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‘Gears of War 3’: a bloody end to a blockbuster trilogy

By Zach Reid

Section: Arts

April 5, 2012

“Gears of War 3” is a third-person shooter game designed exclusively for the Xbox 360 by Epic Games. The third game in a trilogy known for its intense storyline, brutal gameplay and quick-paced, violent multiplayer matches, “Gears 3” has plenty of hype. Luckily, the game doesn’t disappoint as it has proven to be one of the best Xbox 360 exclusive games to date.
“Gears 3” follows the story of Marcus Fenix, a soldier in the remnants of the Army of the Coalition of Organized Governments (COG), and his squad, all of whom are known as Gears—slang for the COG’s soldiers. Throughout the game, they try to cope with a society utterly decimated by war and strive to fight against two subterranean species: the Locust Horde and the Lambent.

The game has no qualms about immersing the player in emotionally charged cutscenes that pepper gameplay. These brief scenes serve to maintain the player’s interest in the story and help take the game beyond the “point and shoot” stereotype of video games. While the ending was fairly predictable, the storyline sufficiently wrapped up the trilogy’s arc and was relatively good for a series that made its name based on combat mechanics.

In terms of gameplay, the main appeal of the game remains the same as those in previous installments: the weapons and cover mechanics. With more than 20 destructive weapons, each with its own execution move, the player has nearly limitless ways to enjoy killing the Locust, Lambent or Gears, depending on for which team he is playing. In addition to new weapons, fan-favorites have returned to the game with new improvements, such as the Lancer, which gives players the option of literally cutting their foes in half with a chainsaw bayonet attachment—a move that has become iconic for the series as a whole.

Cover mechanics have also played a large part in the popularity of the series and “Gears 3” only improves on them. The cover system allows players to use virtually any piece of the environment as cover, a factor missing in many other shooters on the market. Additionally, the player is granted more mobility than other shooters, including the ability to roll, quickly move between covers and hop over lower forms of cover. Certain types of cover that players can use are also destructible, giving an extra element of strategy to the game.

The artificial enemies (AIs) the player can face in “Gears 3” soar far above the standards of the previous two entries in the series. Players will find themselves facing a variety of enemies, all of whom use different weapons and tactics. Hulking maulers will use their shields to deflect player attacks; for example, the intimidating and armored Kantus Monks can roll through the player and his squadmates with near impunity, spraying bullets as they go. Each type of enemy requires different tactics to defeat, making games against AI opponents not only interesting but also legitimately challenging.

“Gears 3” also features a multiplayer component that is immensely entertaining. The variety of game types available to play, including the standard Team Deathmatch and King of the Hill, is bolstered by innovative options such as Capture the Leader, in which players are required to find the leader of an enemy team and use him as a “Meat Shield” (a tactic in “Gears 3” that allows a player to hold a foe in front of himself in order to block incoming fire), gaining points for every second that the leader is held.

The game also includes Horde Mode, a challenge in which the player and up to four friends are tasked with holding off waves of enemy Locust and Lambent AI’s. Each successive wave brings more difficult foes to contend with. Players have the ability to unlock devices to aid them, such as barbed wire, automated turrets and powerful weapons. Horde Mode is also reflected in the new Beast Mode, in which the player and up to four allies assume the roles of Locust Horde creatures and try to destroy waves of COG soldiers in a designated amount of time. These two game types add immense variety to the standard shooter multiplayer and are bound to keep interest in “Gears 3” piqued for many months to come.

Visually, “Gears 3” is very well-constructed. Players find themselves in a variety of detailed landscapes, fighting enemies that seem more and more lifelike as the game progresses. Some of the set pieces are a bit over-the-top but serve to add perspective to the scope of the war that envelopes the Gears.

The audio of “Gears 3” is well-done, but not enough to be classified as spectacular. The game’s music manages to reach the player and add yet another emotional level to the game thanks to the work of composer Steve Jablonsky. The voice cast also adds a bit of repute, with some characters voiced by seemingly unlikely actors (John DiMaggio, the voice of Marcus Fenix, also voiced Bender in the show “Futurama”). Overall, the audio enhances the game but is certainly not the main attraction.

Overall, “Gears 3” is a great game but not much of a surprise. Epic Games knew they had a great formula based on the previous entry in the series, “Gears 2,” and greatly streamlined it to present a very solid game. If you consider yourself to be faint of heart, then look elsewhere for some entertainment. If, however, you enjoy the bloody fun of chainsawing your foes in half or performing executions a la “Mortal Kombat,” “Gears 3” is one game you won’t want to miss.

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