E3 2010 Preview: GEARS OF WAR 3

Preview: Gears of War 3
Xbox 360 Exclusive

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 “This is it, Dom.  This is everything we’ve been fighting for.”

Before we jump into the preview Erika and I saw at E3, I need to be honest: Gears of War just might be my favorite franchise to emerge this console generation.  I bought my 360 at launch on the hope that Epic was going to deliver a title that maintained the fun of their Unreal Tournament series with the graphical power of Unreal 3.  Since the game’s release, I have completed Gears of War’s campaign fourteen times from start to finish, in every combination of difficulty and playstyle you can think of.  With that confession out of the way, you can get an idea of how unbiased I will be during this preview.

 The demo we witnessed was divided into two sections: campaign and the newly added Beast Mode.  Hit the jump for my thoughts on the campaign demo!

Baird!  Fix it!”

Gears of War 3 takes place 18 months after the conclusion of its precursor. The battle shown in the demo was the same shown in the Microsoft keynote, in which Delta Squad is ambushed as they approach one of the few human fortifications left in the world.  SPOILERS Delta is hoping to talk with returning character Hoffman, who has information on the where abouts of Adam Fenix, Marcus’s father.  Adam might have information on how to combat the Lambent, as the Immulsion in the planet seems to be poisoning the world.  Oddly appropriate and topical, considering the mess in the Gulf of Mexico END SPOILERS

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Four player co-op was demonstrated to us live, with the players controlling Marcus, Dom, Cole, and one of the new female Gears, Sam.  Instantly, new tweaks to the gameplay were apparent.  Expanding on the unique execution system from Gears 2 is an expansion on the melee abilities of weapons.  Marcus was able to impale a drone with a bayonette attached Lancer when the enemy faced away.  It wasn’t apparent whether or not these one-hit kill attacks would be an ability for all weapons; it seems safe to assume that it will be similar to the weapon specific executions of Gears 2, in which most weapons had their own unique finishing moves.

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Epic seems committed to expanding the tactical abilities of the players, which has always been an aspect of the franchise that differentiates it from other cover based shooters.  No longer will you leap over cover into a waiting chainsaw, as you now tackle enemies hiding on the otherside of cover as you scale it.  This ability allows you to spin them into a meat shield, which will hopefully discourage two players blind firing at each other with a two foot object between them.  The meatshield also demonstrates expanded abilities, with the new “tag and bag” kill being a satisfying way of turning your enemies into giblets.  Players are now able to slap a grenade onto the back of their poor victim and kick them away.  Amusing when you’re wanting to reduce a single player into a puddle of goo, extremely satisfying when you take his buddy’s out with him.

Finally, one tweak that made my day.  As a devoted user of the Lancer, chainsawing Lambent becomes a dangerous job on Insane (for those unfamiliar with Gears of War, Lambent explode upon death.  Definitely not something to be next to after a melee attack)  No longer will the thick necked Delta members be caught in these explosions.  Now, they place their boots firmly on the remains and shove the two pieces across the floor.  No word on whether or not this explosion can be used to take out other enemies, but one can dream.

“They’re using a giant worm!”

Rather than making the Lambent simply the glow-in-the-dark version of the Locust, Epic has instead crafted them as transforming and constantly changing enemies that must be watched on the battlefield.  Unlike the Locust, which emerge from the ground through emergence holes, the Lambent are birthed by lovely postules attached to a fleshy vine.  These vines punch through the surface of Sera, killing plant life around them.  Smaller Lambent creatures born by the postules can infect the characters in the battle, transforming them into constantly morphing terrors.  Even more concerning is how determined parts of the Lambent body become in order to destroy you.  In the demo shown, a severed tentacle covered head continued to crawl towards Dom.

The sequence ended with the introduction of the Lambent Berserker.  While an impressive and horrifying creature, the character seemed to be very similar its Locust counterpart.  More entertaining was Baird’s lack of control over an older Hammer of Dawn, which caused the orbital laser to rain down on random parts of the map while the players ran into the base and away from the Berserker.  Of course, this would be a more daring escape if the Berserker couldn’t easily scale the fortress wall.

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Too bad that’s where the demo ended.

Check back soon for my thoughts on the newly added Beast Mode!