With the Gears of War 3 beta coming to a close, I’ll explain why this is one of the year’s most anticipated games. New characters, weapons, maps, unlockables, and (finally) dedicated servers add more depth and gameplay than the two previous Gears of War games. Epic Games took a good hard look at their flaws, the community feedback, and best ways to change the series and I can honestly report they’ve done a remarkable job.
The newest important addition, to me, is the dedicated servers. No longer will you lag out mid-round or lose repeated matches due to “host advantages”. Throughout the entire beta, it felt great to never suffer a lag infested match and just play the game the way it should have been. This is a set up that needed to be implemented after the first Gears of War game and, while overdue, is quickly being embraced by the community. This will be a definite selling point when the game launches in September.
Only 4 maps and 3 game modes were introduced during the beta time. Battles were set up in a sports stadium, supermarket, an old ruined town, and sandy work site. All 4 of the maps are well rounded and offer lots of hiding spots. As for game modes – Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, and Capture the Leader were available to play. Each is fun in their own right and will satisfy your head exploding urges. Personally, I’m a King of the Hill fan but it’s very easy to jump in and enjoy the other modes available.
A lot the favorite weapons return for the beta such as the Gnasher, Lancer, and Boomshot but Epic added in some new awesome firepower. My favorite is the Digger Launcher which propels an underground burrowing bomb that erupts when enemies are either caught in the line of fire or are too close. Got an enemy that is cowering behind walls that seems to be killing everyone on your team? A single digger launch and that safe haven is no longer there. New Incendiary Grenades are introduced and add a nice area of fire to the battle. The new Oneshot is reminiscent of the Longshot but one shot anywhere on the enemy and they are history. The hugely popular Sawed-Off Shotgun will explode up close enemies in a single shot but the reload time will leave you vulnerable for some time. Finally, the Retro Lancer which is stronger than the regular Lancer but the accuracy is not as good. Opposed to the chainsaw on the regular Lancer, the Retro has a bayonet that you can charge at enemies and instant kill them if caught in your running path.
Unlocking new characters (including the first playable female) and executions all return as well as ribbons and medals earned at the end of each match. Those ribbons and medals contribute to your experience bar for ranking up. Killing more than one enemy with frag grenades, at least 5 kills without dying, completing matches, and reviving teammates are just some of the many awards given out for extra experience. Epic listed all possible ribbons and medals available for the beta, how many times you obtained them, and a percentage of your stats. They constructed a very nice feature to track your progress and earn experience points better than before.
There are a few setbacks to the beta which will hopefully be fixed in the final version. First is the respawning. There would be times where I would spawn only to be shot in the back by an enemy who spawned a few seconds after me in the same location. Second is the shotgun issue. We now have two shotguns both doing instant kills at close range. If the Sawed-Off is the new up close killer then the Gnasher should be altered to two hits or cause an opponent to be “downed”. Last is the Oneshot disappearing act. On the map Trenches, the Oneshot spawns on the top of the map but if you grab it then switch to another weapon it’ll disappear whether you took a shot or not. These items should be fixed for the retail version as Epic is getting tons of feedback on their Gears of War 3 forum about the beta.
Overall, I’m glad to have gotten into the beta. Gears 3 beta plays better and smoother than the previous games and should run even better in the final copy. I already have my copy preordered and ready to go. Very eager to see what Epic brings to show at this year’s E3. September cannot come quick enough.