Mega-blaster Gears of War 3 is almost upon us. Aylon Herbert shares his first impressions.
I definitely enjoyed myself but I wasn't wowed by anything that I played during a four- player co-op through the first act of Gears of War 3.
The first third of act one reintroduces Marcus, Dom & Anya (who is a fighting member of your squad this time around) and also introduces a new stereotyped "cool black guy" character named Jace. Most of the enemies faced in act one were the Lambent Locus introduced towards the end of Gears 2 and just like before, these guys usually explode after they die, so best to keep your distance.
The most enjoyable experience in control of lead character Marcus was playing fireman by grabbing a fire extinguisher to put out some flames, simply because it changed the pace a little. The whole part with Marcus culminates in a boss battle of sorts against a giant monster with a weak point. There is some story setup during this whole part of act one and gives you a reasonable idea of what the main mission for the game will be, at least at first.
However, after the giant monster is taken care of the game pulls a "two hours earlier" switcharoo and I found myself playing as Cole, along with Baird, the new Carmine and a Aussie sheila named Samantha. Truth be told, this was the majority of the first act - showing their journey of how they got to the point where they could help Marcus defeat the giant monster earlier in the chapter.
While this actually delays the main story's progression and felt a little unnecessary, it did do a few interesting character development things, with Cole in particular. If you were new to the series, you'd almost be excused for thinking Cole was a main character just as much as Marcus.
From a more technical standpoint, I found the enemy spawn points felt a little too artificial when dealing with the Lambent. This is a shame because the older games did a better job of making the enemies' presence feel natural for where you were, but this time it is very obvious they are being spawned in which took me out of the immersion of the game a little.
Another thing I noticed was how few enemies there were at any one time, especially with four co-op allies, where we were able to clean up the enemies fairly quickly.
This meant the challenge level was not that high; the exception to this being some of the newer, bigger enemies we faced who had some very powerful attacks that could kill us quickly, especially if we were bunched up. It was only when facing these enemies that I felt a real need to strategise with my teammates. I hope the rest of the game has stronger enemies like this that force you to play smarter and spread out more, because it was exciting and fun.
With that said, one enemy in particular seemed like a bullet sponge who could take a lot of punishment and gave no indication of how close we were to killing it.
Another major threat, for my co-op friends anyway, was the new accessories system I discovered by accident. While walking around I noticed I could interact with something - a sweet cap - and was given the option to wear it backwards or forwards. What I did not realise at the time was this caused my allies to freeze up without stopping the combat. So while I was trying to decide whether wearing a cap backwards was going to make my butt look big, my friends were dying. On the bright side, my cap looked great backwards, even though I was unable to find any gold chain bling to really make it pop.
What was most surprising, was how almost muted the first act felt. Where Gears 2 started with a bang seeing a huge COG army moving to war against a huge Locust army, Gears 3 feels more like the first game. It is more about smaller skirmishes in less open environments than bigger battles in large open spaces. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, I just did not feel as excited or blown away about the beginning of this new adventure like I was with Gears 2.
Also, while Gears 3 is obviously a beautiful looking game, it did not seem like as much of a leap graphically or artistically. The first act is less beauty of the underground ala Gears 2 and more of the browns and greys of the city as in Gears 1). I am quietly confident that later chapters will feature more interesting environments. I mean, surely they will, right?
So, did I enjoy my time with it? Yes. Do I intend on playing the full game when it comes out in September? Absolutely. Am I super excited? Not really. I'm a fan of the Gears games and from my time with it, Gears 3 seems like another great game for the series. Just make no mistake: based on act one, it is the same great game we've played twice already so far.