by Josh Butler
previewed on X360
Heavy artillery (cntd)
Other key evolutions include the Mantle Kick, a cover-breaking leap over obstacles, which can be used as a melee attack to stun enemies on the other side. In the demo, this is seen being used to devastating effect when combined with the ‘Bag and Tag’, the new manoeuvre where a grenade is stuffed in to a hostage’s pocket before being shoved in to the arms of a cohort. Added to this arsenal is the Digger Launcher, a subterranean torpedo, formidable when combined with careful judging of distance; the Sawed-Off Shotgun, packing four punches close-range but a tortuous reload; the One-Shot, a self-explanatory rifle also fondly referred to as the ‘elephant gun’; and the Incendiary Grenade, which can prove a fiery threat to friend or foe.
COGs in the machine
The new weaponry may be familiar at this point, but what purpose they will be serving remains to be seen. The first campaign trailer began with a distress call from Marcus’s father, who may or may not still be alive. It’s now been revealed that the game will be set 18 months after Gears of War 2, beginning on Raven’s Nest, the current de facto home of the surviving human race and several members of COG. The fallout of Adam Fenix’s message to his son will apparently lead to Anya Stroud becoming a playable COG for the first time in the series and Cliffy B has promised Gears 3 will tie up the current plot with a satisfying finale, not to mention the longest story mode yet.
Which brings us to the multiplayer. For the first time including a straight-forward, five-a-side team death match, limited to 15 spawns a-piece and bots to even up the sides. Next to this bare-bones slugathon, the new ‘Horde 2.0’ is positively laden with bells and whistles. Players now amass currency which can be spent on any weapons and ammo not prised from the cold dead hands of Locust grunts, as well as all manner of tower-defence staples such as barriers, decoys, sentries, command posts and the very welcome new Silverback mech-suit. This may do away with the all-or-nothing ever-increasing stakes of Horde modes of yore, but with a boss enemy appearing every 10 waves and a variety of challenges that pop-up offering cash bonuses and some much-needed novelty it’s a far from ill-advised alteration to the usual bloody recipe.
Included in the mix is also a typical King of the Hill mode, an anti-Horde ‘Beast’ mode, putting you in the scuttling boots of a Ticker and allowing you to work your way up through the various Locust classes by killing waves of unwary COGs, and a ‘Capture the Leader’ mode, where Richard Prescott and the Locust Queen must be taken hostage by the opposing faction for a total of 30 seconds to win.
New finishing moves add vindictively brutal signatures to your kill, including burning them from the inside out and bludgeoning them with their own limbs. These ultimately pointless posthumous flourishes offer increased XP and a welcome alternative to the traditional tea-bagging. The final number and variety of these degrading moves is still a tightly-kept secret and should be great fun to explore on release.
There’s a good number of new multiplayer maps, from the supermarket ‘Checkout’ to the sprawling Jacinto-styled ‘Mercy’s Courtyard’. An early favourite, however, has to be the promisingly interactive Thrash Ball stadium where opponents can be lured in to the centre of the arena only to have the bulky scoreboard brought crashing down on their head.
Gears of War 3 is apparently a game neither unaware of its fans’ high expectations nor one that plans on disappointing them. Epic Games have already set a high bar no doubt, and perhaps for some they can only hope to live up to the precedent of the previous games. However, for those interested in watching this world evolve one last time before its current arc finally comes full circle there is plenty of reason to anticipate its release with high hopes. After all, it could well be the Gears of War sequel we have all been waiting for.