Cody Giunta
16 Aug, 2011

Gears of War 3 Preview

360 Preview | Gears puts it into third gear.
Trilogies are a difficult beast to master, no matter the medium. Fans have a lot of expectations, often contradictory. We want something that pays reverence to its past iterations, while also bringing a lot of new elements to keep things from getting too stale and familiar.

It's a challenge that Gears of War 3 faces at the moment. A game immersed in grunt and testosterone, and coming off the back of two critically and commercially successful titles, Gears 3 grapples with old and new ideas mostly with success, but it will likely be up to the individual as to whether it ends up being another Godfather III or Return of the Jedi in the pantheon of games. So far, however, things are looking pretty bright – not to mention very bloody. PALGN recently swung by Microsoft's Sydney offices for the first playtest outside of the US for Gears 3, playing through the first act of the campaign mode. Be aware that there will be some spoilers for previous Gears of War games below.

The game begins with Marcus on board a ship and speaking with Anya, but it's not long before things get out of control. This time around, the standard Gears squad make-up of four men has been shaken up, as Anya joins your four-person squad in full combat gear and proves to be very capable of taking out Lambents. It's worth commenting on her presentation in the game as Epic have managed to conceptualise her in combat gear so as not to have her as a mere sex object, but also not 'butch' either.

Nobody puts Anya in a corner!

Nobody puts Anya in a corner!
The basic controls and gameplay are similar to the previous games. All of the cover, reloading and firing mechanics are pretty much the same, but there are also a few new aspects thrown into the mix. The main one that we came across in our time was referred to as the 'silverback suit.' The silverback suit is essentially a mech equipped with a machine gun and rocket launcher that Marcus and other team members can climb into to fight the Lambent onslaught. It can also break objects and clear paths for you, which is crucial in your progress. Fortunately, the silverback suit's weaponry works on a recharge and overheating system rather than limited ammo, allowing you to dish out some heavy damage. It's just as well too, for soon after acquiring the silverback suit you will need its capabilities to take on one nasty-looking boss creature.

As you make your way through the ship, you are attacked at some points by a tentacle of a Lambent known as a Leviathan. You can shoot at the tentacles, of course, but it's only when you acquire the silverback suit and come face to face with it that you can do some serious damage. While the rest of the squad attacks with their lancers, Marcus can use the silverback suit to launch a barrage of missiles and machine gun fire to slow the beast. All the while, you and your team are being attacked by Lambents. It's a nicely-balanced introductory boss battle, with the highlight definitely being the progressive damage the Leviathan endures. At one stage of the battle the Leviathan's face is so disfigured and disgusting that it's even commented on by the characters. Throughout the battle, the team is in constant radio contact with a group of allies being lead by the ever-popular Cole Train. His squad assists through the battle constantly, and they have their own story to play out, taking place before the fight.

After the Leviathan fight, there's a flashback to a few hours to follow the exploits of Cole's team which consists of Cole Train, Baird, Clayton Carmine and another new character. Like Marcus' squad, Cole's team has a female member in the form of Sam Byrne, who just happens to be an Australian. Sam's a medic and has quite the mouth on her, cutting down Baird's own trash-talking with brutal efficiency.

An explosive situation, to be sure.

An explosive situation, to be sure.
Cole's squad starts out by seeking food and other supplies from a group of humans who are shored up in Cole's home town. As you go deeper into their stronghold, it's very clear that the people love Cole and he remains a hero in their eyes for his sporting exploits – skills that do come into play in a sequence so surreal that it's best played rather than read about. The Cole love is so strong that the people give up what little supplies they have to Cole's team without a second thought.

The Cole sequence brings a few new weapons and tricks to the table that can't be found in the Marcus segment of the game. The Retro Lancer is an old-school version of the standard Lancer with some unique qualities. Instead of a chainsaw, it's tipped off by a bayonet. Secondly, it's harder to handle than standard Lancers. While it fires slower and seems to have a greater level of recoil, it has more stopping power per bullet than the standard Lancer. It's a weapon that will likely take some time for players to master, but it has some interesting applications. The second new weapon of note to be found in Cole's sequence is the Cleaver. It's a giant, bloody blade that can slice multiple Lambents in half with ease, but has only a limited number of uses before breaking.

And it's just as well that you have some new weapons to use too, because the group of Lambents that Coles' squad faces seem a lot tougher than previous fare. One giant Lambent in particular not only hurls balls of acid at you that can devastate your entire squad, it also has tentacles that can break off and attack you separately even after the main body has been blown to smithereens. This is made all the more clear during a flying-fox sequence, which has you shooting at a monstrous Lambent and nearby oil drums to try and cause an explosion all the while still being under attack. We were felled several times by the globs of acid it hurled at us, both in single and multiplayer.


Speaking of multiplayer mode, we were also able to get a sample of the four-player co-op campaign. The basic controls and gameplay are identical to the single-player campaign, but there seems to be higher incidents of team members needing to be revived. The revival system factors into the points tally at the end of each chapter and can vary with each player. Some players may get a reward for the longest time being down but not out, while others can get points for the most number of assists in the chapter. The co-op mode is very satisfying and as much fun as the single-player mode, but it does come with one drawback – the inability to skip cut-scenes. This could have been something put in place after you view one for the first time, but it's a feature that is lacking in what we saw. It becomes particularly pronounced when there are some close together with little gameplay in between.

Despite cutscene issues, if you enjoyed the first two Gears games then Gears of War 3 is looks set to serve up another hefty and satisfying dose of third-person shooting action. With well-represented playable female combatants, some truly grotesque and sickening enemies along with some new weapons that spill copious amounts of the red stuff, Gears of War 3 remains a grunt-filled title of its own styling.
Lovers of the original Gears games can set their Lancers to pulverize for the grand finale.

Related Gears of War 3 Content

Gears of War 3 Review
19 Sep, 2011 An Epic conclusion?
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Gears of War 3 opening cinematic
24 Aug, 2011 Bring it!
2 years ago
Quite possibly chucking a sickie for emergence day!
Can't wait...
2 years ago
with you on that
2 years ago
The subtitle should have been Epic puts it into third Gear. or something.
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Australian Release Date:
  08/04/2011 (Confirmed)
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