Brutal, bloody and exhilarating, Gears of War 3 is a brilliant end to one of the Xbox's best loved games.
Five years down the line, Gears of War still continues to make an impact as one of the best military science fiction games available. The final instalment in the trilogy, Gears of War 3 features the same familiar faces, beautiful digitally created landscapes and is one of the best game releases of the year.
For those who haven't played the first two games, Gears of War 3 starts with a flashback, which put things in perspective. There's also a ‘Previously on' video for those who want to refresh their memories. For fans of the previous instalments, playing the role of Marcus Fenix brings that feeling of familiarity, but for those who haven't, the game eases you in almost immediately.
The storyline picks up where it left off in the last instalment. Human civilisation is battling for survival on the fictional planet, Sera, which has been invaded by the Locust menace. You are reacquainted with the Delta Squad, and the first scene puts the characters in perspective. Fenix is rough and war-weathered, Dom shows off his gentle side tending to his plants, Baird's sarcasm is always in the background, Thrashplayer star Cole Train is full of clichéd but entertaining one liners and Sam, a feisty new female member is fierce and tough.
When the game begins the Delta Squad is collected on a ship, having given up their last stronghold in the battle against the Locust in the second game. The human civilisation is scattered over ships at sea and in islands, and during the game you'll travel to new locations and encounter a series of characters. When the game starts, Fenix discovers that his father, presumed dead, is still alive. He makes it his mission to find his father, but there are a few interruptions – in the form of the Lambent. The game is spread over five acts with various scenes, and total gameplay lasts about 10-12 hours. In the first act itself, you'll make the transition from playing Fenix to Cole, which seems almost natural. Cole is cocky and motivated, and like Fenix, also experiences flashbacks. Returning to Cougar stadium, Cole remembers his days of glory on the field, and there's a nostalgic moment when you have to run through the stadium and score for the Cougars by touching down a grenade on a Lambent stalk.
Gears of War 3 brings back old favourite weapons, including the Lancer which also doubles up as a chainsaw, allowing you to brutally slash your enemies. The Hammerburst which fires in short bursts is deadly but requires reloading often, while the Gnasher shotgun is an effective short range weapon that can literally sever your enemy in half. While there are no vehicles to attack the enemy in, there's some funky armour that you can step into, transforming yourself into some form of humanoid robot. This not only gives you more protection, but also endows you with greater strength, allowing you to smash through barricades with a stomping movement, carry boxes of supplies as well as charge at enemies with relative ease.
Standard boss battles include defeating a Leviathan, which is relatively easy but requires you to fend off other enemies simultaneously. The Lambent stalks are particularly deadly, and you have to eliminate them at the earliest because they constantly spew waves of enemies. The stalks themselves are quite challenging, and require some tricky manoeuvres like ducking and attacking to eliminate, because they will hurl deadly fireballs at you. Weapons are aplenty, and so is ammo, so keep your eyes open for these.
Game saves are quite regular, but if you are badly wounded, you'll require a member of the Squad to revive you. Sometimes you'll have the chance to revive your teammates, a bonding exercise that makes you actually care about their survival.
The game offers different levels, including Casual, Normal, Hardcore and Insane. The Insane level can only be unlocked by completing the campaign game on one of the other difficulty levels.
While the campaign is undoubtedly the highlight of the game, Gears of War 3 also offers multiplayer, Beast and Horde modes. The multiplayer supports a four-player online co-op game, and is a great option to play with a bunch of friends. You can also use multi-player on a Public mode, but you'll have to find a game to suit your level of gaming experience. An Arcade mode allows you to gain points whenever you shoot down an enemy.
The Versus mode lets you test your gaming skills against other players, and is only for the really competitive. You'll face a number of challenges and can play with up to 10 players.
For those who loved the Horde mode in the second Gears instalment, this makes a return in this game. With up to five gamers, your objective is to fend off successive waves of Locust. You earn money for the kill, and can use this to build fortifications to defend yourself better.
If you want a taste of the bad side, as you probably will, the Beast mode offers the ultimate sadistic delight. You spawn as the Locust and try to battle a bunch of human survivors. You can choose the type of Locust you want to spawn, and you have to adapt quickly to fighting as the enemy.
Every bit as challenging and entertaining as the two previous games, Gears of War 3 is a fitting end to a trilogy. The choice in terms of difficulty levels and playing modes ensure a wider audience and fan base. Overall, this is one of the best third-person shooters out there, and more than enough reason to get your first Xbox.
Love: Engaging storyline, stunning visuals, challenging gameplay
Hate: Nothing really, apart from some of the cheesy script
Developer: Epic Games
Platform: Xbox 360