Gears of War 3 Preview
Epic have kindly given gamers the chance to sample in the delights of the third Gears of War game. The Gears of War 3 beta started towards the end of April and is continuing right through until 15th May, giving you the chance to try new weapons, four new maps and a few games mode that will be in the retail version of the game.
The four maps that Epic has released are Checkout, Thrashball, Oldtown and Trenches. Checkout is pretty self explanatory; it is just a giant Mall with a few overturned shelves and some nooks and crannies for you to hide away in. Thrashball is a cross between a giant NHL arena and a soccer stadium, half way through your game the suspended scoreboard makes an appearance crushing anyone or anything it lands on. Oldtown reminds me of something you’d see in a game like Assassins Creed, cobbled streets and old bell towers make up for a relatively bright map, which is a nice change from the other three that are generally a lot darker and dirtier in appearance. Finally Trenches seems to be set in or around an abandoned mine with sand storms reeking havoc whilst you’re trying to slay your opponents.
In each map weapons are strategically placed at certain points. These locations, as always, receive a lot of traffic during the first few moments of the game. Talking of weapons Epic has given gamers a handful of new toys to play with. Firstly there’s the Retro-Lancer, at first it seems to have nothing on the regular Lancer due to its ridiculous kick back and no chainsaw to boot. Once you get to grips with the kick back though you quickly realise that it is in fact one of the more powerful weapons to start with, the perfect weapon at medium range. Be warned, long range the kick back will generally render the gun useless and when in close quarters a shotgun will always come out on top.
Talking of shotguns there is a new one in town, the Sawn-Off Shotgun. If you get too close to one of these bad boys you will surely see your insides splattered across the walls and your lifeless head rolling along the floor. It is near impossible to survive a shot in close combat with one of these, although it takes a very long time to reload and with only one shot per re-load if you miss, or mis-judge how far away your opponent is then more than likely you’ll be the one sucking pavement. The re-designed shotgun from previous Gears of War games also returns, The Gnasher, as it is elegantly known seems to have finally reached the perfect balance between the shotguns from the first and second games.
Next up is the Digger Launcher, an ingenious little creation which is almost like a mainland version of the torpedo. After firing one of these off you’ll watch as the round burrows through the ground resembling a mole on Crack. Once it reaches it’s destination it pops up into the air, explodes, thus destroying any poor souls in the area at the time. Next up the One Shot which I came across in Trenches, it is basically a normal sniper rifle on steroids. As the title denotes it will take but a single shot to bring down your enemy with this beast, but the reload time is very long, so make sure your hidden away when popping shots off with this one.
The regular Lancer as said before makes a return appearance along with the Hammerburst, Regular Sniper Rifle, Mortar, Mulcher, Torque Bow, Boomshot, Hammer of Dawn, Scorcher, Boltok and pistols. The grenades also have not been changed although they do have one addition, the Incendiary Grenade which acts much like a Molotov Cocktail, once thrown if anyone gets too close they’ll end up on the floor burning alive.
The game modes on offer include the time tested Team Deathmatch, each team has a maximum of 15 respawns, and it’s basically last team standing wins. King of the Hill is like any King of the Hill, wait to see where you’ve got to occupy and hold off the enemy for as long as you can, the team with this highest time clocked wins basically. Finally Capture the Leader from previous Gears of War makes an appearance. Each team has a ‘Leader’, and everyone else has to make the difficult choice between protecting your own boss from being captured and capturing the opposing Leader.
Epic have also improved online matchmaking with a dedicated server. When playing public matches you can simply join in and the game will roll through map after map when each game has finished. There are no host quits and no lag from what I have experienced. Ranked is pretty much the same although the game will not start until an entire roster of human players has been selected, but again there has not been an ounce of lag in my experience, which has made the experience all the more enjoyable it must be said.
There are also countless new executions, perfect for all you blood thirsty gamers out there. From only playing for a few short games I managed to rip an opposing player’s arm off and beat him over the head with it. I also managed to quite literally decapitate an enemy player with the Lancers bayonet; it’s great because you get to see what it were like for many of Henry the Eighth’s wives. I even gave another player a quick one, two jab on the floor, swiftly followed by a three, four…. five, six….. seven, eight, oh, and he doesn’t have a head anymore.
With kills and executions come experience points, unlocks, medals and ribbons, and there’s a lot of them! Even on the beta you get the chance to unlock new paint schemes for your weapons and unlockable characters to play as, although in the retail version the unlocks on offer will be far greater. You can also get ribbons and medals for your actions during a match; you’ll get rewarded for everything from rescuing your Leader in CTL right through too completing 100 executions. The unlocks, stats and medals will keep gamers playing for months on end in the final version of the game, not forgetting the achievements which will no doubt add an incentive to play Gears of War and Gears of War only.
Graphically the game looks as polished as ever with each new weapon and map looking even better than those that preceded it. The blood spilling from an enemies throat as you decapitate them and the intestines of Dom being spread all over the road are just as delightfully horrific and enjoyable as ever. The audio also sounds just as enthralling as previous Gears. The screams of pain and the roars you hear as you bayonet a Locust are just so immersive and will have you wanting more.
Al in all this is going to be a hard one to beat it must be said. Despite initially not enjoying the title as much as I thought I would, before too long I found myself mesmerized by the Gears of War 3 Beta. That feeling when you run up behind somebody, bayonet unsheathed and watch is you impale them, raise them high into the air, blood pouring from every orifice is simply unbeatable and it’s one of the main reasons why GOW3 will be such a huge success. The online matchmaking for now is flawless although it only has to deal with a very small percentage of gamers; I just hope it still performs to this same standard when it is eventually released on September 20th. The new weapons, maps and stats system will take this game to the top of Xbox LIVE and it will undoubtedly stay there for a very long time, so my advice is if you haven’t pre-ordered Gears of War 3 already, do it now, as it truly will be a behemoth of a game.