When I heard Cliff Bleszinski talk about the new and improved Gears of War 3 multiplayer, he seemed to truly care about the lasting effect that Gears had. I had the feeling that epic did not just want another Gears of War 2, a game plagued with issues that ranged from one weapon combat to ridiculously horrible lag.
That being said, I took everything Gears 2 had to offer. From the horrible lag to the imbalanced combat, I really enjoyed Gears 2 for what it was trying to accomplish. I often wondered what the game would be like in a LAN type environment, where lag was not concerned.
Gears of War 3 showed me what exactly I was missing out on.
Gears of War 3 introduced new network coding that, for the most part, has completely destroyed the threat of lag. For my first 50 games, I didn't even know that the public matchmaking* (opposed to ranked matchmaking) was run off P2P. I had assumed the lag free environment was due to the newly introduced dedicated servers, which were used in ranked matchmaking. To keep things brief, I only experienced lag twice and both times the lag I experienced dwarfed the lag you would experience in a normal Gears 2 game. They managed to completely destroy it.
Another polarizing issue within Gears has always been the shotgun. I often see arguments against Gears being that it is only a game of shotgun warfare.
Let's not downplay the importance of shotguns. Those who can't be diverse in weapon choice will not fair well in Gears 3 multiplayer. The game is no longer a "run from cover to cover with your shotgun in hand or die." Each player has to take advantage of both their assault rifle choice, whether it be the Retro Lancer, Hammerburst, or Lancer in addition to their shotgun of choice, either the Sawed Off or Gnasher.
Assault rifles have been significantly improved compared to their extremely limited use in Gears 1 and 2. Games can now consist of complete assault rifle users, just as easily as they can shotgun users with neither side a distinct advantage.
Don't get me wrong - If you see yourself at the business end of a shotgun, you're going to die in less than a second. One of the most frustrating aspects of the beta was constantly dying at the hands of a player using the sawed off. The Sawed Off itself has maps where it will work and others where it will simply can't be forced. That, however, doesn't make it any less frustrating when getting one-shot in the face.
Power weapons in general are balanced in spawns and use, most of which take a decent amount of skill in order to use proficiently; and while the map choice was limited, I enjoyed most of the maps, except for Old Town, which I didn't really like because of its narrow corridors and sharp turns, usually ending in a death to the other end of a shotgun.
A quick note about modes, although not pertaining to weapons. When playing public matches, the game will continuously go on, switching maps whenever a game ends and replacing players with AI when they leave. Ranked matches are played by waiting in a lobby until teams are filled. Experience is given in either matchup, but some prefer ranked in order to play a match that is not already in progress. Overall it flows very well leaves little to be desired.
Altogether in the beta, I racketed up my Golden Retro Lancer and Cole Train for Retail. I had somewhere between a 1.6 and 1.7 KD/R and a 1.9 WL/R. I don't consider myself a "pro-player," but consider myself an avid Gears fan who enjoys playing the Gears brand multiplayer.
After playing the beta, I went ahead and put down the rest of the payment on my preorder for Gears of War 3. I typically don't do that because of doubt or suspicion of failure of the game. If that doesn't show how much I enjoyed it and how much I believe it will be a good game, then I can't see what would.
However, Gears of War is a genre that not everyone enjoys. It is not a game that brings all gamers together. If you did not enjoy Gears 2 in any fashion, I would recommend waiting until after release before buying it. But if you're in the same boat as I and want a more balanced and lag free Gears that we were screwed out of in Gears of War 2 - then this is your game.