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Gears of War 3 stomps out another mouthwatering multiplayer feast. While the campaign may not match the humanity of Uncharted 3, the co-operative play is streets ahead.
While the lion share of Microsoft's marketing might is falling to Kinect promotion, I had actually forgotten about Gears of War. I know for someone who purports to be head over heels in love with multiplayer games this is almost unforgivable. In my defence, there are some Kinect multiplayer games too -- oh, who am I fooling.
The clever thing about Gears of War 3 - apart from the great shooting, chain-sawing and general mayhem that I'll get to in a minute - is that it is actually very accessible for new games. Perhaps even for those very people enticed in by Kinect's promise of controller free gaming.
Unlike the big PlayStation 3 franchises that have to carry the weight of integrating Move controls, Kinect's more theatrical focus means that the developer Epic has been able to steer clear of any such distractions. Instead they provide some most helpful cut scenes to bring new comers, and those like me with short memories, back up to speed. Pair this with the easiest difficulty setting and you have a very casual friendly experience.
Of course, the majority of us aren't here for a joy ride. We want the full metal jacket experience, and for me this means split screen local co-op on hardcore. In fact, even with my penchant for local multiplayer the lure of four player co-op was actually enough to get me playing online.
Story wise, things carry on fro Gears 2. Fenix has been scattered with the other COGs after the last human city is ransacked. We join them as a rag-tag crew making a sparse living salvaging scrap on a giant ship. Things aren't helped by the discovery of The Lambent - a further mutation of the Locust Horde that have the unfortunate side effect of blowing up when they die.
Things are decidedly more believable in this final outing.
Although this is still a long long way from the genuine acting and engaging dialogue of Uncharted, things are decidedly more believable in this final outing for Gears of War. It's largely rough gruff stuff, but amidst this there are some emotional moments that don't descent into the comedic.
Although I was eager to lay my hands on the multiplayer, a lifetime spent with shooters has taught me that you need to play the campaign through at least once before you are proficient enough to head online. This seems to be the approach of other players as when I did make it to the multiplayer the action was competitive to say the least.
As you kill enemies in the Campaign you slowly level up your profile. This not only gives you a slight edge for online play, but also enables the game to match you with players of a similar ability - one of the most critical aspects of any online multiplayer mode.
There are three different ways to play Gears of War 3 with other players. Versus, Horde and Beast.
Versus pits up to ten players against each other in two teams of equal numbers. Within this are different types of game. Team Deathmatch is as expected, Capture The Leader targets the lead player with a bounty and King Of The Hill tasks you with controlling map locations to score the most points. To these are added the less familiar Execution where you only score if you perform certain kills, War zone which is essentially a team Deathmatch and Wingman where you have limited lives and try and wipe out the opposing force before they do the same to you.
Horde is a co-operative mode where players work through waves of enemies before tackling a boss every ten rounds. You earn cash for kills and can spend this on turrets, canons and the like between rounds -- this adds an almost tower defence angle to proceedings.
Plenty to keep a multiplayer addict like me happy.
Beast is another co-operative multiplayer mode where you play Locusts. Your aim is to eliminate the humans on the map. This starts off easy enough but soon gets harder as the waves of enemies to kill become more resilient and ingenious in their strategies -- not to mention more numerous.
As you can tell there is plenty to keep a multiplayer addict like me happy. But more than the simple stacking up of gaming options, I have been impressed by the investment Epic have thrown at this. Running their own servers seems to have meant a much smoother experience.
While Gears Of War may take some flak for being the non-thinking man's Uncharted, I still have a warm place in my heart for the COGS. And in third person multiplayer terms it is head and shoulders the better game than Sony's exclusive shooter.
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