Thursday, 7 February 2013

Replay: Gears of War 3 Review

The Gears of War trilogy is one of my favourite trilogies of all time. Though the second game suffered from sub-par multiplayer, it took the strengths of the first game's story and added to them, whilst removing its weaknesses and introducing Horde mode. Fortunately the third game follows on with this progress, giving the best story mode the trilogy has and adding Beast mode to Horde mode whilst also fixing the numerous issues that Gears 2 had with its multiplayer.

The story of Gears 3 picks up after the end of 2, with a brief Pre-start menu cut scene that explains that Chairman Prescott left, COG collapsed and the survivors are split on land and sea and are faced with the threat of the Lambent. Marcus and co. are one of the groups living out at sea and after a couple of early surprises are sent on a mission right into the mainland, traversing land, sea and air to finish the war for mankind's survival on Sera once and for all. The story is at times cheesy and predictable but even at its most predictable it manages to grip you and evoke an attachment to the characters that few games can boast. You really feel the hardships that they endure on this final mission and you get the sense that these people are really experiencing what's going on. This is a near perfect example of how to balance emotion with bravado, narrative with shootouts and player emotion with character emotion. Without a doubt this is the best Gears story yet.

The storyline itself is cemented by an astoundingly good script. There are plenty of Baird's jokes, plenty of Cole's cockiness and plenty of Marcus being a badass hero but at the same time there are moments of real emotion and a sense of despair versus hope. This is pretty much a training course in how to write an action script that has some depth to it.

Fortunately the quality of the gameplay is on par with the story. The core system is the same but everything has been perfected, switching from cover, going for a Roadie Run and tagging Grubs with grenades has never felt better. Add in the new Lambent enemies to the mix, as well as a perfect blend of vehicle and on foot segments, and the campaign plays as an experience that is both fresh and familiar, like your favourite pair of shoes or your blanket you go to sleep under. This can also be said of the multilayer which features all of the standard Gears modes, as well as more typical modes like Team Deathmatch but has also added beast mode, a version of Horde mode where you are the Locust instead of the humans. The use of dedicated servers ensures that the gameplay remains smooth online and it all adds together to provide both the best online and offline gameplay the series has seen.

Graphics and sound wise the game is also the best in the trilogy. There is an over reliance on browns and greys but the engine is so good that even they don't seem dull or boring. Sure some more colour would be nice occasionally but I think overall the palette suits the setting. The character models are crazily well detailed which provides even more depth to the emotion driven story. Marcus' eyes glisten with sadness, his brow furrows in rage and his grin grows in amusement. There were a handful of glitchy textures but aside from that the graphics were done perfectly. The 360 may not have the strongest hardware but that seems irrelevant when its games look this damn good. The sound for the game is also top notch, with the soundtrack perfectly complementing the events in the game with orchestral swells and quiet strings when necessary. The voice acting is also incredible but it alway has been so there's no surprise there.

With the classic multiplayer modes finally fixed and working thanks to the servers, the Horde and Beast mode and the genre defining campaign, Gears of War 3 sets the standard for third person shooters and delivers one of the best gaming packages to have come out in years. Xbox owner or not you definitely need to experience this game.

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