Gears of War 3

Gears of War 3 Versus Multiplayer MEGA Hands-On Preview - Tonight, We TDM In Hell!

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Epic will be the first to hold their hands up and say that Gears of War 2’s multiplayer suffered from what can only be described as growing pains when it shipped in 2008. In fact, they did at Epic‘s North Carolina studio this week, and with Gears of War 3, those mistakes are but a distant thought as they prepare to get their latest instalment of the popular franchise’s multiplayer back on track.

For those of you who are well versed with Gears of War 2’s recent title updates, Gears of War 3’s multiplayer puts a lot of those tried and tested formulas to good use, including but not limited to the ranking system and the vastly improved matchmaking. With a good few years of experience behind refining their matchmaking system and with Gears 3 getting the dedicated server treatment and host migration, it seems as if those growing pains are a thing of the past. Even Executive Producer, Rod Fergusson, proclaimed that they treated Gears of War 2’s recent updates as a beta of some sorts for the fall 2011 title. In other words, you’re getting two betas!

It may sound odd, but Gears of War 3’s major multiplayer addition in terms of modes is one of the genre’s oldest: Team Deathmatch. In typical Epic fashion though, it’s TDM with a suitable Gears of War twist. Instead of working through to a set target in terms of kills to win the match, the aim of Gears 3’s TDM is to deplete the opposition’s life pool - in this instance, 20 lives - until you’ve wiped them off the face of the map entirely. Win enough rounds and victory is yours.

It does turn into Warzone eventually as the lives whittle down to nothing, but it’s definitely more forgiving for new users. If a certain team mate is chewing up lives, the game may give them longer respawn times or even spawn them next to a team mate - strength in numbers and all that – so that they don’t feel out of their depth.

Sure, it may sound like a simple addition, but I can assure you, when Gears of War 3 ships in fall 2011, Team Deathmatch is set to become a fan favourite, with tense epic battles almost guaranteed. And due to the Gears of War team-orientated gameplay, it brings with it more tactical and nail-biting affairs. That’s coming from someone who stands firmly by the mantra of “Execution or nothing, sucka!”

While Epic’s biggest addition to the franchise may be their take on the traditional Team Deathmatch mode, it’s the subtle tweaks that will be the biggest game-changer. While self-revivals - bashing A to get up when downed - may seem trivial, it adds another element to the proceedings on the battlefield that those well versed with Execution will be more than familiar with. Then there’s the ability to look at the map pre and mid-match; and also access the “Tac/Com” mid-game to see where the power weapons will spawn. Even something as simple as being able to spot enemies with the Y button for your team mates and having a tiny marker above your team mate’s head helps enhance the experience online.

Instead of adding Team Deathmatch on - as well as Beast of course - and slapping a label on it and saying it’s done, Epic has also sought to refine the other online multiplayer modes.

Capture the Leader is a new game mode in name only, but acts rather like a hybrid Guardian and Submission mode, with a few choice optimisations. The aim of Capture the Leader is to simply capture the opposing leader and keep hold of him for 30 seconds. Being the leader does have its advantages though, and being able to access the Tac/Com to see through walls and bark orders at your troops is a nifty tool at your disposal.

You will be the focus of all the opposing team’s angst though, so you have to be careful not to get captured. If you do, rather than being helpless for 30 seconds, after 15 seconds you can use an ‘interfere’ on your captor to try and break free from his grasp, issuing a small amount of damage and opening a window of opportunity for your team mates in the process.

The other revamped mode is King of the Hill, which is an amalgamation of Annex and King of the Hill, again with a few choice optimisations. Unlike the traditional King of the Hill from Gears gone by, the new mode does a few things differently. Firstly, the ring now moves on a timer, whether captured or not and secondly, you don’t have to stay in the ring to keep scoring points.

Using Wingman’s spawn points to prevent camping and adding in a new percentage system to make the objective clearer, Gears of War 3’s refined King of the Hill mode takes two of Gears of Wars 2’s lesser modes and combines them into one of the most manic modes the game has. It’s like combining two distinctly average glamour models together to create a supermodel... that’s how it’s done, right?

Execution and Warzone on the other hand remain untouched, because let’s be honest, fiddling with the two classic Gears modes is like putting ice cream on your favourite steak... Hmmm, now there’s an idea... Wingman though, does see a reduction from 10 players to 8 players, to avoid your success in it being determined by where you spawn.

Although Epic was keen to show off a handful of the game’s new weapons, it was the shift in stance that they had taken on the original trio that seemed to make all the difference. Rather than just adopting to offer the players the traditional shotgun & Lancer/Hammerburst starting choices, players now have the choice of five starting weapons: three assault rifles and two shotguns.

Joining the Lancer and the Hammerburst is the Pendulum Era Lancer, which is essentially a Lancer with a bayonet replacing the chainsaw. While the Pendulum Era Lancer has some insane recoil action going on and it’s obviously intended for burst firing at a much shorter distance offering greater damage than the Lancer, its best use is easily its battle charge - holding down B -which allows you to completely humiliate your opponent by lifting them up in the air and flinging them to the side like a used condom - that’s how it feels as well! Obviously, a side step or a shotgun to the face will stop them in their tracks, but it’s a terribly daunting sight to see someone charging at you as their character screams away like there’s no tomorrow.

Possibly more interesting are the tweaks made to the Lancer and the Hammerburst though. For one, no longer does bullet fire interrupt some maniac revving their Lancer’s chainsaw, with it now only possible to interrupt them during the initial moments of the animation. The Hammerburst on the other hand gets a tweak in its range, with the option to switch to iron sight added, just to cement that fact. By holding the left trigger and clicking in the right stick, players can look down the barrel of the gun and dish the pain from much longer distances and with pinpoint precision for the most part.

Epic hasn’t forgot about its trusty shotgun though - AKA, the Gnasher – and joining that will be the Sawed-Off shotgun, which believe it or not, is more powerful than the Gnasher with a much larger spread. To balance its power though, the Sawed-Off can only hold one shot per clip; has really slow reload times; only carries less than a handful of bullets; and is only effective at ridiculously short distances. In truth, I found myself sticking with the Gnasher as per usual, although the veteran Epic players were all about the Sawed-Off... the fact that it can kill multiple targets at once if they’re close enough may have something to do with it. It’s a practice makes perfect scenario with the Sawed-Off; that much is clear.

We did manage to get some hands-on time with a few new weapons as well - other than the Digger Launcher that we saw at E3. The Flame Grenade was first up – an obvious choice for Epic – and with it having no delay and exploding on impact, it’s never been so much fun to fry a foe to death. Even the Gorgon pistol feels like a new weapon, after being turning into a fully automatic sub-machine gun. It’s still one handed though, so is definitely perfect for when you take a meat shield.

Neither however, was a match for the One Shot - Gears’ new heavy-duty sniper rifle, which does exactly what it says on the tin... and that’s kill things with one shot... even a Boomer with a shield!

With the ability to turn foes into red mist, the One Shot is a formidable weapon, although Epic has done enough to burden the user, getting the balance spot on. Thanks to a slow moving aiming reticule; a very limited number of shots; a laser sighting system which telegraphs where the user is aiming; and making it a heavy weapon, which slows down the user to snail pace; they all combine to keep the power of the weapon in check. Reducing someone to red mist though is as satisfying as it gets in Gears 3. Well, I lie, using the new “mantle kick” to leap over cover, kicking your foe and then shot gunning their face off or “bag and tagging” a foe with a grenade is as satisfying as it gets... red mist is a close second though!

As was the case in Gears 2 after Title Update #1003, Gears 3 will use the same ranking system, rewarding players for everything they do. This time though, players can earn “Ribbons” for completing smaller specific challenges - like a killing spree of 5 people - as well medals, which are much lengthier challenges, and even earning titles, which can be assigned to your online character so people can either fear you or recognise your strengths. These challenges in turn open the doors to unlocking custom character skins - like Cole in his Thrashball uniform - and even colourful skins for your guns - yes, they even do pink! Both of these customisation aspects are well implemented and don’t necessarily result in an all pink Lancer, but one that’s had its specific parts painted. In other words, it’s no longer a tacky paint job like the gold Lancer from Gears 2 - yes, I still use it though.

If that doesn’t spark longevity, then maybe the game’s ‘mutators’ will, which come in three flavours: harder, easier and goofier. They are as straightforward as they sound: some will make the game easier, some will make it harder and others will make it plain hilarious - like the “Toddler” mode, which gives everyone big heads, big feet and big hands... that name’s not final yet in case you were wondering. These are aimed at lengthening the appeal of the co-operative aspects of the game though - horde and the campaign specifically - and won’t be available in multiplayer. Well, that is unless Epic introduces them at certain events that will become part of Gears of War 3’s long-term appeal through its new in-game calendar. Think along the lines of their current XP events, but more frequent and wackier.

If that doesn’t please you, achievement hunters should be ecstatic to hear that an improved “War Journal“ in Gears 3 will, for instance, track which specific executions have been performed with which weapon, so no more fumbling to see which execution you haven’t performed. Epic did touch on the achievements briefly, noting that a handful will be used to tempt players to taste all the modes in Gears 3. As far as a reward for Gears 2 players with their “wings” go, Fergusson told us that they hadn’t got as far as deciding what that would be yet. So watch this space.

The execution system has also been tweaked ever so slightly in Gears 3 too, with every weapon now having a specific and unique kill execution - each more gruesome than the last it appears (check out the footage in this weekend‘s interview). Furthermore, in Gears 3, more and extended executions can be earned, which also reward you with more XP when used - for instance, a 10 second COG face smash is particularly amusing, especially if it’s the last kill of the round.

Our hands-on took place on five new maps and rather than skimp over them in minuscule details here, look out for a separate feature on the maps tomorrow. On the whole though, Epic has looked to make the maps more interactive than they previously have been, with such things like some experiencing degradation – like in the Overpass map where the whole environment sinks into the ground below as you play – and others including much more dynamic events, like the sandstorm on the Trenches map. All in all though, the maps themselves were a huge highlight of the hands-on experience and Epic has proved that they can make truly memorable maps!

Never played Gears before and looking like jumping in on Gears 3? Epic has you covered, making the game more accessible than ever before. Not only is Team Deathmatch much more forgiving, but they’ll offer ‘newbies’ - who don’t have any Gears 1 or 2 achievements - a leg up. Not only will you be able to see the map before the game - you can check it out mid-game as well - but those completely new to the series will get temporary boosts to ease them into the experience - that could be twice as much health and increased damage for the first ten kills, with it slowly fading as they approach the 10 kill mark. “Beginner Assistance” is what Epic calls it and with it only being used to ease them into the experience, it’ll make no difference in the long run to Gears veterans, so don’t panic.

I think I’ve gushed on enough now, but honestly, the amount of detail Epic went into and the access we were given was pretty astonishing, so it deserved nothing less. We don’t call it a “MEGA” preview for nothing!

It’s safe to say that Gears 3 is shaping up to be the most refined and polished game that’s ever come out of Epic – and it’s still a year off! The changes in the multiplayer may be subtle, but the sum of all its parts means that when you look at it as a whole, it’s impressive how much they’ve achieved... and we‘re just talking from a multiplayer standpoint here. The Gears purist out there will scoff at the inclusion of Team Deathmatch, but I’ll tell you now, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Try it once, and Execution will look like a boring walk in the park.

It plays like Gears, has a ton more depth, is probably the best looking game on the 360 and it’s a fuckton of fun... what’s not to love? Refined, polished and bloody addictive; that’s Gears of War 3’s multiplayer in a nutshell. Don’t believe us? Well, there’s a beta in early 2011, so we’ll wait till then to say we told you so.

Gears of War 3 is scheduled for a fall 2011 release with the beta coming early 2011.


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Game Info
Epic Games


US September 20, 2011
Europe September 20, 2011
Japan September 22, 2011

Backward compatible on Xbox One: Yes
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