a constant theme in Gears and the third game in the series has it in spades.
Multiplayer has always played a huge part of Gears success and it stands up to the series pedigree. Co-op allows you to play through the campaign with up to three friends and is very flexible even allowing each player to have their own difficulty setting. Horde Mode sets you up as the Gears on a multiplayer map to hold off the Locust horde while you upgrade your bases and fortifications between rounds. Beast mode has you stepping into the Locusts's shoes (do they wear shoes?) and finally wield the power of a beserker... or a ticker depending. Both of these modes allow up to four friends to join in on the fun and they add tons of replay value as you attempt to climb the leaderboards.
Competitive multiplayer lets ten players chainsaw and boomshot the snot out of each other on a dozen maps each excellently crafted although Bullet Marsh stands as my personal favorite purely for aesthetic purposes. The gametypes feature perennial Gears favorites such as execution and warzone while adding in the sole new (yet most standard of all modes) Team Deathmatch. The different game modes aren't what make Gears online experience though. The silky smooth gameplay along with new dedicated servers provide us with a multiplayer experience that's finally on par with the Halos and CODs of the world.
Gears 3 is a high mark in the Gears series and for the third person shooter genre as a whole. The best cover system in gaming, matched with some of the most satisfying and brutal gunplay currently available make Gears 3 a must have for anybody who enjoys shooting loads of bad guys in the face. The story won't move you and the plot twist won't bend your mind but the gameplay will glue your eyes to the screen and the joystick to your fingers. And in the end isn't that all that matters?