Good things come to those who wait is the perfect saying to sum up the Gears of War 3 beta, which finally opened to those gamers who purchased the Bulletstorm Epic Edition way back in February. I had a chance to get a good amount of hands-on time with the Gears 3 beta yesterday, and I can say without hesitation that this is the Gears multiplayer experience that we’ve all been so patiently waiting for. For a beta this thing feels nearly finished, which only gets my gaming chub even stiffer considering that Epic has close to 5 months to address any major issues from the beta. If things stay the same Gears of War 3 could easily become the greatest shooter experience on the Xbox 360, which I’ve always known it could be.
The only reason the Gears franchise hasn’t completely earned my full fledged support for gaming franchise of the decade is because of some of the technical hiccups experienced in the first and second titles. Gears 1 was never intended to be as successful as it was in the MP arena, so you could tell that Epic didn’t give it their full capacities when they designed it. This was all too clear in those long a*s waits just to get a match started, as well as many other game crippling glitches that douchebags would pull on a particular map just to ruin the experience for us non-douchey gamers. Gears 2 MP was nothing short of a complete FUBAR experiment that crippled the game, and polarized fans of the franchise from day one. Epic tried to right the ship with post-release patches, but it was a day late and a dollar short attempt to correct a game that had already been released in the wild. Luckily, the same probably won’t be said about Gears of War 3 when it releases on September 20, 2011, because of the beta program that Epic is offering.
Within the first few minutes of playing the Gears 3 beta I could feel that this entry in the GOW franchise was going to be something special. No longer do your characters feel like lumbering Hulk-like individuals who move slower than a geezer in a mobile wheelchair. I felt like my character was moving with the same nimbleness and wall bouncing excellence from the first Gears game. In fact, one of my compadres mentioned that he felt the characters looked smaller on screen, which I agreed with. It’s not like the Gears characters stopped eating steroids for breakfast, but almost like the 3rd person camera is pulled back a bit.
Speed is Key in not Getting a Chainsaw Shoved Up Your Bunghole!
I also never felt like I got hosed by getting stuck on a piece of cover, which I didn’t mean to cling to. All of the movements were very fluid, which provided for some intense 1 v 1 battles that make Gears MP so exhilarating. I completely agree with the design changes that were made to make this Gears game tighter, and more responsive than its two younger brothers. This isn’t the Gears that your grandparents used to play!
Bye Bye Host Effect
One of the most glaring changes that I noticed while playing the Gears 3 beta is the fact that there’s no longer one player that dominates a match due to the host advantage factor found in Gears 1 and 2. I felt for the first time that every gamer was playing at an even level, where only your skill could help you in battle, and not the fact that your packets move faster through the ether. This helped to alleviate the feelings of wanting to rip out my tongue and eat it raw while playing a Gears MP match. It’s very evident at what dedicated servers can provide for the GOW MP experience, so I’d like to give Epic a big thumbs up for finally providing its user base with this feature.
With a doubt, the new weapons that are available to play with in the Gears 3 beta are all winners in the contest of awesomeness. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to completely obliterate your opponent with the flesh vaporizing Sawed-off Shotgun! Where has this thing been all these years? Talk about pulling off some gnarly no-look kills! For those of you that prefer to do your battling in an up close and personal manner, this is the tool for you. Some may call it cheap, but I feel like its lack of distance and extremely long reload time more than make up for its gut busting power.
Sawed-off Rearranging Someone’s Face
I’m also digging the Retro Lancer and its bayonet, which you can use to charge at unsuspecting dummies for an extremely satisfying kill. I also prefer it’s power to the regular lancer. The retro may not have the best range and accuracy, but in a medium to close range this thing will take your foes down faster than the decline of a reality star’s career. What’s better than calling out “Charge!” while you roadie run towards an enemy with your Rambo knife equipped lancer! I felt like I was in a Civil War battle, or another war from history where you’d have to brazenly charge the enemy with just your bayonet and a set of iron balls.
The only other two new weapons I managed to pick up were the Digger Launcher, and the Incendiary Grenades. I really think the digger launcher will be one of the favorite heavy weapons of Gears 3. Not only does its ammo explode like a bouncing betty landmine, but you can also shoot it underground to take out chumps who rely on cover too much. It opens up a whole new strategy for both the user, and the poor fool trying to avoid it.
The fire grenades are nice to look at, but I felt like if I didn’t score a direct hit then it wouldn’t kill my enemy. It’s seems to be more of a “Oh Sh*t!” weapon for those times where you find yourself being overtaken by a group of bad guys.
At this point in time there’s only two maps to play on in Thrashball and Checkout. Next week a few more maps will be unlocked for the beta, but at this time gamers are stuck with playing the same two maps over and over. First off, for those of you that are complaining about this, you need to go get a life. This is a f*cking beta people! It’s not the full game, so you should expect some sort of limited experience. Sure it’ll wear on you over time, but it’s still better than not playing the beta. Besides, are there really any MP games worth playing right now?
Even with the repetitiveness of playing them over and over I’m finding that both maps are fun to play on. Thrashball offers gamers a chance to use the environment to kill people by bringing down the maps massive jumbo-tron, while Checkout offers gamers a great map to rush for the heavy weapons and do battle in tight quarters. I appreciate that Epic put in an overhead view of the maps, which makes learning the level layout much easier, as well as guiding n00bs to where the good weapons are at. This feature made it very easy to learn where to be to do the most killing on both the Thrashball and Checkout maps.
New Overhead View for MP Maps
Epic is providing an unprecedented amount of fan service in Gears 3, which you can finally appreciate while playing the Gears 3 beta. For the first time in a Gears of War game you actually earn ribbons, medals, and other unlockable schwag for performing certain excellent feats. If you’ve played the COD’s and Halo’s of the World, then this feature shouldn’t be new to you, but it is the first time that a Gears game offered it. There’s just something to be said about earning ultimately meaningless ribbons and medals for your in-game feats. This feature plays on your drive to to do better and try new things, which will help you unlock as many character skins, weapon skins, and medals as possible while rotting your brain in front of the boob-tube.
Weapon Skin Unlock
Each match you can earn ribbons for your performance by say scoring the first kill, or more embarrassing, the first death, which will net you the FIFO ribbon. In conjunction with these match based ribbons you can also add to your medal achievements by say killing people with a certain gun, or performing a specific execution. These medals, once unlocked, can then be applied to your MP name plate for the rest of the World to see. I can’t wait to get the full game, which should unlock my Old Guard medal (Awarded for reaching level 100 in Gears 2), which I’d imagine most sane gamers never got.
On top of the ribbons and medals, gamers can now unlock weapon skins, character models, and executions by completing certain tasks. For example, if you play 10 TD matches in the Gears 3 beta you’ll unlock the Anya model to use in MP, or if you get a certain amount of kills with a particular weapon you’ll be awarded a new skin for it. These are all nice little incentives to keep completionists busy for a long, long time.
Unlockable Cole Trashball Skin for Playing the Beta
Without a doubt the Gears 3 beta has given me hope that Gears of War 3 will be the game that I’ve so desperately wanted the previous two titles to be. Gears 1 was something brand new and exciting, but it needed some fine tuning with its MP component. Gears 2 was nice to look at, but ultimately it wasn’t a complete game. Now that I’ve seen the potential of Gears of War 3 I can definitely sleep well at night. No longer do I have to fear this game’s multiplayer component having more bugs in it than some old lady’s crotch. I now know that this game is going to be the masterpiece that I always thought it could be.
If you need some further convincing then I strongly urge you to pony up and buy the beta, so you too can see all of the excellence changes for yourself. If you’re cheaper than a 2-bit hooker then take a look at the Gears 3 beta montage vid below. You’ve been given the Gears experience you’ve always wanted…
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