Nukezilla Review: Gears of War 3 (360)
When we left our merry band of grub squashing miscreants they had rode a massive brumak through a lake of emulsion mutating the beast into a gargantuan biological weapon of mass destruction. They then ignited it using lasers from space as a last ditch attempt to sink the human city of Jacinto in order to drown a rampaging Locust hive that had become infested with Lambent. If you’re expecting Gears of War 3 to deliver this kind of spectacle and nonsense, look no further. However, anyone expecting, as I was, to find meaning and denouement in this soup of testosterone (TestosteroniO’s?) will be left hungry for something more substantial.
Assuming you are trying to follow the story of Gears of War is a honestly a major leap of faith on anyone’s behalf. Most of the people I know when quizzed about a what they remember from playing a Gears title can only recall their favorite moments:
- Their first grizzly Locust execution via lancer chainsaw.
- “Eat shit and die!” or “More like ten shitloads” or “[Anything said by Augustus Cole, like] Whoo!”
- Performing their 8th consecutive headshot kill (with perfect active reload on each).
- Cutting through the major organs and finally several thick walls of tissue to survive a rising lake of blood to escape from the bowels of a giant city-sized worm.
These friends of mine aren’t knuckle dragging neanderthals either, we’re talking about some very serious game players with above average intellects and socially adjusted personalities to boot. There’s just something about Gears of War‘s story that is inherently forgettable. I’ve played through each game in the trilogy with rapt attention, hoping for something to really stick; maddeningly throughout each game the plot barely serves as a catalyst to move the machismo parade from location to location.
It may be unfair to judge Gears of War 3 as something it’s not, so I will try and detail how well Epic has delivered on the core strengths of the series, namely the combat scenarios and the variety of tactics employed against Marcus and Delta Co. The Lambent are more than just a silly name for exploding Locusts – they represent the largest addition to the bestiary of planet Sera. These new mutations based on their Locust hosts are in most cases tougher and more versatile than their progenitors, requiring more careful aiming and clips of ammo to take out each wave.
In many ways I was reminded of the combat from Dead Space, where each new enemy type forces the player to put some cerebral energy into selecting the right tactics to suit the situation, but since they’re made up of explosive glowing pustules, I suppose there’s a bit of Lost Planet‘s simplicity thrown in for good measure. Bungie proved with Halo: Combat Evolved that mixing up each enemy encounter, even by small degrees can provide massive payouts in player satisfaction and by their third release, Epic seemed to have learned the lesson well from their former Microsoft Studios pals. Though the dialog and cutscenes may be teeth gnashingly camp, the set pieces ridiculous and over wrought, it is the combat that kept me engaged throughout five thrilling acts of near-constant shooting.
For those of you who are socially inclined there’s great campaign co-op support, a somewhat more balanced competitive multiplayer offering and two different modes of player vs. CPU team game types. Horde mode has been beefed up to include fortifications and purchased weapons between rounds, while Beast mode is a Locust on human slaughterfest that favors faster paced waves that feels less like an endurance run and more of a speed run with friends. There’s an enormous amount of content offered with this package and as a lukewarm fan of the series I jumped in with both feet (hence the purchase of the $30 season pass, le sigh), but JRR Tolkien this is not. I wouldn’t turn anyone away from the fun that I had playing through most of what is in this package – I just was hoping for something beyond gore and cheap profane one-liners, which in hindsight is a shame on me.
This review is Day 23 of The December Review Nukestravaganzagain.