Gears of War 3 Preview

Big. Thick. Meatier. Fun!

When a game like Gears of War 3 has its release date pushed back by five months, there are going to be a lot of irritated gamers. Many of those have been fidgeting restlessly for two years now, playing the previous two Gears titles over and over in an attempt to get their fix. Others, whose curiosity was stirred by the cryptic teaser of the last installment, just want to know what the hell is going to happen.

[image1]Microsoft understood this. They greeted the press with a red carpet welcome (well, parts of a red carpet, anyway). Top notch goodies and libations were handed out with top notch service. Anticipation mounted with the view of some twenty or so monitors lined up throughout the grand hall. The same thought seemed to be running through the minds of everyone there; “just let us play the damn game already.”

But first, a “hello” from Epic’s designers, one that is full of promises. So guilty did they feel about the delayed release, they seemed to want to cater to us like a high priced prostitute. We were promised most polished, best game ever, one that was “big, thick, meatier and fun.” I put these words in quotes to emphasize that they are not mine, but actually said by a designer who wants me to play his game. They want to give us “dedicated service,” Would they give us the girlfriend experience too?

Not quite, but they are giving us new weapons, new levels, new game modes, and some new characters (and some old ones) as well.

[image2]Lets take a look at the weapons, shall we? The most exciting improvement seems to be the close quarters weapons made for this title. My favorite is the sawed-off shotgun. This weapon is so vital to the style of play in Gears that I am surprised that it this is the first time that it appears. When locked in those eventual in-close situations you can blast away and make sure that enemies keep their distance… or be shot to pieces in short order.

The same goes for the one-shot pistol. Initially described as an 1812 musket that kicks like a mule and takes forever to reload, the effects are devastating. It does not just fire one at a time, it kills in one shot, too. It is a good secondary weapon, and any fool running up to you thinking that you are done because your lancer ammo is out is in for a surprise. Better find a hiding place if this is your only weapon, though, because the reload time is a bitch. If I do run out of lancer ammo, I would take the shotgun over the one shot, as it can ward off multiple enemies in a pinch.

Speaking of lancers, there is a new toy at the end of your gun. Marcus still has his chainsaw, but, apparently, no one else does. I am assuming it would have something to do with a gas shortage, not to mention the feasibility of having a chainsaw on your gun (imagine the maintenance nightmares). Either way, most characters will now have a “retro lance,” which is just a good ol’ fashioned blade. With this comes a bayonet charge, where you can balls out charge your enemy like it’s the Civil War. This results in a cool skewering animation where you lift an enemy off the ground like an insect on a pin. One problem, though. It takes two stabs to dispatch an enemy, so if you are going to charge make sure to stick to it.

[image3]Another weapon that has lots of potential to be fun is the incendiary grenade. This little bastard explodes on impact, unleashing a fire ball with a healthy radius. Now the must fun way to use this is to “jib” your opponent. This is where you grab a fallen enemy like you are using a meat shield, stick a grenade down his pants, and kick him at a group of enemies. The result is fun and comical. This did not get old, especially since the designer’s words were still ringing in my ears, “when you pull off a three man jib” it will be “satisfying.” In a less perverse sounding ways, its f#@king awesome. This can be hard to pull off, however, since people will be… uh… guarding their ass (heh).

Of the six new game modes that will be in Gears of War 3, we were told of three, and got to play one. First is Team Death Match. Fairly standard, with a little tweak to make it even better. Rather than running around and killing until a time or kill limit is reached, each team will have 15 respawns for each round. This makes for wiser battle planning and gets pretty epic when you get down to the last few lives. There are some great battles that arise when four guys are running around trying to dispatch that last, cunning S.O.B. The other game modes are King of the Hill, which will feature a dynamic ring that is constantly moving around. Also available is Capture the Leader, where you carry the enemy’s leader around like a meat shield for a pre-determined amount of time. Throwing smoke grenades causes you to drop the leader, and each leader has a set of special abilities. These include the ability to see through walls to prepare for incoming hostiles, and the ability to spot and communicate enemies to your buddy.

In Death Match we were allowed to tear ass through six new levels. Each map had its ups and downs, and lent themselves to a certain type of play. There was Checkout, an old grocery store which throws combatants at each other right away in close quarters. Mercy, one of my favorites, had a good mix of open space, hiding spots, and in-close action. Old Town was also fun if only because of the mass chicken slaughter, and Thrash Ball Court, which gave you the feeling of a Roman gladiatorial event.

[image4]They did not give us too much on the characters and plot, however. We know that there will be playable female characters, with the bodies of porn stars and dressed like strippers (come on, how else is Gears of War going to do it?). A new Carmine will be out there and no, they will not tell us if he lives or dies. Dom is back and bearded. Also making a triumphant return is Augustus “Coletrain” Cole, donning his old Thrashball helmet (which looks suspiciously like a football helmet).

With a release date of September 20, The folks behind Gears of War 3 did not exactly take the edge off our anticipation. There will be Beta version plays available in mid-April, so that is something to look forward to in the near future. Until then, put yourself to sleep at night with thoughts of new and brutal executions, incendiary madness, and the many ways in which to kill off Carmine.

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