Gears of War 3 multiplayer hands on

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually...

Gears 3’s new competitive modes take the best of Gears 2’s offerings and recombine them based on the best parts of each (and loads of playtest research.) For example, the new “Capture the Leader” mode is a Guardian/Submission mashup with a bit of extra flavor added. The enemy leader is effectively a “meatflag,” and he must be held for 30 seconds. During special windows of opportunity the leader can fight back and try to break free, which immobilizes the captor and gives the team a better chance for a kill.  The leader also gets a special tactical view of the map, allowing him to see where enemies are located.

“King of the Hill” combines Annex and King of the Hill modes, with alterations to enhance the flow of gameplay. The hill moves on a timer, and once captured your team doesn’t have to stay inside it to continue owning it. You’re free to fan out and find better defense points. A subtle but important change to the HUD shows the score in percentage points, giving you a clearer idea of how close a team is to winning. And finally, spawn points are more diversified to accelerate the action and prevent camping.

"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.) Epic expects this to become the default go-to multiplayer game.

Importantly, the names of the new match types are now actually descriptive rather than baffling (ie, “Submission” is vague and conceptual, while “Capture the Leader” tells you directly what the hell you’ll be doing.) Warzone and Execution modes will carry over from Gears 2 just as they are, as they are the most loved by current players.

Heal thyself

Above: Forget prayer, mash A to heal

I’ve already mentioned the Mantle Kick and Bayonet Charge, but there are a couple other new abilities will be available in Gears 3. The Bag & Tag move enables you to stick a grenade on your meatshield and shove it away from you, creating a nifty makeshift bomb. Self-reviving, which is currently only available in Execution mode, will be available in all of multiplayer. But the biggest change is Spotting, which places a small icon above the enemy’s head for all your teammates to see.  In action, it was most effective when a spotter coordinated with a teammate carrying a sniper rifle or heavy weapon like a Hammer of Dawn or Mortar. Spotting also added to the sense of teamwork that has always pervaded Gears multiplayer. To prevent unbalancing the game, flags disappear after just a few seconds.

Experience points are here to stay

Above: Thrashball Cole, one of the unlockable MP character skins

Experience points and challenges, all the rage in shooters these days, are fully integrated into Gears 3’s multiplayer. Leveling up unlocks new character and weapon skins, medals, titles, the elaborate weapon-specific executions mentioned earlier, and a grip of new goodies called Mutators. Mutators enable players to “mod” their Gears 3 experience to make it either easier, harder or sillier. Mutators can only be activated in co-op games, one per player (though the host decides which ones to activate for everyone.) Some of the silly Mutators on offer are big heads, big feet, and pitched-up voices, which when combined create a “Toddler Mode” (not its official name!) During special community events, the Gears team will offer competitive Mutator variants but otherwise, it’s co-op only.

Above: Just one of many unlockable Lancer skins 

The map is not the territory

Above: Cleanup on aisle 3, please (the Checkout map)

We played on five different multiplayer maps, each with its own unique look and feel. Dynamic, world-altering events punctuate the wartorn environs. On the Trenches map, a sand storm blows in and reduces visibility to zero. On Overpass, successive earthquakes cause the map to tilt and sink into the ground. The maps we played felt larger than many classic Gears maps, with more opportunities to add medium to long range fighting to the mix.

Above: Relive Cole's glory days on the Thrashball map - the scoreboard actually works till someone shoots it down!

Gooey GUI

“Usability” doesn’t sound all that sexy, but the devil, as they say, is in the details. Menus, interfaces, party formation and the in-game tac/com have been overhauled to make the game more fluid and accessible. We’re all for knocking down the barriers between the menus and the carnage. A little reorganization goes a long way! Though mostly invisible to the player, host migration and dedicated servers will also improve the multiplayer experience. One very visible (and valuable) change to the tac/com is that it shows weapon spawn locations in addition to your allies' positions.

Parting shots

Above: Sam, one of the ass-kicking new female Gears

In many ways, competitive multiplayer in Gears 3 is taking a back-to-fundamentals approach, building on Gears 2’s best ideas while aggressively going after problem areas. The manipulation of cover – the Mantle Kick goes over it, the Digger Launcher goes under it, the OneShot goes through it – is a key theme, and adds to the feeling that you’re playing a strategic chess game and a twitchy shooter at the same time. Along with co-op juggernauts Beast and Horde, there’s a lot to be excited about.

Oct. 7, 2010




  • 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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