This summer between new releases, I found myself searching through my backlog looking for games I could knock off. One game I ended up choosing to give another go was Gears of War 3 which despite me starting on launch day almost two years ago, I have never finished. After completing it, I was reminded what a fun action experience the series can be.
When looking at what makes Gears of War 3’s shooting shine, I’ve decided it is in large part to its weapon set and its vast variety of enemy types. The weapons all have a great feel to them. While I rarely go anywhere without my trusty Lancer (using its chainsaw bayonet is still delightful even after several entries in the series), I found myself switching to other weapons throughout my time in the campaign and coming away impressed with mostly all of them. The Torque Bow took me a little bit to get re-accustomed to, but once I did I was having a blast puncturing enemies with its explosive arrows. I’ve never really bought into the hype of the Hammer of Dawn due to the restrictions of when you could use it, but it felt like they barely ever held you back from it here which made it something I tried to use a lot more this time around. The rest of the armaments felt equally worthwhile other than the pistols which I admittedly didn’t give as much of a chance and the Retro Lancer which I didn’t care for at all.
Enemy variety continued to impress in this third entry of the series too. Gears of War’s sci-fi backdrop gives these games a chance to go nuts with making new enemy types that more realistic shooters cannot which really helps to keep encounters more varied. With lots of new Lambent enemies as well as old Locust favorites, you’ll be changing your tactics throughout the campaign as you deal with all the baddies the game throws at you.
While these elements feel as good as ever, I don’t think time has treated the Gears cover system all that well. While it may have popularized the sticky cover system seen in a myriad of games this gen, it hasn’t taken cues from some of the other entries in the genre since it started the trend. Using the A button for so many actions makes for unnecessary complications in my opinion, but worse are some of the restrictions to movement. Being a big fan of Uncharted, Gears’ character movement has always felt incredibly sluggish to me (I also don’t like being locked to a strafe), but I can accept them as this being a different style of game. What is less acceptable is how the game makes moving in and out of cover more difficult than it should be. Having to go into cover just to hop over it is silly as is having to move around certain pieces of cover instead of being able to climb on top. Overall the system is still serviceable and gets the job done, but I couldn’t help but think it needs to take some steps forward in the future (I have not played Judgment and have no clue if it made any changes in these areas).
Unfortunately, for the first time in the series, I played through the campaign solo (though I played a bit of it co-op before restarting it this time). I really love that this series is built so thoroughly around the cooperative play. It’s not a mode that is forced into a singleplayer game and it is definitely more fun to play with a friend than AI teammates. Gears 3 was clearly designed for four-player co-op which I can only imagine ratchets up the fun that much more.
A few other things worth noting:
- The game has a typically short campaign mode which is unfortunately kind of the norm for shooters these days. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. It is possible to have a nice ten hour shooter campaign without bad pacing. Devs should put the effort in to do it.
- The active reload is such a simple mechanic, but totally great. I still love it.
- The vehicle sections were largely forgettable. The submarine part felt like the low point of the game and went on for a bit too long. But the new mechs were good fun.
- There is a narrative in the game, but I still don’t care much.
- I’m not sure how I’d stack it up against the earlier two Gears of War campaigns. They all felt pretty similar in quality to me.
My return to the Gears series was a success. Despite quibbles about the aging cover system or the short campaign, Gears of War 3 capped off the trilogy with another good action-packed outing that scratched my itch to go shoot some stuff for a while.