by Josh Butler
previewed on X360
The wheel keeps turning
It’s been a long three years for Gears of War fans. With the previous games releasing two years apart - almost to the day - there was a palpable sense of trigger-fingers across the world beginning to twitch as November 2010 came and went. Originally slated for release in April 2011, that too slid back to the current September 20th 2011 date, leaving only the justification of a public beta (accessible through pre-orders and the Bulletstorm Epic Edition) between Epic Games and a full-blown fan riot.
Hyperbole aside – there were, after all, a couple of other popular shooters released in the inter-War period – the amount of excitement for the third instalment in Microsoft’s flagship series should not be underestimated. It may have been three years, but that doesn’t mean those chainsaw bayonets have been left long enough to go cool. For the most part, they’re still revved and ready for the third and final game in the current trilogy.
Mixing it up
The public beta may have left the changes to multiplayer an open secret in the gaming community, but the new single player campaign is still largely under-wraps. The branching storylines of previous games are a bigger part this time, with a single scenario playing out from a variety of different angles giving each member of your co-op team (now extended to up to four-players) a unique experience and adding some replay value in fully appreciating the plot.
Audiences may be justifiably wary of a developer threatening to get arty with a mainstream title, but designer Cliff ‘Cliffy B’ Bleszinski is the first to admit that despite some avant-garde storytelling choices, Gears of War ‘isn’t Shakespeare’. Having proved capable of pulling off parallel narratives in prior games, he says injecting a Pulp Fiction-inspired non-linear style will allow Epic more opportunity to ‘split it up, let characters do their own thing’.
He demonstrates this in relation to the co-op gameplay demo shown at E3. It takes place on a flotilla under attack from a Leviathan (of the Lambent variety). Returning COGs Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago commandeer two of Gears of War 3’s newest toys – Silverbacks, single-man mechs resembling the gorillas of their namesake – and subdue the giant sea-creature with the vehicles’ double chain guns and rocket launchers while Damon Baird and Augustus ‘Cole Train’ Cole empty a crate of explosive Tickers on its head.
From Baird and Cole’s perspective, this scene is from an aerial view, as they plough through swathes of Drones between them and the crucial crate. ‘Plough’ being the operative word given the introduction of another new weapon, the Vulcan Cannon, which requires one COG to aim it, another to load it, but will reward you with 900 bangs for your buck.
Watching these two weapons in action, it’s already clear that tactics in Gears of War 3’s fire-fights are continuing to evolve. The Silverback offers a satisfying stomp attack to crush smaller enemies underfoot, but can also be deployed as a transportable piece of cover for yourself and companions –three of which can now join you in a co-op campaign. More players obviously allow for more effective enemy flanking, and weapons and ammo can now also be exchanged between your team to allow for greater co-operation.