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Gears of War 3 review

Seth Barton
4 Oct 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
38
inc VAT

If you play online shooters, and have friends who do too, then Gears of War 3 is a must-buy game

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Third-person shooters are often eclipsed by their high-profile first-person brethren. Although action games with a wider remit (Grand Theft Auto for example) can prosper from the better sense of characterisation an onscreen avatar brings, that avatar inevitably takes the focus away from pure point-and-shoot. If there's one third-person shooter that bucks this trend though, it's got be Gears of War, a behemoth third-person franchise that's undeniably about shooting stuff, and which stands in no one's shadow.

LOST THE PLOT

As with most shooters, we've rather lost interest with the series' plot - despite trying our hardest and even reading plot synopsis online. It seems that once again the human inhabitants of the planet Sera are in danger of being wiped out by the alien menaces beneath their feet. We find it amazing that there's anyone left to save after the constant catastrophes of the first two games, but as this is the final instalment you can probably bet on a more upbeat ending. No promises, or spoilers, here though.

Gears of War 3 characters

With an improved script and graphics, Gears' roster of characters look better and are more likeable all-round

The plot may have meandered off, but the characters are far better drawn. The scripted banter often raises a smile, and the game even breaks from its down-to-business, gritty style on a few occasions - notably at the beginning, for a surreal dream sequence, and then again for a beautifully integrated trip into sporting nostalgia. In short, this Gears is cleverer, funnier, and more successfully tongue-in-cheek than its predecessors.

DUCK AND COVER

The plot takes you through an incredible variety of environments, all of which are stunningly detailed and lit. In fact, we'd probably say this is the best-looking Xbox game we've ever seen, and there's support for 3D devices for those with the right display. The cover-based gameplay still leans on unrealistic looking areas filled with conveniently positioned cover - not to mention a lot of inexplicably-positioned ammo cases. Thankfully, the over-the-top nature of the sci-fi on offer means these don't clash as badly as they would in a more realistic setting.

Gears of War 3 campaign 2

Hide behind stuff and shoot stuff, the basic Gears template remains the same

As with previous iterations, Gears 3 is all about shooting from behind cover. Play it on Hardcore difficulty, as the developers suggest for veterans of the series, and you'll quickly be cut down when caught out of cover. Beyond this, a widened enemy roster includes bad guys that can shoot over cover or burrow shots underground - so you're no longer invulnerable till your flanked. At its heart, though, Gears is still about avoiding being shot while manoeuvring for a better tactical position to take down your opponents.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF KILLING

There are lots of opponents too, both in numbers and variety. The original Locust Horde makes a return, and adds a number of additional nasties to its roster - including Armoured Kantus, a far tougher version of the Locust's priest caste with spiked armoured for close attacks, flying Shriekers that shoot at you while dodging return fire with ease, and Digger Boomers, who fire those burrowing grenades, necessitating a quick roll out of harm's way to other cover.

The Lambent forces, Locust infected by the 'Imulsion' that flows under Sera, are also more varied and better distinguished from the Horde. The standout bad-guy has to be the Drudge, a big tough guy who upon death can mutate into a variety of even nastier forms, with tentacles spraying the toxic Imulsion like a flamethrower. The Gunker is also a pain, being a bipedal artillery piece, able to lob Imulsion-based bombs over your cover.

It's this wider mix of enemies which keeps the gameplay varied. Thanks to them, the developer has created a lengthy, 12-hour campaign that constantly entertains and challenges. It's not perfect for a single player, however, as you are always accompanied by up to three AI-controlled squad members. You can find the larger battles taken out of your hands as their aggressive AI clears out enemies before you get a chance to assess the battlefield and enact your own plan.

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