2011-09-29

Gears of War 3 – Brothers To The End

by Yo Snyder

Gears of War is the other huge exclusive for the Xbox 360 that isn’t
Halo. It’s the game that made third-person cover shooters popular. It’s
the game that made 80s action-hero motifs cool again (you know, big
dudes with big guns and punny one-liners and lots of stuff blowing-up).
It’s also a series that has stuck close to its roots with every release.
You know exactly what you’re going to get with a GoW game, and Gears 3
is no different. That makes it pretty easy to review because, by now,
you should know if it’s a game for you. If you love Gears of War, the
third entry provides more of what you love with just a few minor tweaks.
If this series has never really been your cup o’ tea, there’s nothing
here that will change your mind about that.

Yup, it’s pretty much
the same old Gears, but as I said, for fans that’s no bad thing. The
action is still intense and over the top, the gore is still messy (if
you want it to be, more on that in a moment), the characters are still
the ultimate tough guys from their big muscles to their big guns to
their big talk and the big way they walk (seriously, these dudes have
the toughest way of walking….ever). Seriously. Look how tough these guys are.Gears has always screamed
machismo, but it’s also always had a heart. Gears 3 has those big
emotional moments where, because it is about tough guys who are secure
enough to have feelings, it’s okay to cry. This is man-drama at it’s
finest. Guys typically don’t cry at movies or TV commercials, but there
are very few guys, at least that I’ve talked to, who haven’t cried
during a Gears game, and especially during some key moments in Gears 3.
This game does a solid job of bringing closure to this particular saga
in the Gears universe (’cause if you think this is the last GoW game,
you’re crazy. This thing makes some serious money. They’ll find a way to
bring it back). It’s nice to see the story resolved without any
contrived, lingering loose ends for “one more sequel”. I’ll be happy to
play more Gears games, but I was satisfied to see this chapter come to a
solid close. 

However, even though it’s okay for tough guys to
cry when playing this game, the real reason we play it isn’t for the
drama, it’s for the action; and Gears 3 delivers on that front.
The campaign plays just as you’d expect it to, with a few new toys to
spice up the proceedings. The nicest new addition is four-player co-op;
and the game is definitely more fun when played with a friend. Once your
done with the excellent campaign (about ten to fifteen hours depending
on the difficulty setting and how much of a collector you are, and there
is tons to collect in this game), there’s the awesomely fun
multiplayer. Horde Mode is back and better than ever with a new tower
defense element added. Now, you can place spike barriers, decoys,
turrets and more to slow down the attacking Locust horde. You earn money
each round to spend on these things, and there’s an added element of
strategy to spending that money wisely. Then there’s the awesome boss
rounds that show up every tenth round. They’re tough but extremely
satisfying when you get past them. And to add a little extra gravy, you
can play Horde mode with up to four other people. Nice. When you tire of
that, you can play as the bad guys in Beast Mode, or head over for some
more standard multiplayer with deathmatches and different spins on
things like capture the flag and what not. There’s a lot of bang (pun
intended) for your buck here, and it’s all a great deal of fun.

Gears 3
does two other things that I greatly appreciate. Now, it is an M rated
game, with all that implies for something this action heavy; lots of
violence, lots of bloody gore, and lots of language. However, the game
is also mature enough to know that not everyone wants all of that in
their game, but they still want to play it. I can’t thank the developers
at Epic enough for including the option to tone that stuff down. Don’t
want all that excessive language, you can turn on an option that will
smother it in static. You still pretty much know what they’re saying,
but if you don’t want to hear it, you don’t have to. As for the blood
and guts, if you don’t want it, you don’t need to see it. There’s also
an option to turn that off. I just love the fact that Epic is willing to
say, “Hey, this is what the game is about, but if you want to turn that
stuff off, go ahead, we just want to play our game.” Granted, there’s
still lots of action in Gears 3, but you don’t need to see the
bloody results of it if you don’t want to. And there’s still plenty of
tough talk from tough guys, but you don’t need to hear all those
“colorful metaphors” if you don’t want to. It’s a minor addition that I
think is a big deal and is much appreciated.

The other thing I appreciated about Gears 3
is how it handles it’s female characters. Maybe it stood out to me more
because of some of the appalling ways the female characters and women
in general are being objectified and just generally disrespected in the
New 52 reboot in the DC Universe. Still, it was so refreshing to see
female characters get the same treatment as the dudes. Look, she has clothes on.They don’t run
around in armor “bikinis” while the guys are fully clothed. They aren’t
just there for “romantic interest” or to provide an opportunity for sexy
jokes or innuendos. No, they’re characters that are treated like equals
with the rest of the Gears. They’re soldiers just like everyone else,
with their own personal stake and perspective on the events that are
unfolding. They’re there to help their friends, to fight for what they
believe in, to do what they’re good at, and they aren’t treated any
differently just because they’re women. That’s pretty rare in video
games, and as I said, with the downward trend in DC when it comes to
women characters, it was delight to have this sort of refreshing take in
what’s essentially a very manly game. If anything, the girls are just
as tough and “manly” as anyone else, but they also provide a nice touch
of compassion and heart.

I also like that all of the characters in
Gears of War aren’t just caricatures, but they come across as people
you can care about. In fact, it’s that connection that provides much of
the drama found in this final chapter. As is implied by the game’s tag
line, “Brothers to the End”, things are pretty bleak for our heroes. But
despite that, despite the hopelessness and the insurmountable odds that
face them, despite the unenviable choices they have to make just to
survive, they know that they will always have each other. They know they
can count on each for the support, help, and strength they need to make
it through no matter what. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of
support in your life? Unfortunately, if you’re anything like me, you’ve
probably discovered that real people (unlike video game people) have a
knack for letting you down and disappointing you. However, the Bible
tells us there is a friend we can have who will be closer to us than a
brother. In fact, in Matthew 28 Jesus promises that he will stay with us
until the very end. In short, he will be our brother to the end; one we
can always depend and rely on. Speaking from personal experience,
that’s been a great source of strength and encouragement for me, even my
darkest hours. After all, that’s generally when we need a brother to
the end the most, and sadly, often the hardest time to find one. Unless,
of course, you happen to be a COG, or a child of the God of the Bible.

So Gears of War 3
delivers on all fronts. I haven’t talked too much about the specifics
of the game because, well, at this point, what more can I say? It looks
amazing (the best yet, in fact, and thank you for letting me play levels
in the sunshine…and for more color), it sounds amazing, it’s a lot of
fun to play, and it delivers a solid story with some emotional punches.
It’s everything you expect Gears of War to be, all polished up and
refined to near perfection for this final(ish) outing. If you’re a Gears
fan, you probably already own it. If you’ve been on the fence, this is a
good one to jump on with. True, it’s the last game, but it’s the best,
and there are several helps and modes to help new players dip their toes
into their first Gears experience; which is another nice addition. If
you’ve never cared about Gears of War before, there’s nothing here that
will change your mind about. Personally, I’m just glad I got to go on
one last adventure with these guys, and I had a satisfying sense of
closure when it all came to end…sort of an end, because the fun never
really ends thanks to multiplayer.

Score of 7:

Grapics:
6 – In a word; pretty. Gears has always looked good, but the
sun-saturated levels and the fact that many of them actually have some
color this time around makes this the best-looking gears yet. I noticed a
few minor spots where textures loaded a little late, but it was a minor
blemish.

Sound: 6 – Guns have ummph, the voice acting is solid if
occasionally cheesy, and the score, oh man, the score. It knows when to
swell to add emotion and when to just blend into the background to keep
the action energetic.

Controls: 6 – As intuitive as ever, but
then they’ve had three games to refine them. I still don’t like having
to get into cover to vault over something, but a minor grievance, that.

Gameplay:
6 – In a word; fun. The campaign is like playing an action movie with
heart. The multiplayer is addictive fun with something for everyone, and
there are even modes for noobs to adjust to the Gears of War style
before jumping in with the pros. 

Story: 6 – The story brings a
conclusion to the many story lines of the series and closure for the
time we spent with the characters. Well done.

Content: 3 – This
can vary, really, as you can turn some of this off if you want. The
language is pretty pervasive, especially when Ice T shows up. The blood
and gore flies liberally during combat. However, turn that off and
you’re left with a shooter no more offensive than Halo but much
grittier.

Final: 6 – I turn the language and gore off, and
therefore have a much more enjoyable experience than I might otherwise
have. With those filters on, Gears of War 3 is an exciting and at
times a surprisingly emotional experience. Add to that some excellent
multiplayer, and you have what’s easily one of the best games of the
year.