If there’s one series that has defined the Xbox 360, it’s the Gears of War series. With Gears of War 3 we see the series being the absolute best and most polished that it has ever been. Gears of War 3 is easily the best game in the series, and easily one of the best games of the year so far. The Gears series has been a top notch series before, but Gears 3 is the best it’s ever been, with a robust and almost touching single player story, a wealth of co-op modes, and great multiplayer that can now go head to head with the Call of Duty and Halo.

The situation is grim in Gears of War 3; the humans have been driven to the absolute brink after the destruction of the last safe haven on earth Jacinto. The third game picks up about a year after the second game ended. The COG (coalition of ordered governments) has fallen apart and humanity has been abandoned by their leader Chairmen Prescott. Some humans have returned back onto the mainland, while others, including our heroes Delta Squad, are living on a ship trying to find a new place to settle.  At the start Prescott returns, giving Marcus information that his dad is still alive, but new attacks by the exploding Lambent force the team to abandon ship. From here you get lead on a desperate battle to find Marcus Fenix’s dad and eventually save the world.

Gears of War has never been known for its great storytelling, but Gears 3 really makes strides forward in how the series tells a story. There’s still a good amount of cheesy and dudebro dialogue, but Gears 3 manages to pack in a few truly emotional scenes as well. It takes the series from having a mediocre story to having a really standout experience. Scenes like Cole Train returning to the stadium where he played thrashball, really tug at your emotions and give you a serious connection to the characters.

The single player experience is by far the best part of the immense package that Gears of War 3 is. In addition to the storytelling, Gears is also full of big set-pieces and interesting areas. The campaign is quite a bit longer than the previous games and should take you anywhere from ten to fourteen hours to beat depending on what difficulty you are playing on.
The length of the campaign is great, and the addition of being able to play it in co-op as well as arcade co-op makes it a fantastic offering. Regular co-op allows you to play through the entirety of the campaign in four player co-op, and arcade adds scoring into the mix.  There is also a wealth of collectibles in the story, each one adding a little more to your knowledge of the story or the world. The story of Gears 3 was obviously developed in mind for fans of the series who have read the novels and comic books as well, but if you’ve only played the games it doesn’t mean that you won’t know what going on. That’s not a problem, but there are little touches scattered throughout that will really only mean something to people who have read the books. This time around there are also a few new gears that join our cast. Anya finds herself all suited up this time around, a new female gear named Samantha joins in, and big brother Clayton Carmine is here too.

As well as the single player mode, there are 3 other modes; Horde, Beast, and competitive multiplayer. The popular horde mode makes a return with a few minor changes that elevate the mode even more. You still fight your way through 50 rounds of enemies with up to four of your friends, but this time you have the ability to build defenses. Decoys, barriers, and turrets are just a few of your defenses. As you kill enemies, you gain money that you can build, upgrade, or buy weapons with. Once in a while you’ll also get a special objective for a wave, like execute 10 enemies, this will give you an added money or weapon bonus. Every ten waves is also a boss wave, where you have to fight stronger enemies like a berserker or a brumak.

Beast mode puts you in the shoes of the locust, trying to kill COG soldiers. There are five different levels of locust that you unlock as you get points, and each different locust has their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Beast mode is a great amount of fun, playing as the locust is a nice change of pace, and I even found myself playing beast far more often than I would play horde mode.

Multiplayer was a big complaint in Gears of War 2, it just didn’t work very well. Luckily, this time around Epic is using dedicated servers so the multiplayer suite runs a whole lot smoother and it’s now much easier to find a game. New weapons like the retro lancer and sawed-off shotgun add a little extra flavor to multiplayer. Using a shotgun is still a big focus in Gears multiplayer, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was in the second game.

All of the game types from the previous game return like king of the hill and wingman. There’s also a new team death match that’s nicely paced with both teams having a total of 20 lives. Multiplayer is much better than it was previously, and it’s one of those modes that you can sink hours upon hours into. On top of that, Gears of War 3 takes a page from Halo Reach by giving you 100 levels to gain; you gain these by getting experience from pretty much everything you do. As you progress, there are tons of characters and weapon skins to unlock, as well as medals and ribbons to get, not to mention achievements. All of this combined gives Gears of War 3 the ability to go head to head with the best multiplayer offerings out there like Call of Duty and Halo. There’s no doubt that even a year from now Gears of War 3 will still have a hefty online fan base.

Gears of War 3 Screen 1 Controls have always been tight with Gears, and the gameplay is even better than ever. Everything about the controls just feels a bit better this time around, the roadie run works just as well and you snap to whatever cover you run into. Snapping to cover and moving cover feels a bit easier this time around, and it’s not as easy to make mistakes. In addition, you have a mantle jump you can use when someone is on the other side of your cover, this allows you to knock them back giving you a chance to grab a kill. The new weapons add great variety to the gameplay, especially the retro lancer. Everything about Gears of War has been tightened up and just generally works better in the final installment. There is one complaint I can muster though, and that’s the final boss battle. Without spoiling anything, it’s important to say that this battle is entirely tedious and infuriating especially if you play it on higher difficulties. It’s a strange thing, especially considering how great and well executed the rest of the game is.

The Gears series is the best way to see how the technology in the Xbox 360 has moved forward. It’s amazing to see the graphical difference between the first and third games. Especially since Gears of War 3 is an absolutely drop dead gorgeous game. The difference between Gears 2 and 3 is easily noticeable and everything from the environments to explosions of a dying lambent looks beautiful. One thing that’s especially noticeable is the quality of the facial animations, which fly above and beyond anything in the series prior.
Sound wise you have everything you’d expect. It sounds like Gears, locust and lambent scream at you, weapons sound as satisfying as ever, and voice acting is generally good although can be a little cheesy at some rare moments. The soundtrack is even better than ever, it has Gears distinct sound and in a year of outstanding soundtracks it’s able to stand up with the rest of them.

The Gears of War series has been one of the absolute best that’s available on the Xbox 360. The first two games were very good, but Gears of War 3 takes the series into being great. Everything about Gears has been polished to an unbelievable amount. Epic hasn’t introduced anything drastically new, but with the tried and true Gears formula they didn’t really need to. Gears of War 3 might very well be the best shooter of the year, and it’s going to be interesting to see how much activity the game retains with all of the huge blockbusters releasing this fall.
TitleGears of War 3
Format : Xbox 360
DeveloperEpic Games
Publisher : Microsoft Studios
Release Date : 09/06/2011

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