Gears Of War 3 review

Gears Of War 3 review

Consider, if you will, the mighty Brumak. How fitting that the Gears bestiary should include a hulking, bipedal reptile. Strip away its gratuitous arsenal of machine-guns and rocket launchers – enough firepower to make the Earth resemble a planet-sized hunk of fruit with a bite missing – and the Brumak and Tyrannosaurus Rex could be cousins. Palaeontologists once peddled a view of dinosaurs as fabulously brawny creatures with walnut-sized brains. Many hold the Gears Of War series in identical regard.

Can you blame them? Marcus Fenix and his fellow COG soldiers boast lantern jaws, impregnable armour and necks with the sort of girth you only expect to ?find in an old-growth forest. Dazzling set-pieces and hyper-combustible action sequences bully their way into your brain’s pleasure centre using spectacle, the bluntest of all aesthetic instruments (why pick a lock when you can batter the front door down?). Then ?there’s the game’s rabid fan community. Each new ?photo of a fan’s COG-skull tattoo retweeted by ?Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski further reinforces Gears’ reputation as the game series for lunkheads.

Following a psychedelic, refreshingly non-gritty prologue dream sequence, Gears Of War 3 opens with Fenix waking aboard a sort of post-apocalyptic Noah’s Ark. The planet Sera is besieged by a newly evolved menace – the Lambent, a combustible breed of monster that makes the Locust from the previous games seem docile. Even the ocean has sprouted Lambent stalks that reach like gnarled tentacles from its choppy swells. A surviving remnant of COG soldiers has retreated to the ocean in warships, trying to survive long enough to devise a plan for rebuilding civilisation. Any thoughts of retaliation or heroism have long since been abandoned for the more pressing needs of survival.

Gears 3 makes use of environmental storytelling ?to powerful effect. As you move through the ship’s creaking hull, the amount of care lavished on its smallest details makes the Normandy from Mass Effect seem personality-starved by comparison. A pair of ancient-looking arcade cabinets take on an odd poignancy when viewed as a means of killing time while aboard a doomed, drifting vessel. The cushions on a leather couch have gone hopelessly flat, their stuffing pokes out of creases that burst open years ago. One soldier chides another for “ruining the crossword” by neglecting to write his answers on a separate sheet of paper so the puzzle can be recycled by others.

Players who prize evisceration over exploration needn’t worry. Even in scene-setting moments such ?as these, you can always rely on a fevered skirmish ?just around the bend. Likewise, pacing benefits from Epic’s decision to minimise the stretches of dead air that plagued Gears 2 as Fenix moved torpidly through a ?level with his finger wedged in his ear.

When the Lambent (or, in COG shorthand, ‘glowies’) finally arrive, it becomes clear that Epic has gone beyond a simple cosmetic refresh. The combustible, glowing-yellow Imulsion coursing through their bodies fundamentally alters the gameplay rhythm of the Gears experience. As the tentacles of mutated Lambent fire explosive globs of Imulsion over the top of cover, action takes on a more frenetic pace. Gone are the days of hunkering down, all but invincible, behind a chest-high wall and blind-firing your way to victory. Fighting the Lambent requires decisive movement and mastery of the evasive dive-roll.

If you’re playing the campaign in co-op, the squad must focus its fire on the mutated tentacles to remove the explosive projectile threat before shifting focus to the head. A press of the left stick while aiming drops a marker on the targeted enemy, so squadmates know what to prioritise. If you kill everything but the head, it will slither across the ground to hunt you down and exact revenge. The freedom these Lambent mutations allow Epic in reshaping combat for up to four players makes up for any gravitas the game loses by pitting its heroes against big, glowy monsters. The Al-Qaeda stand-ins of other shooters just aren’t as flexible a foe.