Gears of War 3 Hands-On Preview [X’11]

The game with the largest presence at Microsoft’s X’11 Event was certainly the latest title from Epic Games: Gears of War 3. It took over a large part of the back of the main wing and also made its presence known in the entryway, with a television set up for some bloody chainsawing. The large bank of televisions in the back quadrant of the main wing however, was necessary to allow for team-based horde and beast mode gameplay. The goal was to get the press community involved in some co-operative gameplay, which seemed to work out quite well as the game was almost always in high demand with hooting and hollering combatants.

When I first sat down to play, a pause menu greeted me with the chance to retry a horde mode round that someone else had been playing. I hit retry and immediately saw a host of new improvements made to the game. One new thing Gears of War 3 brings to the table, is a command centre styled gameplay structure for horde. What this means is that the humans are able to create their own home base with different traps, devices and solidified positions. It adds a lot to the experience and makes it something much more fleshed out, though that’s not to say horde lacked content before. In fact, it was my favourite aspect of Gears of War 2.

Utilizing a currency system this time around, the game allows players to earn currency based on their accomplishments. With this money, the aforementioned traps (spike traps being the most prominent) can be purchased, along with turrets, weapons, ammunition and even a mechanical defensive machine toting turrets referred to as a razorback. Having to work hard to build up your defenses and improve your arsenal is a great new addition which helps the game feel more fleshed out and immersive. What it also does is create the chance for each playthrough to be much more different than its predecessor(s). Not just because of the randomized waves like before, but because players can try out new methods within each individual game.

Although I had my ass handed to me a few times on the later wave, I had a lot of fun playing the new horde mode. It was strategic, methodical and action-packed, as well as entertaining. There’s a nice amount of polish to be found amidst all of the improvements and upgrades, making it feel like a natural progression of what was one of the more badass additions in recent gaming history. A mode that has been copied by many other titles in recent times, though it’s never done better than in the game that brought it to realization.

Once my horde escapades were over, I jumped into the new beast mode, which was something I happened to be on the fence about. Would it be good? Or, would it just happen to be a mediocre diversion from the core cooperative multiplayer experience? To be honest, I haven’t been a big fan of similar game modes in the past, in games like Dead Space 2. Playing as the enemy doesn’t usually do it for me, unless it’s done very well and rivals the experience found while playing as a marine or another heroic class. Singularity had a solid realization of this premise, which worked well because it had a lot of variety in its disfigured creations, but it was in the minority. I’m glad to say that Gears of War 3 also succeeds with its new baddie addition.

Beast mode takes its horde inspiration and turns it on its proverbial head. Instead of trying to protect yourself against a multitude of ugly heathens as they rush at you with varying forms of attack specialties, you are that ugly and evil foe. Your goal is to take out every puny human around, though it’s much easier said than done. The humans are able to fortify themselves inside of their aforementioned hub, sometimes making it difficult to get to them all in time. Considering that the end goal is to take out all of your male and female opponents in a certain amount of time, there’s a decent amount of challenge to be found and a bit of a learning curve to get used to. Instead of planting the traps, you’re now faced with having to avoid (or destroy) them.

In closing, I feel it’s as good of a time as ever to talk about the new chainsaw rush attack. Those who felt that the last two Gears of War titles were gory may want to shy away now because this new rush attack is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s very grotesque though it also happens to be incredibly badass. I can see a lot of gamers getting taken out by hiding foes as they forget about strategy and rush their chainsaw bayonet into the foe right in front of them. Ah well though – that’s what a retry button is for, right? It’s similar to the knife kills in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – something I lost a lot of lives to in team-based multiplayer matches because it was just too much fun to not use.

When Gears of War 3 launches later this month, you can bet that we’ll have a review for your perusal. Based on my time spent with two of its biggest multiplayer modes, the game has cemented itself as one of the most exciting releases on my radar. The two previewed modes are just a portion of the sizeable amount of content that the full game will ship with.