First off, let me say that Gears 2 is still one of the best looking Xbox 360 games available, but from what I’ve seen during the Gears 3 beta, Gears of War 3 will easily steal the crown. The game looks absolutely gorgeous in high definition. The environments are more vibrant, character models and explosions are full of detail, and blood cakes the walls and floors as the Locust and COG get dismembered. Character animations are also more fluid. No longer are the characters restricted in their half ton armor. Their movements are much more life-like this time around.
A swell of new gameplay changes were introduced in the beta as well. Characters can now roll in any direction, including diagonally. Two-piecing, a problem that has annoyed countless players since the first game released in 2006, is now gone. Taking its place is a new mechanic called the mantle kick. Gamers can vault over cover, effectively dropkicking their enemies on the other side, stunning them, and setting them up for a point-blank headshot. There’s also a new bag-and-tag feature. Once you’ve taken an opponent as a meatshield, tapping up on the D-pad will make your character stick a grenade to said meatshield and kick him away. Enemies can now be spotted and marked, making them visible to your entire team for a few seconds, and the enhanced Tac Com system allows players to locate each team member on the map regardless of their positions.
The Lambent will not be playable in the final version of Gears 3.
Epic decided to take the popular Call of Duty approach to its medals and ribbons too. Completing certain challenges during an individual game will award a player with ribbons that provide extra points at the end of the match. Killing a set number of enemies or playing different game modes will unlock medals that reward your efforts with an even greater amount of experience points. Additionally, destroying your adversaries with a specific weapon will unlock its unique execution, which can be performed to increase your points per kill and further humiliate your fellow competitors.
The developers also included several new weapons to appease the droves of fans. All the old favorites return, but the Sawed-Off Shotgun, Retro Lancer, Digger Launcher, One Shot, and Incendiary Grenades all make their first appearances. An alternative to the Gnasher, the Sawed-Off doles out an absurd amount of damage, but its range is limited to about ten feet. The Retro Lancer gives gamers a third choice to their starting rifle arsenal. Hindered by extreme recoil, this rifle is best fired at a short to medium range, but what it lacks in accuracy it more than makes up for in stopping power. The Digger Launcher fires a living mine underground towards its victims, routing out anyone camping behind cover. The One Shot is the third heavy support weapon in the series, following the Mortar and Mulcher, and instantly obliterates anyone unlucky to be caught by its blast. Unfortunately, Incendiary Grenades are probably the least useful addition, unless you score a direct hit on your enemies.
The Retro Lancer is perfect for skewering those pesky organs.
Epic Games has further refined Gears' multiplayer with several new modes. Team Deathmatch gives each team a pool of fifteen lives and allows one more respawn for each player once the pool is depleted. King of the Hill is very similar to Annex from previous Gears titles. Players must seize the moving hill, but unlike Annex, the ring’s points still drain regardless of whether or not it’s been captured. The final mode for play was Capture the Leader. A mixture between Guardian and Submission, one member of each team is appointed as leader at the beginning of the round. To win, the enemy leader must be taken as a meatshield for thirty seconds while your own leader avoids capture.
Four maps were made available to the public, each with its own distinctive feel. Thrashball takes place in a rundown sports stadium, Trenches sits in the heart of a desert plagued by constant sandstorms, Checkout will see players fight it out in an abandoned grocery store, and Old Town’s seaside location provides a calming feel for the series, that is until the explosions start going off.
Queen Myrrah serves as the leader of the Locust while Chairman Prescott serves as the leader of the COG.
Probably the biggest improvement to the Gears formula so far though is the inclusion of dedicated servers. While servers did undergo frequent maintenance during the beta period, there was very little lag overall. Never did I go into a firefight feeling I had a disadvantage. I do have one complaint unfortunately. Playing the beta with less-skilled randoms was unbelievably frustrating. While in Gears 1 and 2, someone could carry his/her team based on connection, the lack of lag makes it of the utmost importance that players work together now. Go on, play as a lone wolf when the game ships and see how far that gets you.
There were also several glitches I encountered in the beta. On Trenches, any weapon dropped on the sand would fall through the map, and on Checkout, the raised platform where the Ink/Incendiary Grenades spawn on was nigh impossible to get off of during an intense firefight. Thankfully it was just a beta, and because of this, I will not provide a score or verdict as I will wait to test the finished product and see how they compare. However, from what I’ve experienced, Gears 3’s multiplayer looks to have the smoothest launch yet.