So one of the biggest and most anticipated sequels has finally released to good sales and critical praise. But does it live up to my expectations of being fun and giving me a single player experience that I actually give a crap about?
Gears of War 3 is the conclusion to a rather muddled and poorly written story involving a race of subterranean creatures known as the Locust invading the surface world with the sole purpose of wiping out man kind off the face of the fictitious 'not earth' world. Over the past two games you follow the adventure of Marcus Fenix (the player) and Dominic Santiago (your co-op or computer controlled ally) as they kill lots of Locust in various settings (usually in perpetual shades of grey or brown). From the 1st game where you're dealing with the shock of Emergence Day and dropping a light bomb at the end down into the Locust hive (sunlight kills them) to the 2nd game where we are losing more of our cities (and now the Locust are engaging us in the daylight.....I may have missed the story reason why but if not major plot hole) so the COGs take the fight underground to the Locust themselves. Where we discover the super fuel we harvest (known as Emulsion) has other side effects like mutating the Locusts into horrible creatures called Lambient.
Now in the 3rd game mankind is on its last legs. And so is my patience with the story. Fortunately Epic brought on the author of the Gears novels to help bridge the crap....er....gap in storytelling and successfully smoothed it out. They also managed to *actually* flesh out the personalities of the walking meat slabs you control and make you want to see them live to the end.
For example: Cole Train. I HATED Cole in the first two games. He was an obnoxiously and unnecessarily loud and brain dead character that yelled 'WHOOOO!' alot (Rick Flair should sue). In Gears 3 you will actually care for him as you play a chunk of the first act as Cole on a mission for supplies in his former hometown where he was a Thrashball champion (think football on Gears of War steroids). There is a particular scene in the stadium where you see Cole remembering his glory days only to have him realize that they are past. I believe the quote was "Did you ever feel like you were dead and nobody told you?".
So in conclusion the story for the campaign is pretty decent. Its not particularly memorable but it does tie up the loose ends from the series and it feels cool playing through this desperate last act. But we don't care about story do we? How does it play?
It plays perfectly. After three games Epic Games has perfected the controls for this cover based shooter. Its totally smooth and responsive. I had no problems just picking up and playing. Everything felt second nature and I was leveling the Lambient and Locust hordes with ease.
Graphically the Unreal 3 engine has never looked better. I'm amazed just how much they can push out of this graphic engine. And the best part of the look of this game is that it takes place outdoors alot and Epic decided to use more colors than brown and grey. And the look is stunning. Everything thing feels alive and its vibrant in its post-world war look. There are some occasions where there is some minor graphical tearing but its a minor nuisance. I've seen it mostly in tighter quarters (like inside buildings) and it only happens briefly.
The AI for the baddies isn't bad but I've ran into numerous occasions where you can actually walk right around them, in their line of sight, and start shooting them and they don't react. I wasn't playing this on casual either. I played on the normal setting and sometimes the enemies just stand there and derp. I wanted to not shoot them but give each of them a padded helmet to wear so they wouldn't hurt themselves (poor things). Alas I had no helmets so it was Lancer chainsaw assassination to them.
I also for a change decided to try out the multi player aspect of this game. Yeah it has the staples like team death match, king of the hill, etc. But my favorites are Horde (where you play as COG soldiers against waves of enemies) and Beast mode (its like Horde but you play as the Locust going against the COGs). And they are awesome! I could play these modes all the damn time. All I need is more people to friend me on Xbox Live so we can get together and do this instead of playing with strangers all the time.
My only bitch about online play is that Live kept dropping out at points. And it pissed me off as it usually happened during a very intense match. But lag issues really were not present (even with my lovely broadband connection....blah). But I still enjoyed playing.
So is it "Game of the Year"? Well to some folk it will be. It is an achievement in production and scope. I wanted to finish the trilogy to see where the hell it would end up and if it would be better than Gears 2 which I loathed. I'm happy with the purchase. And I want to stress I didn't pay full price for it either (God bless my $20 Best Buy Rewards coupon). It was worth playing. Its fun.
Now....bring on my picks for Game of the Year: Dark Souls, Uncharted 3 and Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim.