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Gears of War 3 review

AT A GLANCE
  • Campaign’s intense action and ferocious enemies
  • Brutal yin and yang of Horde and Beast modes
  • Quality and diversity evident in every multiplayer map
  • Occasionally too predictable and too familiar story
  • Your kill-stealing, glory-hogging AI partners
  • Hanging out with Ice-T instead of Cole, Dom or Baird

We won’t tease you for longer than this sentence – Gears of War 3 is awesome. The campaign is epic, with action sequences that are more intense, weapons that are more powerful, enemies that are more formidable and heroes that are more relatable than ever before. The multiplayer is extremely generous, with a horde of new maps and new modes that are instant classics, as well as perfectly suitable for either competition or cooperation, experts or beginners. All aspects considered, this is a spectacular shooter.

Gears of War 3, however, is not just another shooter. This is the end to a trilogy, the final (for now) chapter in one of this console generation’s defining franchises. As such, it arrives with a lot of lofty expectations. Fans want much more than an awesome game. They want the absolute best game in the series, and a satisfying conclusion to the story they’ve invested in for half a decade. By those high yet not unreasonable standards, Gears of War 3 falls short – only by a little, but enough to affect our score and our discussion. First, though, the awesome…

An epic campaign

Remember your climactic battle against a screen-smothering sea monster near the very end of Gears of War 2? Well, that guy shows up less than half an hour into Gears of War 3, chomps down on the deck of your island-sized warship and can only be defeated with the help of a near-indestructible, rocket-fitted mech suit. In other words, this campaign is crazy ambitious. While the length is pretty much the same as previous entries, the scale is anything but, and creatures that once qualified as game-finishing bosses now appear routinely in the middle of missions, often demanding you defeat them with nothing more than the weapons at hand.

Brumaks as big as Tyrannosaurs? We lost count of how many we faced. Corpsers that make the spider in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings seem downright cuddly? They show up in multiple forms, from burrowing baby to seriously pissed-off mommy. Berserkers, the charging bulls of the Gears universe? Upgraded to leave trails of poisonous acid in their wake. Even regular enemies are scarier and nastier than before – the new breeds of Lambent Locust don’t just die when you shoot them, they explode into nightmarish second lives, full of squirmy tentacle arms and decapitated head snakes, requiring you to kill them all over again. It’s wild and it’s intense.

Most of the missions and weapons are equally so, as if the developers behind Gears of War 3 know this is a last hurrah and want to throw every idea they’ve ever brainstormed, no matter how large or how ludicrous, into the game. You’ll vaporize opponents with a single blast of the One Shot rifle. You’ll bayonet them like kabob sticks with the Retro Lancer. You’ll hijack a blimp and dogfight other blimps across a missile-streaked sky. You’ll sit in a submarine’s turret bubble, hunting alien fish beasts and watching sunken BioShock-esque cities float by. You’ll launch huge catapults at huger targets a mile across the map, following the trajectory of your fiery, fleshy ammunition through a high-speed first-person perspective. You’ll visit everything from military bases to suburban supermarkets, from a city made of ash to a city made of money.

And that “everything must go!” vibe extends to the characters as well. No, we’re not saying they all die (we’re not not saying that, either, of course) – what we mean is that, since this is a final act, nearly everyone gets at least one moment in the story to shine. Marcus Fenix is still the hero, but fan favorite Cole Train is the star of four heartwarming chapters, Dom’s search for closure with his wife Maria is featured prominently, and Baird actually comes across as lovable, or at least likable, by the end. Anya and new female lead Sam bring some welcome diversity to the squad, while Carmine brings unexpected badass-ery. Heck, you’ll probably even root for generically gruff Colonel Hoffman.

What falls short, then? Why isn’t Gears of War 3 the best game in the franchise? Read on to the next page...

More Info

Release date: Sep 20 2011 - Xbox 360 (US)
Sep 20 2011 - Xbox 360 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Published by: Microsoft
Developed by: Epic Games
Franchise: Gears of War
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language

89 comments

  • onyx precursers - March 26, 2012 12:19 a.m.

    this game is freak-in awesome the beta rocked the only thing is my profile data recently reset me back to level one for no reason it has taken me 4 months to get back up to my rank with a least 10 of my 15 onyx medals i would love to know how to fix this
  • dell215 - October 2, 2011 5:09 a.m.

    Well idk about everyone on here but,as far as the story goes,its a good one but not great,but the multiplayer features alone make this the best 3rd person shooter ever,now as far as comparing gears 3 and resistance 3,ima leave that subject alone cause I'm not a fanboy,I played both games,and they both offer something some what different,besides this gears is 3rd person shooter and should not be compared to resistance 3 at all,its stupid to compare them,what you fanboys should all do is rejoice in the fact that your living in this time and playing great games and please stop all the stupid and useless comments,and just play your games and have fun,I could tell you which game I liked more,but will you listen?,hell no you won't,cause mostlikely your a fanboy and you only want to hear or read what you want so what's the point,just have fun playing your games and stop all this hate towards games especially if you haven't even gave the game a chance and played it for yourself,play it first before you judge it,trust me you will enjoy it,you probably won't admit it,but YOU WILL ENJOY IT!
  • gilgamesh310 - September 29, 2011 1:12 p.m.

    Darkwun, they are design choices but they are design choices that sap a lot of fun out of games. The regenerating heal, cover shooting mechanic and weapon limits are mainstream stallwarts of this generation and any game that doesn't have them is better off.
  • eric-tha-don - September 27, 2011 2:28 a.m.

    gears of war sucks. and with that conclusion..i dont deserve to live.
  • Darkwun - September 24, 2011 6:07 a.m.

    Those are design choices, they hardly make it an inferiorgame. They're both great games that cater to a different audience but that can be enjoyed by many who are open to both concepts. GR did well to avoid a fanboy war, people like F*CK just cater to the bull that one game HAS to better than the other. Reviews exist to give an informed opinion of a game of which to base your purchases on. Not to give fanboys ammunition
  • Darkwun - September 23, 2011 4:10 a.m.

    Great review but I wish I never read it! strayed too close to spoiler territory, and though the twists were obvious, it's a little different to have suspicions yourself about certain plot occurences, than have them pretty much confirmed in the review so your damn well EXPECTING them to happen rather than just thinking "I bet it will." kinda ruined the immersion of the moment! Lets face it, anyone in their right mind is going to know who you're talking about rom the review so it's pretty much a downright confirmation! It was further marred by my new housemate talking over the scene... EFF OFF MAN! Gears doesn't have many deep scenes, stop pulling me out of the game! he then decided to do it AGAIN at the unexpected death... a hole. On the whole I preferred the campaign over Gears 1 & 2. Marcus' character was more 3D, the story had more depth and they even managed to squeeze a Koehler's gun moment in there. Actual plot techniques in a Gears game? I'll take that! Though Griffin... what a useless pile of turd... seriously... what was the point!
  • Zepaw - September 18, 2011 5:11 p.m.

    Nice landmine avoidance with Resistance 3.
  • forestfire55 - September 17, 2011 11:16 a.m.

    Sorry i poasted the same thing like 8 times by accident
  • forestfire55 - September 17, 2011 11:01 a.m.

    Hey Charlie, I know you may never read this but i have read alot of your posts and i have to say i am sorry. Alot of us (gamers) tend to think its our way or no way. I have been a fan for years and i have seen people mad over the years over nothing. No man should ever need to argue an 8, let alone a 9.
  • ProfessorChief - September 17, 2011 1:31 a.m.

    Great review Charlie! Never liked the multiplayer in Gears much, but I had fun playing the beta. Think I'll dive further into it with this one. You've sold me on it for sure!
  • JayQ - September 16, 2011 12:29 p.m.

    I just checked and yea, Drake got replaced by Michael B. Jordan thank god. Just thought I'd throw that in there since you specifically mentioned Drake in your "things you'll hate" section.
  • GamesRadarCharlieBarratt - September 16, 2011 1:13 p.m.

    My God, you're right. Thank you for pointing out the error - it shall be corrected in the review post haste! The criticism still stands, as that character steals too much time from the characters we want to see, but at least now I know it's not to accommodate another celebrity voiceover (ahem, Ice-T).
  • Fox_Mulder - September 17, 2011 3:28 p.m.

    Oh good. I thought Jace was being voiced by Drake, thank the G that didn't pan out. I think Nolan North voiced Jace for the two lines he had in GOW2, so hopefully he will sound more like he did in the second game.
  • JayQ - September 16, 2011 12:23 p.m.

    wait, last i herd Drake got replaced due to schedule conflicts.
  • manateesta - September 16, 2011 12:20 p.m.

    Awesome review Charlie, I am glad to hear there have been improvements on multiplayer. I have always been a fan of the GOW multiplayer, but GOW 2 turned me off because I wasn't willing to put up with host BS and glitches when there were other games to play. At the time of GOW 1's release there wasn't much else, so I just stuck with it. I feel GOW's multiplayer has a much different feel then most FPS's and I would love to give it another go.
  • AuthorityFigure - September 16, 2011 2:03 a.m.

    Those asking for a particular score make the game seem so needy and unworthy.
  • Grif - September 15, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    Nice review Charlie, it was a very good read. And as good as you say it is, I'll probably let it pass. It's just not my kind of game. (The Halo fanboy in me will not let me buy it LOL or maybe it's the lack of money and Xbox).

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