After getting in touch with one of the game reviewers over at BCS's Game Reviews and Previews department, we're pleased to announce that we're going to be co-hosting some of their reviews over at Blueprint: Review. Our games coverage has been a bit sparse of late other than the wonderful 30 Minute Gamers Podcast, so I'm excited to see it get a shot in the arm. Keep visiting the site to see more.
Format reviewed: Xbox 360
Other Formats available: None
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
For once we’re not sighing and rolling our eyes at another sequel churned out just for the sake of it. Indeed, this infamous Xbox 360 exclusive franchise has managed to avoid overexposure by releasing instalments at respectable intervals of 2006, 2008 and September 2011.
So now it's time to ‘gear’ up again and lead Marcus Fenix and co through the final act of the Gears of War trilogy.
It’s hard to ignore the impact that Gears of War has had on the Xbox 360 gaming community. Proudly rubbing shoulders with the likes of Call of Duty and Halo for online popularity, as well as delivering a solid chunk of campaign. We can assure you now that Gears of War 3, with some unavoidable exceptions, has managed to outdo its prequels on every level.
Developer Epic Games has admitted that, with Gears of War 2, it went a bit overboard with set pieces in the campaign. So much so that, in our opinion, the actual gameplay bits in-between felt like irksome treks to the next huge event.
This has been addressed with Gears 3 and, along with the fact that each of the main characters has a story to tie up (we are to assume that this is the final Gears, after all), there is a lot more on-the-ground interaction between the COG soldiers themselves and, of course, vicious enemies such as the locust horde, the lambent and...well... to say anything more would spoil the surprise.
Also new are a host of weapons such as the retro lancer, with a huge bayonet as opposed to a chainsaw. Doesn’t sound as exciting, but wait ‘til you get to ‘bayonet charge’ an enemy and see the resulting animation. There’s also the ‘one shot’ which, as it suggests, kills almost anything with one locked-on shot. Returning favourites are the standard issue lancer, and who could forget the awesome satellite-based Hammer of Dawn?
We’ve made solemn promises to Microsoft Studios not to reveal too much about the campaign, and we’re going to stick to them. Needless to say, it’s worth playing all the way through to the end, on your own or now with up to three co-op companions, even if you are thinking of investing in this mainly for the multiplayer.
Speaking of which, we’re quite frankly blown away by how comprehensively well-crafted the whole multiplayer aspect of Gears is. They’re signing out in style by delivering a shedload of maps straight out of the box, with all the usual multiplayer modes.
Level design is as exceptional as usual and we can happily report that weapon balancing seems to be just right this time round, with loadout choice being down to personal preference, rather than which is the most unevenly weighted in your favour (which is of course what everyone else would end up picking).
Horde Mode has been given an overhaul, and not to its detriment either, deftly avoiding that 'but nobody was complaining about it!' kickback in the process.
Instead of just holding out in corners, tactically picking off increasing waves of Locust and Lambent, Horde 2.0 allows you and your team to purchase one of several strongholds as a base, which you can then strengthen with further defences through cash earned via kills.
It’s such a simple concept and yet really adds heaps to an already outstanding game mode. And of you don’t fancy the idea of a stronghold, don’t buy one. Horde works perfectly well if you want to play it like you used to in Gears 2.
Lastly, in case all of this isn’t enough, you can now play Beast Mode, which is basically Horde Mode with the tables turned, and you take control of the bad guys, taking down increasingly powerful waves of invading humans.
There are no strongholds here but money earned allows you to purchase and control increasingly ferocious creatures such as berserkers, or some of the newly released models, such as the badass Kantus Knight.
It’s hard to find a negative about Gears of War 3. They’ve addressed every issue from previous games (the graphics are now smoother, more varied and beautifully detailed) and improved upon every aspect that was already working just fine. The one thing we would have to mention is the occasional storyline plateau and drop in pacing, but when you’re tying up individual character threads in a final farewell, this sort of thing is inevitable.
Gears of War 3 is, in short, a return to form for Epic Games to deliver a stunning climax to this blockbusting, backbreaking, brilliant battle between the forces of good and evil.
Review by MarketZero