Gears of War 3 Beta Impressions

April 20, 2011, By Christian Davis

Players curious about enlisting as COG soldiers to fight against the ferocious Locust onslaught are going to be in for a treat. Epic Games is definitely working hard on the best title in the Gears of War Trilogy, Gears of War 3. The team’s dedication is really showing in their newly released Multiplayer Beta. I was lucky enough to get an early hands on look at the title and in all honesty, it’s been taking up a lot of my time.

Epic Games has done a superb job with Gears of War 3’s multiplayer. They have found a perfect medium between the original Gears of War and Gears of War 2, making it the most polished and entertaining of the series. Little tweaks such as increasing the games speed give the experience more fluidity, while keeping the same Gears of War feel.

So what makes the new Gears of War multiplayer so good? Let’s start with weapons. There surprisingly are a lot of them at your disposal. Some are old favorites, but feel brand new and more visceral, while the new additions to the deadly Gears arsenal fit in perfectly and pack a lot of punch. Returning from previous installments are the Lancer, Scorcher (flame thrower), Pistol, Gnasher(shotgun), Boomshot, Mulcher(Large Machine Gun), Torque Bow, Longshot(sniper rifle),  Mortor, Boltok revolver, Gorgon SMG and the Hammer burst(semi automatic rifle). Some of these classics remain fundamentally the same, while others have changed a bit.

The Longshot for example has the zoom increased substantially. The Gorgon SMG use to shoot in bursts but is now a fully fledged automatic hand gun. The new and improved Hammer Burst is now becoming one of my favorite weapons. Not only is it really strong, but it now comes with an iron sight view that’s initiated after you click the “Right Stick” when aiming down your sights. It makes the gun even more accurate than it already is. Picking up either of these weapons will instantly give your team a bit of a boost in power. The classic guns of the franchise remain intact and enhanced in some cases, but these new weapons simply cannot be overlooked.

The coolest of the new weapons is a subterranean mine launcher called the “Digger Launcher.” Once shot the ground will literally be torn and thrown up from the sheer force of the propelled explosive device. If you’ve seen the movie “Tremors,” then you’ll know what to do when you see this coming for you. Just run out of the way until it’s gone. Naturally, you’d want to hide behind cover. That’s not such a bright idea actually. Hiding behind cover is useless because it travels underground. The mine explodes when the opposing payers are within proximity and it’s quite a big blast too. Just stay clear of this powerful weapon.

If you’re a fan of sniping then this power weapon will be an instantaneous favorite. This new weapon is called the “One Shot” and it does exactly what it implies, takes down enemies in one shot. The large than life sniper rifle only comes with a limited amount of ammunition, but will bring immediate fear to the other players. Your presence with this gun will definitely be known due to its wandering laser sight. If you’re caught standing still, have fun respawning. If you and your friends are standing in a line for some odd reason, you will all be enjoying the respawn time together. The gun shreds through several players with ease. It’s definitely an incredible sight to see. The One Shot is extremely heavy however, so if you chase the deadly sniper down, that player won’t be going very far at all.

The last two new weapons are variations of some of our favorite killing machines. Along with the Lancer and Gnasher, we also have the Retro Lancer and Sawed off Shotgun. The Retro Lancer is similar to the standard Lancer, but has a really gruesome modification. The original Lancer comes with a chainsaw; this lancer comes equipped with a vicious bayonet. If you hold down the “B” button, then your character will run at ramming speed towards the enemy of your choice. If you hit them, then that player will be impaled on your gun, causing instant death. The Retro Lancer is even stronger than the standard Lancer, but is lacking in the accuracy department, so you want to be at close range when using it.

The Sawed off Shotgun is an extremely deadly weapon, but only at an excessively close range. It can easily kill two players with a nicely placed shot, but if you miss, prepare to feel the wrath of the reload time. It is unbearably long. It’s definitely a powerful weapon to have in your back pocket, just be sure that your bullets will be making contact.

The game is already looking very impressive weapons wise and I didn’t even mention the grenades at your disposal yet. Smoke, Fragmentation, and Ink grenades are all back and even stronger. The Ink grenade is especially useful this time around. It leaves a massive black cloud of death and will force players to take another route. There’s also a new grenade that tagged along with the crew. The incendiary grenade is the hot newcomer and will demolish entire teams in a blaze of glory. Plant one of these on the ground near an objective and the players won’t expect a thing until it’s too late. Alternatively you can grab a meat shield, stick a grenade on them, and toss the character back into his or her buddies.

There is one small issue with the grenades and it’s similar to that of the torque bow. When a grenade is thrown near you, you don’t really hear it drop. You hear and feel the explosion, but not the warning signs of an impending grenade. If you’re hit with an arrow from the Torque Bow, you won’t know until you’ve blown up. There’s no vibration upon the arrows impact. So there are times when you’ll get hit with an arrow and all of a sudden half your team is in pieces because they were standing close together and no one knew you were a walking time bomb. Odds are it will be fixed before the game’s shipped.

One last thing that Epic has added to their new and improved gun collection is the weapon specific executions. Become proficient enough with a specific gun and you will unlock it. These are violent, graphic, and hilarious all at the same time. For example, if you have the execution for the Scorcher unlocked, then your character will spear the opponent with the weapon and then fire the flamethrower. This will result in fire spewing out of all the limbs. Or if you have the Retro Lancer execution available, this will show the player stabbing the characters in the ribs followed up by a swift slice to the neck. It’s a great way to get players to use a variety of weapons. Don’t worry though, the curb stomp is still there for you purist out there.

Of course, what’s a game without any levels to play on? The beta starts off with four fast paced and diverse maps.  All are fun to play on and it’s really hard to choose a favorite. Remember the deadly One Shot rifle I discussed? Well that gun is only available on the dirty, brown, and bloody level known as Trenches. This map is definitely on the smaller side of the four available. Cover is essential here due the ruined passageways that are broken up by some tight corners. Unless your team can hold down a side of the map securely, you definitely want to keep your head on a swivel. Otherwise you will get cornered quickly. If you happen to master the Digger Launcher on this map, you will have no problem getting kills. There is a great environmental event that occurs during each match. Loud horns will start to blow and the next thing you know, you’re hit with a sandstorm. This obscures any long range vision for about 15 to 20 seconds. It’s the perfect time to get by unsuspecting enemies.

With Trenches being the dirtiest map, you now have Thrashball which is considerably cleaner. Taking place in a Thrashball field, the level has players start off in what would be locker rooms and both teams will make a dash for the power weapon at the center of the map. There’s a very narrow passage way on one side that will be the victim of many fire fights. On the opposing side, there’s an elevated concession stand which gives view to the entire map and would be a great vantage point if players were to take control of it. Hovering ominously over the center of the rubble and decrepit grass is a scoreboard. Player should pay attention to this because it can be shot down and will obliterate anyone that happened to be underneath it. Anyone who falls victim to that will be ashamed.

Next up is Checkout. What use to be a lovely, flourishing supermarket in a multi-leveled mall has now been reduced to a high octane battlefield of violence and gore. Bookshelves and racks have been overturned to create essential pieces of cover in this deadly battlefield. This circular map will have you constantly firing at someone from all angles. You will constantly be getting flanked and some of the cover you have available will break if it takes too much fire.

The final map in the beta is Old Town. This is the largest map available and the most lush and vibrant. Cobblestone walkways, beach entries, and sunlight are the perfect scenario for a shoot out don’t you think? This map has several places to hide behind and catch entire teams off guard. There’s a farmers market in the center of the map, but most of the action occurs near the sniper rifle spawn. There’s a narrow pathway that both teams will rush for at the start of the game. The matches are intense immediately and it doesn’t ease up at all. If that doesn’t do it for you, then there are chickens running around on the map that you can kick like in Fable.

Even though there are only four maps available, Epic may add more maps to the beta. In the latest issue of Game Informer they played on two other maps, Overpass and Mercy. There’s no word on whether we’ll get to play on the mentioned maps, but it’d be great to get an even bigger taste of Gears of War 3’s addictive multiplayer. It’s great that they’ve even brought back some of the game’s modes from previous installments and have even modified them slightly.

The beta has three gametypes available:  Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, and Capture the Leader.  You’ll never get bored playing these gametypes. King of the Hill (formerly known as Annex) and Capture the Leader are similar to the franchise’s previous installments. Don’t fix what isn’t broken and that’s alright with me.

The biggest change occurred with Team Deathmatch. Team Deathmatch in previous titles was much harder for people to have fun with. If you died, then that was it. You’d have to wait to respawn, which in turn, made it difficult to get good at. It also wasn’t very fun. Dying at the start of the match was horrible and it really killed your enjoyment for the game.

Epic has changed that style of play for the better, but they still did not reduce the mode to the traditional type of play style. Rather than build up to a set score, the team has a certain amount of deaths they can lose before the game is over. Team deathmatch is frantic in Gears of War 3 and games go by quickly. Don’t expect the Call of Duty or Halo style of play with games that slow down at 49 to 49. The momentum never stops and it’s a welcomed change to the norm.

It’s great to see that Gears of War only got better with time. Along with the core gameplay, there are badges that players can show off, an events section that will display announcements for the game, and they finally incorporated women into the fight as well. This is just the beta and it already feels like a complete experience. Get ready to be blown away with Gears of War this fall when the game is released. Those who are in the beta early are already enjoying it. When more people join the fight, that fun will only be intensified.

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