Gears of War 3, the third and final installment in the saga of Marcus Fenix and his heavily-armored buddies, hit store shelves this week. The sales are expected to be monumental, even by Gears of War standards. But how does this mature-rated game play? Well, judging by the early reviews, it plays very well indeed. Let's go to the score cards.
"As with the first two Gears titles, the plot of Gears of War 3's main campaign is either commendably straightforward or completely irrelevant, depending on how you look at it," writes Taylor Clark of Slate. "Once again, you take the role of Marcus Fenix, a battle-scarred brick in human form who growls his way through post-apocalyptic environments alongside his band of bantering space marines. Fenix is still fighting to save humanity from the Locusts, a race of inexplicably evil underground-dwelling monsters who, despite their admirable grasp of weapons technology, only speak in monosyllabic descriptions of actions in which they're currently engaged. (Crush! Boom! Grind!) And that's pretty much all you need to know."
"Visually, Gears 3 is as pretty and sophisticated as any game you’ll see on the Xbox 360," writes Seth Schiesel of the New York Times. "By the end of it, the Gears franchise finally discovers the colors green, yellow and blue (to go along with brown, gray and red), and the lighting effects glitter. It must be said, though, that after playing mostly high-resolution PC games over the summer, I found that returning to the graphically inferior console required some initial forbearance."
The graphics, continued
"The Gears franchise is set in a world that used to be beautiful, but has long since descended into grime and devastation," writes Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly. "The ruined cities resemble war photography from Belgrade and Iraq and Blitz-era London. The third Gears expands the scope of devastation in every direction, sending you on a floating tour of a desert wasteland and on a submarine voyage through a sunken city. The Gears designers cherrypicked their world’s architectural design from various sources — ancient Rome, mid-century suburban London, Blade Runner-ish sprawl — so you feel a little bit like you’re taking a tour through all of human history, a post-apocalyptic safari."
"The game mechanics are fluid third-person combat moves," writes Michael Venables of Wired, "with its own GOW3 branded mechanic of huddled running called the 'roadie run.' The taking cover move is fluidly controlled by the player, and organically moves onto the action of shooting enemies. When your ammo is getting low, doing active reloading can reduce reload time to less than half a second by snagging the R-bumper at the right time."
"The Gears games revolve around the act of taking cover: run fully exposed towards the enemy's line and you'll be cut down quicker than you can say 'Revive me!' After years of tweaking, the act of taking cover has never been snappier or more forgiving," writes Brett Hamilton of Kotaku. "And just as importantly, pulling away from cover is fluid and rarely disorienting. Even the chaotic imprecision of the Lancer assault rifle has been tweaked and perfected — tiny aids and aim-assists lend order to the chaos and keep the heavy-metal gameplay from becoming too cumbersome or unwieldy. Well, most of the time, anyway.
"The competitive multiplayer adds two new matches: Team Deathmatch and King of the Hill," reports Brett Molina of USA Today. "In Deathmatch, teams share a set number of kills, and the first to hit zero loses. King of the Hill requires players to capture and hold points on a map for as long as possible. However, the cooperative modes Horde and Beast are the highlights. Horde mode, introduced in Gears of War 2, adds a currency system. Players start with $1,000 to buy weapons or barriers to slow the oncoming waves of Locust enemies. As they kill foes, they earn more cash to fortify their defensive positions or scoop up stronger weapons."
The last word
"Gears of War redefined the modern third-person shooter, and more games bear its influence than can be counted," writes Chris Campbell of the Scripps-Howard News Service. "Calling this a must-own doesn't do justice to the long-lasting strength this game possesses. This franchise defined a generation of gaming and goes out on a triumphant note, or a bloodcurdling roar, depending on how you choose to hear the music."
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