Monday, September 19, 2011

Epic ending for Gears series with Gears 3

Gears of War 3
Developed by Epic Games
Published by Microsoft Studios
Available on: Xbox 360 exclusive
Price: $59.99 (Standard edition), $79.99 (Limited Edition), $149.99 (Epic Edition)

I haven’t run across many video games that make a person think about gospel music. Sure, I’ve heard several games refer to God, but most of them attach an additional word behind it. However, after playing Gears of War 3, I’m reminded of that old Negro spiritual, Down by the riverside.

“I ain’t gonna study war no more, I ain’t gonna study war no more, I ain’t gonna stud-dee war no more.”

Marcus Fenix, the star of Gears of War can now whistle that gospel song proudly.

Developed by Epic Games and published by Microsoft Studios, Gears 3 puts players into the boots of Fenix, a grizzled special forces soldier who’s an unwilling warrior. He fights because he has no choice but to fight.

In addition to Marcus, many familiar faces make appearances in the game, including Dom, Cole Train, Baird, Ana and Dizzy. There are a few faces, including Aaron Griffin, voiced by the old skool rapper Ice-T. Too bad there's not a COG version of his wife. ;)

Speaking of Griffin, he's an unlockable character for multiplayer. Interested? Just head over to the Facebook page and *like* the page to get the code for Griffin online.

Here's the link:

The game starts off with a flashback to him trying to rescue his father, Dr. Adam Fenix, who is being pursued by a unit of alien soldiers, called Locust. When he wakes up, the main campaign kicks off.

If you are familiar with Gears, you will be used to utilizing cover to stay protected, unlocking faster weapon reloads and teamwork from your other members of your unit, called COGs. What will leave you breathless are the plot twists, the in-game discoveries and having close friends make the ultimate sacrifice.

Controls in the game are solid. Doing the Roadie Run is a lot easier as well. You don't *stick* to obstacles and cover when you get close to it. The other cool feature? When your weapons overheat, you can tap the RB button on your controller to cool the weapons down quickly.

The campaign is very engaging. Your COG AI is improved, though they are still bullet sponges at times. The game also offers different methods of travel - including a sub mission that really puts you on the edge of your set.

Online is a main reason to buy Gears 3. There are several modes, including Horde, Co-op (up to 4 players) and Deathmatch. I am not that good with online multiplayer, but found myself nailing more enemies than usual. I am thankful Epic rolled out bots for me to blast lol.

The editions offer different flavors for Gears lovers. From the standard edition - $59.99 - to the Epic Edition ($149.99), each version will do well in any collection.

The Epic Edition, however, offers a grip of swag, including a Marcus Fenix statue - similar to the Halo:REACH memorial statue - an actual COG medal (complete with an engraved code to unlock Adam Fenix in multiplayer), a COG flag, an artbook, a schematic for the Hammer of Dawn - H.O.D. and personal effects from Adam Fenix. It also has 5 free Omen skins for multiplayer weapons. It's really one sick package, especially for fans of the game.

Graphically, it looks good but not great. There was a tad of framerate stutter a few times (there was an instance when I was heading out of a building), but it won't put a damper on playing the game. Audio is excellent - the score plays out like a movie. With a set of Turtle Beach PX5s, I was able to hear the Locust and Lambent coming in the distance.

Playing this game will take you through a range of emotions. You will find yourself cringing as you walk past dust figures that were once living, breathing people who were caught in a satellite laser’s aftermath. You’ll feel sorry for the infected citizens who attack you relentlessly. You’ll pause as you realize the aliens you are fighting are fighting you as hard to save their species.

It’s a solid shooter, but what makes this game shine is the seeing the grim costs of war. It’s a reminder that leaders don’t often think of the greater good – they think about themselves and helping their friends, not the people they govern.

The ending is one of the best I’ve seen in video games. You realize that Marcus is like any soldier, real or virtual, past, present and future – they will fight for their freedom – their family’s freedom – and when the fighting is done, they want to return to their mundane life.

The verdict? 9.5 (out of 10 stars) Aside from the occasional frame rate stutter, and how difficult it was to change my multiplayer character - to Adam Fenix - the game is nearly flawless. This is likely one of my top choices for Game of the Year. Yes, it's just that good.

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