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Critical Reception: Epic Games'  Gears Of War 3

Critical Reception: Epic Games' Gears Of War 3

September 21, 2011 | By Danny Cowan




This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Epic Games' third-person shooter sequel Gears of War 3, which reviewers describe as "more than just hiding behind boxes and shooting monsters in the face." Gears of War 3 currently earns a score of 91 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann gives Gears of War 3 5 out of 5 stars. "Closure has become something of a rarity in today's video games," he writes. "That's part of what I like about Gears of War 3. It answers questions. It leaves things in a dramatically different place than they were at the start of the game. If this were to be the final game in the Gears franchise, it'd be a satisfying place to leave things."

Gerstmann continues: "Almost every character you can think of is feeling the effects of this longterm war, and the story spends just enough time focusing on the ways that some of the different characters are unravelling to make the game feel like it's about more than just hiding behind boxes and shooting monsters in the face."

Gerstmann praises Gears of War 3's expanded campaign mode. "The online co-op option allows up to four players to play simultaneously, and there's a new arcade mode that turns on score tracking, giving you points for kills, assists, and so on," he describes. "As you earn points, a points multiplier meter fills, giving you an opportunity for higher scores, but if anyone on the team goes down, that meter quickly begins to drain, giving you a real incentive to keep everyone alive."

Competitive multiplayer is less fun, however. "Ideally you'll get matched up with players who are at or around your skill level," Gerstmann says, "but my early experiences with the game ended up reminding me that while I think the competitive multiplayer in Gears is well-designed and exciting, playing it against people who play a lot of it is frustrating in an 'I guess I'll just turn this off now' way, not a 'Gee, I'm going to strive to get better so this stops happening' sort of way."

"The members of Delta Squad have finally found some closure, and, for all of the derisive things the world lobs at Gears' totally-broed-out motif, the story even manages to be touching on multiple occasions," Gerstmann summarizes. "It's a joy to play, and the game's expanded set of multiplayer options will give you plenty of things to keep you busy for a good, long time."

Adam Biessener at Game Informer scores Gears of War 3 at 9.5 out of 10. "Gears 3 is a fantastic idea polished to near perfection by an enormous crew of talented developers and a bottomless budget," he begins. "If you're not a believer yet this probably won't convert you, but I can't think of anything I wanted in this installment that Epic doesn't deliver on."

The sequel boasts an array of improvements. "Levels are the same linear series of combat arenas and atmospheric mood pieces, but both aspects are top-notch and the pacing is markedly better than in the earlier games," Biessener says. "I can count on my hands the number of times the squad AI annoyed me by jumping into my line of fire or letting a hostile waltz past them to flank me. The encounters provide a constantly shuffling deck of threats that encourage players to experiment with new weapons and tactics."

The plot suffers, however. "Gears has never had terribly compelling fiction and the entire arc of this final chapter is beyond predictable," Biessener writes, "but at least it's a coherent story that doesn't need a wiki and a three-month ARG to decipher. I'll never hate on anyone declaring their indifference to Gears' plot, but that's not the reason to play through the campaign."

In addition: "The lack of persistent power progression may be an issue for people used to Call of Duty's ever-deeper equipment and perk unlocks, but I dig Epic's appearance-only approach," Biessener says. "I'm not a big fan of the vast multitude of virtual items like weapon skins on sale through Xbox Live on day one, but if people want to waste their money on horse armor it's not my problem -- as long as the cash items are strictly cosmetic."

"Gears of War 3 doesn't do anything radical, not that anyone expected it to," Biessener admits. "Only the staunchest Gears haters will find much fault here, though. This is the best execution yet of an idea that spawned one of the biggest modern franchises in all of gaming. What's not to love?"

The Escapist's Steve Butts gives Gears of War 3 an 8 out of 10. "The final game in the Gears of War trilogy is everything fans expect - massive explosions, gravelly voiced soldiers, surprising enemies, and, of course, an abundance of chest-high walls," he writes. "It also happens to contain a tremendous amount of fun, despite its sometimes ridiculous characters."

The cover-based gameplay still shines, despite its linearity. "Each of the spaces in which you fight are full of tactical options, from suppressing enemy advances to flanking fortified positions," Butts praises. "It's a shame that each of these spaces lead to each other in a strictly linear fashion, but you'll have so much fun shooting it out in large warehouses, mountainside meadows, and city streets, that you won't care that your entrances and exits are so limited."

"My only real problem with Gears of War 3 is that it doesn't offer much contrast in terms of the overall mood," Butts says. "Because Marcus is basically angry through the whole game, he has nowhere to go during moments when he really should be getting angry. His showdown with Ice-T is supposed to be dramatic, I guess, but he doesn't sound any different there than anywhere else in the game. Even at the end when he has the opportunity to show some relief or basic humanity, he just keeps scowling and shouting at everyone."

Butts continues: "It's almost as if the developers just wanted to make the least possible effort to ratchet up the intensity of the game, so they just made everyone frown and shout obscenities as often as possible. Don't get me wrong; this is not an objection based on impropriety. It's an objection based on the cheap attempt to create a grim tone and then fail to give it anything to play off of."

"Whether critics like it or not, Gears of War 3 will be a success for Epic, and a well-deserved one," Butts concludes. "Despite some lingering flaws, the gameplay is fantastic in both single and multiplayer. A big part of the game's audience won't care about the lack of variety or depth among the characters, but the monotonous tone still holds the game back from being as great as it otherwise might have been."


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