Gears of War 3: Campaign

So it’s still Gears. I played most of the campaign in two-player, though some was with four, and a little bit was solo. It’s plenty long, it’s still a lot of fun, and it feels very refined, but I felt like it was missing some of the crazy energy of Gears 2.

There just wasn’t anything like the hailstorm, or the retractable cover, or the worm, or cooperative box-carrying. The highlight has to be Act 3 (I think) with the fort-defensive that transitions into providing cover for returnees that transitions into a great boss fight. It’s continuously intense, and the set-pieces flow together in a really satisfying way.

The low-light would have to be the submarine-rails sequence. Underwater levels tend to be dull. On-rails sequences tend to be dull. Combining the two doesn’t make things any better. There are certainly some nice visuals, but there’s not a lot else, and it feels like it goes on for too long.

Besides that, there’s a lot of good, solid, core encounters. It’s fun, and the mayhem of having four people in there adds a lot to the experience. And the areas generally felt well-designed and broad enough to accommodate all four of us.

There are some great effects on the enemies. Locust bursting out of the ground, and the lambent sprouting tentacles are big highlights. It’s been in Halo already, but I like the visual effect when the left-bumper is held down to show objective information. The combination of colour-desaturation, graininess and edge-highlighting and is really neat.

I’m glad that going down while playing solo isn’t a game-over any more. I appreciate how diligent the AI is about reviving downed players. (Although there’s a weird issue where, if you crawl while downed, the AI doesn’t update its destination quickly enough. This leads to instances where I would get out ahead, go down, crawl back, and then the AI would run past me to where I originally went down, and then turn around and come back and revive me.) Insta-kills still result in game-overs, which can be frustrating, especially with large numbers of players. There was one early sequence with Locust snipers that gave my group fits. We’d be going through fine, and then all of a sudden someone would lose their head, and that would be that.

In general, I still found the Locust more fun to fight than the Lambent. Dealing with exploding enemies once they get close can be frustrating, and additional the Lambent felt extremely bullet-spongey, especially in Act 1 before we accumulated a lot of power-weapons.

I also hit a serious bug late in the campaign. Whenever I picked up a new weapon I would lose access to that weapon-slot. It would just show up as completely blank in the UI. Reloading from a checkpoint temporarily gave me the slots back, but the problem recurred whenever I went to pick up new weapons. This is a particular issue given the configuration of the final boss fight. Fortunately, my co-op buddy was able to do the heavy lifting for that section while I dealt with the fodder.

The story still does nothing for me. I appreciate that they’re trying, but I just don’t care. Not about the characters. Not about the world. None of it.

So, all in all, it was good. I look forward to playing on higher difficulties, and trying out more of the multiplayer modes (I’ve only done a run-through of Beast, and 15 waves of Horde thus far). Between Gears 3 and Bulletstorm, (which I’m midway through) Epic continues to put out these highly polished, gorgeous, satisfying shooters, and I hope they keep it up. I’d also like to see them branch out and try something a little different, maybe still with core shooter gameplay, but more of a narrative or RPG focus.

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