When the original Gears of War was released for the Xbox 360 platform, it was critically acclaimed and praised for its innovative style and game play. Add in an engaging story and character evolution, Gears of War rose to the challenge of creating a brand new IP for a brand new video game console. While the series has certainly matured over the years in a number of ways, it hasn’t necessarily undergone any sort of massive reinvention, either. But that’s not entirely a negative thing.
Epic Games’ has kept their sci-fi franchise fresh and interesting by gradually introducing new features, ideas, and enhancements that build on the core Gears experience. In doing so, they’ve preserved the essence of what’s made their brand of cover-based combat so revered, while not making it feel like just a lazy sequel.
In its third installment to the franchise, Gears of War 3 stays true to this design philosophy. Even though at times it plays more like a continuation of the previous titles, it’s still a much more refined action experience — and it makes seeing the trilogy through to its end much worth it.
But Gears of War 3 isn’t entirely devoid of new features. Arguably the most notable change introduced in the new game is the addition of four-player co-op. Playing through the main story with up to three other players not only makes the campaign more enjoyable, it actually allows for more strategic opportunities, too. You really feel like your own Alpha or Delta Squad.
The inclusion of four-play co-op feeds into Gears of War 3’s narrative as well. Throughout the campaign, one group of characters will be occupied with carrying out a mission, while another will be engaged in a completely separate objective, oftentimes located on an entirely different place in the game’s world.
The paths of these different groups will often cross, which results in the game frequently shifting your perspective so that you’ll experience separate events going on at the same time. These parallel missions help give this final confrontation between the human heroes of Gears of War and their Locust nemesis a much more epic feel.
It’s unfortunate, however, that more time isn’t spent further developing Gears of War 3’s new characters. There are a lot of new faces introduced, but their back stories aren’t nearly as fleshed out as series regulars like Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago, and the rest of the “original” Delta Squad crew. The result is a lopsided storyline where memorable moments are overshadowed by scenes that’ll have you scratching your head.
In terms of single player this can feel a little too much like Gears 2.5. Gears of War 3 feels like it wrapped up the story prematurely, not giving enough of a chance to fully flesh out the storylines of all the characters you’ve fought alongside with, throughout the franchise. However, t still manages to be a grander narrative than before. Multiplayer is where Gears 3 really steps up to the plate though, and four-player co-op is a treat for less competitive players.