A not-so-epic campaign
The heroes are more believable and the enemies are more indomitable. The weapons are satisfying and some of the action sequences are stunning. We spent the entire first page of this review drooling over what’s better in Gears of War 3’s campaign, and yet… we just weren’t as impressed as when we first played through Gears of War 1 and 2, nor were we completely satisfied by the conclusion of the trilogy. Although we’d had a massive amount of fun, something was keeping this game from feeling as climactic as we’d hoped. Something was off.
That “something” is difficult to fully define and describe, but here are a few contributing factors. First, the story is a tad predictable. Before starting Gears of War 3, we conducted an experiment, writing down a list of characters we expected to survive and a list of characters we expected to selflessly sacrifice themselves in noble battle. We were correct on all but one. The driving mission behind the entire narrative, meanwhile – and the key to winning the entire war against the Locust – doesn’t seem too different from tracking down a “sonic resonator” in the original game, and honestly comes across as less dramatic than the sinking of humanity’s only stronghold in the second game. Plus, the pacing loses a lot of steam and creativity in the middle when you realize you haven’t seen Cole, Baird or Dom for hours and you’ve spent the last several missions scouring for fuel, rotors and generator switches in the Gears equivalent of warehouses. Thank goodness the game’s concluding act is also the best.
Finally, Gears of War 3 is incredibly (almost stupidly) easy on anything less than Hardcore difficulty. Because of its potential four-player co-op, the game must provide you with at least three AI partners at all times, and these guys are frustratingly helpful. They’ll charge ahead and kill half the enemies while you’re still searching for collectables and ammunition. They’ll finish off bosses when you’re not looking. They’ll revive you every time, but also steal your executions every time. Fortunately, there’s a wonderful solution…
Must play co-op
Gears of War 3 is a great game to play solo; it’s an unforgettable game to play with friends. Anyone who’s tried the groundbreaking co-op in Gears 1 or Gears 2 already knows this, of course, but now that experience comes with even more reward. In addition to the simple increase from two to four players – the impact of which can’t be overstated or overhyped – this entry adds more missions with divergent pathways, weapons that require multiple people to operate and an arcade mode that tracks kills, encouraging competition along with the cooperation.
That’s merely the campaign. Horde Mode is better, too, with new tower defense elements and waves of enemies that include boss creatures. If fighting a Brumak in the expansive environments of a story mission sounds exciting, imagine that same monster on a cramped multiplayer map, attempting to squeeze his behemoth head through a doorway as you and your squad frantically strategize how best to spend your funds. Bigger guns? Repaired barriers? Additional control centers?
Beast Mode is the refreshing opposite – a complete and utter change of pace from everything else offered in Gears of War 3. Playing as the Locust monsters instead of the human soldiers has the potential for gimmicky afterthought, but this may be the most brutally satisfying part of the whole package. Nothing is quite as addictive as detonating a group of unsuspecting enemies with a Ticker, clawing them to pieces with a Wretch, shattering their eardrums with a Kantus, electrocuting them with the pinchers of a Serapede and then simply smashing them into paste with the charge of a Berserker. All within a single match.