Gears of War 3: Beta Impressions

The Gears of War 3 Beta has been out for a few weeks now, and whether through a pre-order or Bulletstorm, many people are getting an early taste of one of this year’s most anticipated releases. Gears of War has been a flagship series for the 360, and this is definitely Microsoft’s big release for the year, so there are high hopes for Gears 3 to be just as good, if not better, than the original two. So how does it hold up? Does it fix the connection and balancing issues found in the second game? Does it do anything worse?

            If the game is tweaked a bit before launch, Gears of War fans will certainly be ecstatic about this threequel’s multiplayer component.

            At its core, the Beta is just like previous titles; there are two teams of five, COG and Locust, that compete against each other in typical shooter game-types. So far, there are three game types available in the beta: standard Team Deathmatch, King of The Hill, and Capture the leader. TDM and KoTH has remained the same, but Capture the Leader is a new variant of the popular Guardian game-type from previous instalments. In this mode, players must protect a chosen leader from the enemy team, but at the same time they have capture and hold the opposing team’s leader for thirty seconds to win. It’s a fun game mode, and many people will see it as an improvement over Guardian. The other game modes are also fun, but they don’t showcase anything new within the game. If the retail follows this framework where one third of the game types are improved or changed and two thirds remains the same, it should be the perfect balance of old and new for fans.

            The Beta has four maps; a destroyed store (Checkout), a field resembling a football field (Thrashball), a vibrant aged village (Old Town), and a dusty mining area (Trenches). All of the maps are well designed, making sure that neither team has the upper hand depending on where they spawn. Most importantly, all the maps are fun to play on, and they offer multiple ways of taking out enemies. Whether or not they stand the test of time has yet to be seen, but Old Town and Trenches are sure to become crowd-favourites.

            The classic weapons from the Gears universe return, and they have been much improved. Each weapon has gone through subtle tweaks or alterations, and some have been renamed (the shotgun is now called the gnasher). Each weapon gets used more evenly than in previous titles, and games are no longer completely shotgun dominated. It’s nice to see a developer learn from their mistakes, and the fact that the classic weapons are balanced greatly improves Gears of War’s multiplayer.

            One of the coolest and best additions is the new weapons. All the new weapons are great and unique in their own way, but each of them needs to either undergo some tweaking or need to be balanced. Even though its name suggests that they are similar, the new retro lancer is vastly different than the regular lancer. It features a bayonet instead of a chainsaw, and it is used to charge at and impale unsuspecting enemies. It shoots just like the lancer, but it is much more powerful at the cost of being incredibly hard to aim and control. It is a great addition to the Gears arsenal, but it seems a bit too powerful, and it can often down an enemy quicker than a shotgun in close range. The new shotgun, the sawed off, suffers from a similar fate. It has one round per clip, a really long reload time, and it has horrible range. However, up close, it will kill anyone in one shot. Like the retro lancer, it’s a great new addition, but it needs to be a bit less powerful for the sake of balance. The new power weapon, the digger, is perhaps the best new addition. It shoots an underground bore of sorts and comes up and kills where you designate it to. It works well, it isn’t overpowered, and it is a blast to use. The new incendiary grenade is the worst new addition. It behaves just like an ink grenade, except it seems to be slightly stronger. There doesn’t seem to be a real point to it. All in all, the new weapons are awesome, and as long as they are tweaked a bit, Gears 3 could very easily have the best arsenal in the series.

            A huge problem with Gears of War 2 was the networking issues. Each game would have a host, and everyone else would have to suffer through lag, resulting in a very unfair multiplayer system. With Gears 3, Epic has completely improved the networking, making it one of the most fair and lag free multiplayer components on the market. No longer will anyone call “host!” at an unfair kill, nor will anyone who is bad at the game do better than actually skilled players. It’s satisfying to see Gears finally have its multiplayer at its full potential.

            The Gears of War 3 Beta has me sold. It has improved the game in every way it needed to be, and it has added enough new additions to give fans a reason to dive right back in. The game is more fluid, the maps are just as great as they used to be, and the game-types are both new and improved.  As long as Epic balances the new weapons, Gears of War 3 could have one of the most satisfying and fun online components in recent memory. Let’s just hope that they can make a campaign that is just as enjoyable as the multiplayer.

Here are some videos for those of you who can’t play the Beta. Courtesy of SixAMGames.

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