Anyone that knows me knows that I like a game with a story, and one that is told well regardless of how preposterous it might be in substance. This should be evident from my review of Mass Effect 2, where I praise the writing and story telling of the game in general. Gears of War as a series has story depth in spades, digging.. a very deep hole.... you get the idea.
|Pre-canned melee moves are better shared.|
These staples are all present in GoW 3, so like them or not they are at the core of the gameplay that Epic have seen fit to leave unmolested through the whole series and I think this deserves remarking on somewhat. It is not often that any series will get to the third game without fiddling with something in the controls or the core gameplay in general. However, Epic have remained steadfast and kept the way Gears plays consistent. I have replayed the first game after having played the second, and it struck me then how little they differed from each other. The only thing to improve on, as always, is the shiny new graphics. And right the way through the series itself this has shown. However, not all progress is good progress and I find the HDR Blooming on GoW 3 to be a little excessive. The shine effect on anything metallic, no matter how small, is pretty ridiculous and could have done with toning back. It does not impact any other performance aspects of the game, being a console game anyway you can expect this to always be the case anyway. Still it kind of spoils the feel on the whole.
|Mulchers make mulch. The weapons available are enough to keep you|
in mulch for a long time.
Anyway, this is a small complaint on the game and you don't buy games to admire the quality of the cut scenes any more than you order a fully loaded pizza to simply admire the quality of the base.
The question you all want answering at the moment is 'Is the core gameplay good?' and the answer is 'yes'. All of the above points about the game play are well implemented. There are very few control glitches that so many games suffer from on consoles. The environments, like in Space Marine, are varied and not much of the copy/paste feel about them. The game relies almost entirely on guns to kill the foul things coming up from beneath the soil, rather than melee combat being thrown into the mix as well needing one more set of combat rules to govern it.
|Retro Lancers taped together to make a new static turret.|
In GoW 3 you have an entirely new machine gun, called the Retro Lancer, which is most likely a cruder and older form of the Lancer machine gun with the chainsaw attachment. Except in this case the Retro Lancer has a double bayonet which you can use to charge the nearest enemy, if you have enough of a run up, spear them and hurl them over your shoulder. There is the Digger gun, which shows you a path of a grenade you can fire, except it fires down under ground and runs along beneath the surface before popping up and exploding.
The curb stomping has been upped, as well, with a finishing execution specially made for each weapon and an unlockable for having checked off all of them on the list.
|This is only concept art so the one in game is not quite like this.|
Could not find a good image of the final in-game version.
GoW 3 is, sad to say, lacking in this department slightly. Though you do fly on a blimp at some point that is essentially it. Also you can ride in a submarine and sit in a turret bubble shooting at sea monsters and auto-defence systems. And there is a road escort mission where you mount a gun on a combat truck and escort a tanker along a highway. The other new vehicle you have is a Silverback, which is a kind of powered walker system you use to move large crates at some point, as well as a military version you play with a couple of time with a machine gun and rocket launcher attached. So yeah it has some sections to play with other than on foot. On reflection I realise this is not a bad thing that there are no vehicle sections for the sake of there being as many if not more than last time. They are there because the story needed them there and Epic decided to make a game out of them instead of just some cut scene fast travel where stuff happens for you. There is enough variety in the game to keep it entertaining anyway so less may be more in some cases.
Another area the game lacks a little is the use of the Hammer of Dawn. I mentioned this weapon earlier, and for the uninitiated out there it is essentially a handheld laser targeting system that you use to call down a furious laser from the heavens and destroy the bigger monsters. The story establishes at the beginning that the Hammer is not working properly now due to it being damaged in the final apocalypse following GoW 2. Even so, it is brought back on line in time for a rather inaccurate use but later in the game you will find the Hammer targeting system and, impulsively, you scoop it up anticipating a need for it later when you can use it. At that point you are inside a building so you cannot use it anyway. Still, after having scooped it I could not use it anywhere, anyway. So this was kind of pointless. The only time you need and can use it is in the final boss fight with the huge battle beetle and the queen. At this point the only real change to an old staple shows up unexpectedly. They have limited the number of shots you get from the Hammer to two full blasts. And this is way less than needed to kill the final boss. So they have supplied you with an infinite number of targeting guns vended from two different pedestals in the middle of the combat zone. This just begs the question 'why?' since I have unlimited shots, effectively, making this a redundant change...
|The Tempest Beetle. You need more than a roll of news paper|
to swat this beast...
Also, even when I had a good loadout of weapons with ammo aplenty, you can only use the Hammer effectively when the beetle is on the ground, and you have to bring it down with concentrated gunfire. And when it is attacking the building you have to get it off without the hammer too. If you skip just a second without gunfire, you will fail, so you need to keep the ammo flowing. I had to go back to the start of the section after a while to have a better run at it, knowing more about the dynamic of the fight and finally won.
Anyway, the challenge is what the game is about and, unlike recent reviews I have done on Space Marine and Homefront where I bemoaned the constant death syndrome of games to pad them out, GoW never feels like it is artificially lengthened by this. Yes you might die a lot, though usually you will die in a section where there is a boss to fight instead of just hundreds of enemies being thrown at you like someone tipped out a random bucket of bargain priced cannon fodder at you and walked away as you choked on a sea of alien flesh.
|Armoured Kantus in action.|
With all that out of the way I now come down to the storyline itself. Essentially, this closes off the story of Gears of War on the whole, leading us to a conclusion which I will try not to spoil for you, but since one of my last moans is based on both the beginning of GoW 3 and the end as well I must get into them, which is why I have left this while last. So if you don't want to know then stop here and I will leave you with my conclusion that GoW 3 was entirely worth the money at release, and will always be worth the money no matter what it goes down to in the future.
Now, the story..
|The story is as much about the characters as it is about the situation.|
I like this... very much.
This was, in my opinion, a good suggestion that the worst was yet to come and the war was far from over, just like the end of GoW 1 where you launch the light mass bomb into the Locust tunnels and blow them all up, only to be shown this was the tip of the iceberg and hardly a dent in their army on the whole. During the fight at the end of GoW 2, the government had collapsed entirely and the leader of the government had absconded to somewhere no one knew about. Or so we are told... because it did not happen in GoW 2 to my knowledge. I was busy fighting so it was never discussed and it reeks of plot device needed to justify the current events of GoW 3 going forward.
|THIS. IS. RAVEN'S NEST!|
(ok, done enough before...)
|Cole having a flash back.|
Anyway, the rush ahead makes me think that maybe they want to make a spin off game based in that time period. Who knows...
|Anya finally gets to work and earns her pay.|
However, the sudden and brief fast forward at the intro kind of discarded all this, and when the Locust finally do appear, none of these idle story points were raised or settled at all. All you know is that Adam Fenix was captured, not killed, by the Locust, and made to work on the 'cure' for the Lambent. And this is the whole focal point of the story and nothing else. As his cure will also kill the Locusts who are all infected due to their exposure to the liquid power source, emulsion, running through the planet underground. Essentially it is revealed that rather than simply good old fashioned radiation style mutations, they are infected with parasites living in the emulsion itself which control them. And it finally begins to infect humans as well... Which is a cool part of the storyline. Well, all of it is cool I guess. I just wish the intrigue had not been shelved permanently. Maybe if there is a spin off it could pick up this story thread and run with it instead? (Are you watching, Epic?)
|Not a stab proof vest.|
OK maybe I am nit picking here but, god... I had to laugh.
So yeah, the story still has loose ends for me and I hope one day it all gets settled. But as I said, it is worth the money so go and buy it already!