Gears of War 3 multiplayer hands on

Yes, Gears of War 3’s Beast mode looks brilliant. As the Locust-themed counterpart to Horde, it adds layers of depth and replayability to Gears 3’s co-op offering. But what about competitive multiplayer? In Gears 2, it felt a bit rough around the edges, like it had taken a backseat to Horde. For Gears 3, the design team has not only added the requisite new maps, weapons and abilities, but also meticulously overhauled multiplayer’s infrastructure to create a more stable, streamlined and personalized experience. During a recent visit to Epic Games’ headquarters, I got to play the latest iteration of Gears 3’s competitive multiplayer and enjoy the many refinements firsthand. Here’s what I learned.   


The arsenal is more diverse

You would not be crazy to expect new guns in the sequel to a popular shooter. Most of these have been seen already, but this is the first time we've been able to actually, you know, use them on each other. Another update: each weapon now also has its own gratuitous execution move.

Retro Lancer
The Retro Lancer technically violates official Gears canon, but after your first successful Bayonet Charge that will become utterly irrelevant (if you even cared in the first place.)  The Bayonet Charge is like a weaponized Roadie Run, and is balanced by the fact that you need to take four or five steps to fully charge it up (a gratifying scream from your avatar lets you know it’s charged.) If you run into your target sooner, it acts like a basic melee hit.

Above: The Retro Lancer, aka the Pendulum Wars  Lancer, floating in an inky void

The Retro Lancer, ironically, is also one of the best defenses against the Bayonet Charge. Damage is dealt more like a shotgun, increasing dramatically as your target gets closer.  But unlike a shotgun, it has automatic fire (like a Lancer with a hell of a kick.) In practice it’s enough to stop a head-on charge, but from a flank or from behind, you're shishkebab.

Sawed-off Shotgun
The Sawed-off Shotgun is a risky proposition. It delivers a brutal one-shot kill but only at stupidly close range. It will also kill multiple enemies in that one shot, which is incredibly useful if they happen to, say, be huddled around an objective. The sawed-off shotty was especially effective for us in King of the Hill matches and for last-minute panic counters to people charging with the Retro Lancer or going for a Mantle Kick (the new move where you leap over cover and kick your enemy’s face in.) Pro tip: after shooting your load, switch immediately to your rifle and worry about reloading the shotty later. Unless you just took out the entire enemy team in one go, in which case, congrats.

The OneShot is a heavy sniper rifle that shoots through shields or cover for a, surprise, one shot kill. To prevent this from becoming a game-breaking super weapon, it has a very narrow field of view and takes forever to reload. Also, it projects a laser sight so everyone can see where you’re aiming. The OneShot was most effective when the team rallied around it in a defensible high ground. Otherwise, solo use was too risky.

Incendiary Grenade
The Incendiary Grenade explodes on contact like a Molotov cocktail, dousing everything around it in flames. This new grenade led to one of our favorite moments in the hands on: I’d just tossed an Incendiary Grenade into a group of Locust when a teammate charged in and landed a Bayonet Charge, skewering the burning baddie and lifting him up into the air. It was like toasting Locust marshmallows – delicious!

Digger Launcher
The Digger Launcher is a modified grenade launcher that fires a toothy little critter that burrows into the ground and then tunnels straight to the target, where he pops out and explodes like a frag grenade. It’s big plus was that it could easily take out enemies camped behind cover. There’s an especially gory animation if the Digger projectile hits your enemy BEFORE reaching the ground.

Everything old is new again

Gorgon SMG
Research definitively shows that the burst-firing Gorgon pistol is far and away the least-used weapon in Gears 2 multiplayer. Gears 3 does away with the pistol in favor of the Gorgon SMG, an automatic point-n-spray weapon that can be used with a shield. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try this myself in my too-brief play session but in the demo it looked like a huge improvement over the ho-hum pistol.

The Hammerburst’s biggest change is the addition of an iron sights mode, so you can look down the barrel when firing. Though still semi-auto, we found that it fired faster than the old Hammerburst when fanning the trigger and overall felt like a much more useful weapon than it was in Gears 2. I was able to rack up a lot of kills thanks to the iron sights and increased rate of fire.

The classic Lancer gets only a minor change, to the chainsaw. Now, there is only a small window during the initial rev-up during which you can interrupt the chainsaw. This makes it easier to get chainsaw kills, but don't worry too much about people running amok with saws raised above their heads. Its balanced out by the stopping power of the Sawed-off Shotgun  and the Retro Lancer, not to mention the new Bag and Tag move.  

Next page: Bag and Tag, and more of the new hotness 




  • BoltAction - November 17, 2010 9:04 p.m.

    The delay is a huge disappointment. Either way I still cannot wait for this game. Maybe another Carmine will die? Retro Lancer and One-Shot look boss. Gears of War 2 in my opinion wasn't a disappointment so I don't expect the 3rd game to be either. From screenshots, I would say 8.5 to 9 rating area. ~BoltAction~
  • presc1ence - October 11, 2010 1:01 p.m.

    hahahaha! fixing what didn't work in 2? you mean the multiplayer!lol! Serioulsy they should take a step back and make it good and fun AGAIN. All this ott belencing and trying to get new (read screamy halo/cod children) players just ruins/ed the game.I mean team deathmatch with respawning???WHY!!! JUST WHY!!!! I enjoy the fact that you have to be at least not a spaz to get a good go of the game. If your rubbish you just end up watchign the match. as you deserve!lol!
  • Cleanser247 - October 8, 2010 5:38 p.m.

    Once again, it looks like it's going to be great!
  • ArmTheBomb - October 8, 2010 3:18 a.m.

    Host migration and dedicated servers.... squeeee!
  • GamesRadarJoeMcNeilly - October 7, 2010 11:36 p.m.

    @PlainLikeVanilla I live to give ;)
  • batmanboy11 - October 7, 2010 11:30 p.m.

    I want to play it NOW!!!
  • PlainLikeVanilla - October 7, 2010 10:11 p.m.

    Thanks for adding the retro lancer pic :)
  • GamesRadarJoeMcNeilly - October 7, 2010 7:25 p.m.

    Re: Team Deathmatch - Most rounds ended up with both teams being down to "Warzone" mode (no more respawns) at the same time. Possibly due to just having very evenly matched sides, but it sure was nice to be able to respawn right back into the action rather than wait out the round.
  • GamesRadarJoeMcNeilly - October 7, 2010 7:16 p.m.

    @matt588 one of the guys from Epic told us that the Gorgon Pistol was by a wide margin the least used in multiplayer. they're really taking a hard look at what did and didn't work in Gears 2 and making changes/improvements accordingly. for me personally, iron sights on the hammerburst was the best update. racked up a lotta kills with it =)
  • CapNJunkie - October 7, 2010 6:33 p.m.

    Seriously, multiplayer for a game that is at least a year from release? Why do I care about this now? But I guess, let's start that hype train rolling! Woooo-woooo chuga-chuga... it's gonna be the most bad-assiest... chuga-chuga... oh some shit that won't make it to final release... chuga-chuga... did you see the new guns.... chuga-chuga... now it's delayed until first quarter 2012... Woooo-wooooooooo
  • MyNameIsMyName - October 7, 2010 6:02 p.m.

    Since there's 4player co-op I hope they have 4player teams in multiplayer. Like in one game mode there can be, Locust vs CoG vs Lambent vs (Whatever). 3 team mulitplayer could work as well.
  • matt588 - October 7, 2010 5:47 p.m.

    NOOOOO!! how could you not like the gorgon pistol? in single player and horde mode once i had it and a shield i was pratically in god mode, the only reason i had other weapons was in case something needed to be sniped/exploded/chainsawed. (ps i did read the article i'm just saying the gun was already great)
  • FETALJUICE - October 7, 2010 5:41 p.m.

    The delay makes me sad but this preview got me all pumped up again and I can't wait until this game comes out!!
  • batman5273 - October 7, 2010 5:37 p.m.

    So far everything sounds great. But it also sounded great when they said the same things about Gears 2 multiplayer, and it was shitty out of the box. It required 6 title updates to finally fix the major glitches and exploits. let's hope the Epic teams team learned from this embarrassment. Now the next announcement I want to hear is about a "Theater" mode.
  • n00b - October 7, 2010 3:56 p.m.

    "Team Deathmatch" will make its first appearance in the Gears universe, with teams drawing from a pool of 20 shared lives (up until the last few, at which point the endgame plays out like a classic Warzone match.) you always have to be different don't you epic? My biggest gripe with Gears 2 multiplayer was that there was no regular team-deathmatch with respawns. I was usually taken out quickly and had to wait till the match was over, which was boring. this new death match sounds even worse. i predict getting yelled at for using up all the lives. can't we have this as well as regular death match? is that so hard to do?
  • PlainLikeVanilla - October 7, 2010 3:24 p.m.

    So... No picture of what the retro lancer actually looks like?
  • Syncmaster - October 7, 2010 2:33 p.m.

    sounds awesome. hope you unlock stuff by playing coop as well, offline
  • NotBraze - October 7, 2010 1:45 p.m.

    Sounds absolutely fantastic! The only thing that worries me though, is the 20 life pool for each team in "Team Deathmatch." I don't get online that much because I'm only average at competitive multiplayer games and matchmaking never pairs me up with people that I'm on equal footing with, and I'm only average because I don't get online very much (it's a vicious cycle). I do enjoy playing online, even if I am losing, but a big turnoff is when some "L33T" asshole takes the game too seriously and starts giving me crap for not doing as well; if we're all pulling from the same pot of 20 lives, I can see that problem being even worse than usual in Gears 3. I can already hear the post-game lobby: "What the f***! Who the f*** is IllusionOfLife? You used five of our lives, and we lost the f***ing game because of you! What a f***ing n00b, just get the f*** out!" Sounds lovely…
  • WillisTron - October 7, 2010 1:25 p.m.

    I CANNOT WAIT for this game
  • Cain222 - October 7, 2010 1:24 p.m.

    Quite annoyed about the delay. Played Beast mode at Eurogamer expo and was good fun, wish they had the competitive multiplayer there too, but alas...the wait will continue...

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