With the highly anticipated release of Gears of War 3 right around the corner (Sept 2011), it is no surprise we have a beta in our midst to get the salivary glands going. If you happened to have purchased the EPIC Edition of Bulletstorm, you got an invite to the beta. You can also get a code to the beta by pre-ordering Gears of War 3. Those that got their invite from Bulletstorm do get the advantage of starting the beta April 18th, all others have to wait until April 25th.
There is a drawback though to being able to start the beta on the 18th, there is only one mode available and only two maps to play on. The only mode you get to try out is TDM (Team Death Match) and the maps available are Thrashball and Checkout. Once the beta goes live for everyone on the 25th, two more MP modes will become available, CTL (Capture The Leader) and KOTH (King Of The Hill) as well as two more maps.
The Thrashball map is of course in a Thrashball arena and the Checkout map is in an old grocery store. Gameplay has not changed at all, there are just new weapons, characters and a new ‘move’ (there may be more, but I’ve only found the one so far). The new move I speak of is when you jump over cover. Now when you jump over cover, if there is an enemy on other side of cover, you automatically kick him back. When you do this, the enemy is stunned and allows you time to go in for the kill. The maps are pretty straightforward, still done in the same gritty Gears style we have grown to love. Who has time to admire the scenery though when there are enemies to kill?
Onto the new weapons. The much talked about Retro Lancer, the One-Shot, Incendiery Grenades, the Digger Launcher and my personal favorite, the Sawed-Off Shotgun are all here. The Retro Lancer is the predecessor to the lancer we are all accustomed to. Instead of a chainsaw it has a regular knife-type bayonet and is less accurate than the newer model. The Retro Lancer does make up for the loss of accuracy with the power that it boasts. The One-Shot is a heavy sniper rifle that while it takes time to charge up, once you hit your target they are vaporized.
Incendiary Grenades are fun and full of fire, literally. These bad boys will engulf enemies in flames and make quick work of them. The Digger Launcher is another fun weapon. It actually fires a propelled grenade underground. The grenade will stay underground until it is in the vicinity of an enemy and will then pop into the air and explode. My favorite of all these is the Sawed-Off Shotgun. The weapon is terrible as far as range is concerned, but power is AMAZING. The spread pattern for this gun is so wide that you don’t even have to be straight on target for a kill. A perfect shot with this shotty results in total shredding of your intended target.
Moving on, there are perks offered for playing the beta. Different weapon skins are there for you to unlock as well as characters for use in the beta. There are a total of 12 weapon skins, 8 characters and 16 executions to unlock in the beta. These are unlocked by playing a certain amount of matches in all MP play types or by getting a certain amount of kills with a particular weapon in the beta. Cole Train (Cole in his famed Thrashball Uniform) and the Gold Retro Lancer will be the only items that will carry over to the retail version of the game.
As an extra perk for those involved in the beta, you can permantly unlock flaming weapon skins for 4 other weapons just by completing one match during the assigned week. Flaming Hammerburst for completing a match by April 24th. Flaming Lancer during the week of the 25th. Flaming Sawed-Off Shotgun during the week of May 2 and the Flaming Gnasher Shotgun during the week of May 9th. To unlock the Gold Retro Lancer for the full retail game you must first unlock it in the beta by playing 90 matches of any type. Once unlocked in the beta you must then score 100 kills with it to unlock it for the retail game. As for Cole Train, you need to play 50 matches of any type in the beta to unlock him, then simply play 10 matches as Cole Train in any mode and he will be unlocked for the full version of the game.
You can win badges as well as ribbons but at this time I have no idea if these will actually do anything or if they are just supposed to look pretty in your profile. There are 84 ribbons and 40 badges that can be earned. Ribbons are earned by accomplishing certain things while playing in MP, such as taking the least damage in a match or getting the first kill of the match. Of the 40 badges, the easiest to get are Beta Tester (complete a match in the beta) and Old Guard (had to have earned Veteran in Gears 2). The other badges are earned by weapon kills, execution types, character usage etc and each badge goes up to 4 stars max. I imagine there will be achievements for obtaining all 84 ribbons and getting 4 stars on all badges.
Overall, I’m hyped after playing the beta. I’ve had lots of fun and cannot wait until the full version is available. It’s more or less the same old Gears multiplayer that we’ve come to know and love but the minor tweaks here and there only serve to make it more satisfying. If you’ve enjoyed playing Gears online in the past then you should feel right at home here. It’s fun, addicting and extremely entertaining. Can’t wait to pick up the full game when it drops this Fall!