Final verdict: A-
Final playtime: 10 hours campaign, ongoing multiplayer
It feels like it’s been a painfully long time since Gears of War 1. I’ve waited patiently, and busied myself with other things, just waiting for this day to finally come, and at long last, Gears 3 is here, among us, walking on water and then turning it into wine, and something about a giant boat.
I do want to open by saying that I’ve always regretted my Gears 2 review. I was initially impressed by the game. It felt like they’d added a shitload of amazing features, but over time it really didn’t pan out online. The campaign? Sure, that was good, but Gears 2’s multiplayer was simply unforgivably bad. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have graded Gears 2 so highly. With all that in mind I’m doing my best to be especially unbiased with this review and I’ve made damn sure to play every aspect of the game incredibly thoroughly by this point so I think I’m okay to review it now.
Epic stepped up their game a shitload after Gears 2 turned out so horrible, and I think they’ve redeemed themselves spectacularly with number 3. They esentially went back to basics. They realized all the shit that made Gears 1 so fucking satisfying to play, and focussed on it. They’ve made sure it’s polished as hell and works smoothly and feels right. There’s no more weirdass ragdolling when you get smoked, the guns do what you want them to do, and… shit, it all just feels really good. Most noticable is the Gnasher shotgun. It’s back to its original oldschool Gears 1 glory. You point, you shoot, your enemy turns into lumps of meat and you get a slight erection. The newer weapons like the digger work well, too, and not in a way that makes them overpowered or broken. They aren’t easy to use and require you to develop a solid understanding of how how they work in order to make good use of them before you can start dominating.
The different multiplayer game types are all fun and varied. They’ve merged a few less popular ones into new, better versions, and a much-needed Team Deathmatch mode has been added. It’s all fucking great and it brings back all the fun and satisfaction that Gears 1 multiplayer had and Gears 2 multiplayer shat all over. Gears is back and that’s all you need to know. Now I’m gonna talk about the campaign and stuff.
Gears stories have always had an awkward blend of over-the-top characters and action with overacted emotional sections shoehorned in. Honestly, if you want rivetting story and complex characters, Gears isn’t your go-to game. That being said, I do fucking love all the Gears games regardless. The characters are ridiculous, yes, and the story is just sort of… there. But it works well enough, and it’s a kickass way to unwind, or get pumped up, or both. The campaign’s a pretty big step up from the previous two games. Well, in terms of the actual gameplay and action I mean, not the plot or anything like that. The plot is the same as ever. Bad creatures attacking, chainsaw them. Something about Marcus’ dad. A giant worm. You get the picture. It just matters very little. The characters themselves are more important than what’s actually going on in the game as a result, and the characters are fun.
I didn’t bother getting screenshots for this review so have some random videos instead
Frustratingly, the game glosses over a lot of things that happened between the events of Gears 2 and the present day of Gears 3, and seems to assume the player has read the comics and novels to fill in all the blanks. That shit ain’t right. Just fucking explain it in more detail. I’m not gonna buy your shitty books, and your comics are ass, so fuck you. Two years have gone by since the events of Gears 2 and you expect us all to just accept an ultra-brief summary of events and a “2 years later” subtitle? Fuck you.
There’s nothing in particular about the campaign that I specifically disliked. I felt that it was the strongest of all the Gears campaigns. It was also a little longer than Gears 2’s as well, which is always nice. I did feel that there were a couple too many on-rails sections where you’re sat in a vehicle firing a gun from a fixed position waiting for the chapter to hurry the fuck up and finish, though, but there is a very cool chapter in a submarine which is pretty stunning visually, and at the time was a welcome break from the previous few chapters.
All this campaign discussion leads me to what I feel is a cheap and deliberate flaw in the game. It’s been known for a longass time that Epic are gonna be pumping out all kinds of DLC for Gears 3, including new campaign chapters, but the problem is you can see the damn holes in the plot that they’re going to be filling with those new chapters and you know damn well that rather than making all-new content for the DLC, they simply cut a few chapters out here and there to sell back to us later for more money. There are several sections where Marcus simply sends two squadmates away on a side-mission and then you hear nothing from them for an act or two, and it’s clear that the DLC chapters will be filling in those blanks. Honestly, it feels ham-handed and it’s a bit of a disappointment. There’s also the fact that a ton of DLC multiplayer characters are already on the disc and would be totally playable but we’ll have to pay to unlock them later when Epic wants to fill another coffer with bags of nazi gold.
Aside from that relatively minor stuff, the campaign is solid. Except for the AI. The AI is literally the worst AI ever conceived. I cannot express just how fucking horrendous it is in every possible way. It literally would be more useful if it wasn’t there at all. First of all, the enemies are retarded and predictable. That’s nothing new and not too big of a deal, though it does make things too easy at times. But no, the worst aspect of the shoddy AI is your god damn squadmates. Epic seems to think that everybody has three friends who have nothing better to do than sit on Gears 3 all day so you’ll never notice how fucking lazy they were with the squadmate AI. Its only purpose is to stand in your way when you’re trying to aim, or block a doorway when you desperately need to get through it, or hog a piece of cover when you’re trying to make use of it yourself. And if you’re down? Good luck with that. The AI would rather sit around staring at a wall than pick you up. And don’t even get me fucking started on Insane mode. It’s been a tradition of mine to play the Gears campaigns solo on Insane mode, but Gears 3 may be the one where I just have to say “Fuck this shit, it’s not worth it”. I somehow managed to drag my ass through Insane mode entirel alone until I reached the final boss and it’s clear they never tested any of Insane mode properly and just assumed it’d be fine because everybody would be playing it co-op.
Everybody’s probably familiar with the Gears gameplay mechanic of down-but-not-out. When you take a lot of damage, you tend to just fall down and start bleeding out. If a teammate rescues you, you’re back in the game as if nothing happened. Insane mode removes this feature and means that anything that would ordinarily down you will just flat out kill you. That was FINE in Gears 1, and fairly bullshitty in Gears 2, but considering the fact that Gears 3 has a SHITLOAD of enemies that can one-hit kill you, this is retarded, and in a lot of cases in this campaign, flat-out unfair. At several points you’re completely surrounded by one-hit-kill enemies, and you simply have to get super lucky and hope you somehow manage to avoid them, simply dying and reloading over and over until by some bizarre chance the enemies get distracted for a second allowing you to reach cover. It’s completely obvious that they never playtested Insane mode and just dialed up a bunch of settings like enemy accuracy, health and damage and said “Fuck it, that’ll be fine”. This results in the purest and most extreme form of bullshit you’ll ever experience.
So yeah, summary time. The campaign is in your face, ludicrous, often stupid, but pretty damn fun, although it has the worst AI imaginable. The DLC is going to be a ham-handed way for Epic to make a shitload more money from stuff that should have already been included from day one, and Insane mode is an untested and unecessary piece of shit feature in the game. The multiplayer is fucking excellent and they’ve fixed basically all the flaws that Gears 2 had, and it’s endless fun.
Honestly though? The issues like DLC and such don’t bother me all that much when the multiplayer is just this good. It’s hard to get mad when you’re blowing up peoples’ heads with a shotgun or punishing their stupidity with a lancer. It’s too satisfying to ever get mad at.
Final verdict: A-
Final play time: Campaign: 10+ hours. Multiplayer: Ongoing forever.