This conclusion to the Gears of War trilogy has been a long time coming. Three red rings of death a marriage and a mortgage later, I've had the absolute pleasure to play and now review Gears of War 3.
I orignally purchased GOW1 as a filler game waiting for Halo 3 to arrive as I'd heard good things about it and that game sure delivered a fun filled kill fest and despite the nonsensical plot, ending General Raam's grubby run was a sweet deal. GOW3 has proven to be a sweet a deal as was the delight that was Halo 3 and dare I say it, a more enjoyable game to play than Halo Reach.
I thought I'd divvy this review up into the Acts of the game and give my thoughts as the game progressed.
Big ass spoilers follow.
Act 1. A big boat collides with the cole Train
So Chairman Prescott wasn't such a prick after all and may have the key to ending this whole nightmare? Such is the set up of the game - the new stranded onna boat must face new lambent horde who have no rhyme or reason for their actions, just killing. So that's what Marcus and his team of soldiers and secretaries get up to - if it's not taking down a giant Leviathan a la a Gears 2, it's the player taking the role of the Cole Train touching down on the face of some angry b'arch. At this point you begin to remember how corny GOW is but how fun the game is to actually play. It's time to find Adam Fenix!
Grist for the mill this level, a long journey to find Hoffman who may hold the key to finding Adam Fenix, the father of this game's hero Marcus. This leg is a bit of a slog but has a few novel features such as new guns that are quite kick ass. Baird, though always annoying, is given his dues as a true COG soldier and appears to be getting a bit more love and screen time than the prior games.
Act 3. Drop it like it's Hoff or 'meet me at the front gate'
It's often in the third act of a play where the shit hits the fan. As we all know, the Gears universe is a Mad World - so it's no surprise when in the most epic moment in Gears of War history, Marcus' brother till end end, Dominic sacrifices himself so Marcus and Anya can carry on to find Hoffman. It's possibly the finest gaming moment Gears of War has delivered thus far - how can the ending top this moment? This moment makes Seargeant Johnson dying in Halo 3 seem like a goldfish dying.
Act 4. Dom is dead, there's a dude that think's he's Ving Rhames or Simon Phoenix or something.
Marcus is a bit grumpy, his brother is dead and now he has to get some oil for a dude that's taken Dizzie hostage. The dude is some kind of cross between a pissed of Ving Rhames (the real life version) and Simon Phonix from Stallone's Demolition Man - it's epic cheese and one were GOW is let down by it's faux 'fuck you all, in your face attitudes' - it works for 12 year old gamers but not this player.
The Locust Queen turns up, flys around and pisses off - which leaves our heroes to fight their way to Dizzie's rescue - it's a good sequence and with the gnasher shotgun a fun chance to take on some Queen's guards at close quarters.
Act 5 or 6 (I'm Lost). We take the Sub Way
We'll it's more of a way to a Sub. Our heroes need to get to Azure. I've already forgotten why - but luckily Gears of War has always worked well without a comprehensive plot so I'm happy to run around dodging big electric centipedes while I get fuel for the submarine and some parts so Dizzy can take us to wherever.
The gun battles are fun, a boss battle against some heavily armoured Priests or whatever is a amusing - but as per the Arbiter in Halo 3, I can step back and let my team take some close quarters damage while I sit back from afar taking pot shots. I do however have a strong feeling this approach won't work when I get to a run through on Insane mode... revive me!
The Final Actions....
We battle through Azure's 'Malestrom' and after all these years we finally meet the father of Marcus, Adam Fenix - this should be of no surprise to any one who's played Gears before - the prior games have built to this moment and frankly it's a bit of an anti climax. This leads me to believe he's gonna die at the end of the game somehow, but not just before he faces Marcus and they hug it out.
So we battle through some kind of luxury hotel, where people b'arch about Prescott living it up large while the cities burn. I get the feeling this anger is misplaced.
There's some great set pieces throughout these final stages - they are going to really challenging on the Insane difficulty level.
You've read this far, so let's cut to the chase - the final act is a battle versus the Queen of the Locust Horde flying around on some kind of winged horse (if memory serves correct, we first saw it at the end of the first game). The game's final conclusion is obvious if you think about it - Marcus vs the Queen - it nearly happened in the second Gears game and when it happens, it's a fairly straight forward exercise in picking your moments with the Hammer of Dawn weapon.
And the story's conclusion? Well let's just say after 13 odd years of not seeing his father, Marcus gets to face his Dad for 13 seconds before he gives his life to save everyone else and make amends for the sins he believed he had committed.
Overall this was an extremely Gears of War game. If I've been snarky in places during this review it's because I expect great things from great games. Cheesey moments aside, Gears 3 has delivered a polished, bug free (??!) game with a semi coherent plot that answered a few things but created a few questions. The game features an excellent colour palate, interesting new monsters and a couple of good twists and turns. Definitely the best game of the series, my hat of the to the game's designers - they've earnt their pay this year!
So what's next for the Gears of War universe? GOW4?
P.S I was delighted to see the Carmine character live!