It's fair to say that Gears of War 3 will be a huge title this year, rounding out the trilogy and hosting a vast revision of the old formula. I picked up my copy today, and jumped into the campaign with a friend for a few hours. Without delving into spoilers, the "single" player (because it doesn't have to be) of Gears of War 3 feels very reminiscent of its predecessors, but has a bunch of fundamental differences that give it a very unique feel.
In terms of the story, the fiction is on par with what it's been like in the past, and lines up well with what happened at the end of Gears 2. Almost everyone is kind of fucked in some way or another, since Jacinto is no longer habitable. Initially, it seems odd as to why everyone is in a bad position; this is all explained quite quickly, which was a nice touch. At the point that I'm at now, it seems like one of the major plot points is going to be wrapped up, which is hopefully what will happen with he rest of the story points. There are several pretty goofy moments and weird one-offs (hint: find the baseball hat) which were pretty cool, and hopefully there will be more. The story isn't exactly solid or high-grade, but it doesn't really matter to me; it's serviceable, and is compelling enough to keep playing. I don't expect Shelley-quality material, I came to shoot people.
The good news is that shooting people is still top-notch. There aren't terribly many new surprises. You get into cover, shoot Locust in the face and use active reload. A few nifty tricks like kicking enemies when you mantle into them are fun. The main difference is that each weapon has been optimised to feel unique and useful in their own way. A good example for this is the Hammerburst, which allows for iron-sights and a better zoom; it feels much more responsive and powerful than in the previous games. New weapons make for more options in combat, and some are incredibly satisfying, allowing you to blow up enemy after enemy. A few felt a bit flat to me. The Digger, for instance, is great in concept. I'm not very good at using it, though, so I don't touch it anymore.
There were few issues I had in my two hours, but the ones I did have stood out. There are several early game enemies where it is not necessarily explained what is needed to defeat them. For quite a while, my friend and I would be dumping into him, and these would take forever to go down. Then we would fight another, and it'd take very little time. It wasn't a major issue, but it stood out. There were also times when we would be facing enemies we couldn't see, with super powerful weapons which could literally kill us in one shot. Dying constantly isn't always fun. Honestly, my biggest expectation for problem was network issues, and those were smooth every time. Whether this is an indication of the new dedicated servers, or just good Internet in Australia (unlikely), I'm not sure.
One final aspect I thought was neat was the way that the multiplayer leveling system features into the campaign. There's a ribbon system in place that tracks in-game achievements, somewhat like Call of Duty, and the player is rewarded with experience for every section completed. It's not much, but it's very satisfying to suddenly ding up to level 5.
All in all, Gears of War 3 has an impressive campaign for its beginning. Hopefully, it will continue to do so. I'm looking forward to trying out Horde and Beast mode soon.