This is it, folks. The Gears of War 3 Beta ends on Sunday, May 15th and if you haven’t had a chance to get your hands on it, I pity you. I have been a Gears fan from the very beginning, but to be honest, for me it was more about the epic campaign and its very cinematic storyline; the online multiplayer never really got me excited. The third-person, over-the-shoulder camera angle always made the gameplay feel clunky to me and the different game modes were not all that exciting either. Maybe I just didn’t get it, because I have spent the past couple of weeks playing the multiplayer online Gears 3 Beta and I may just be a believer. The bulky characters and third-person camera still make the gameplay seem a little heavy and I still find myself getting stuck onto walls while taking cover, but this is a beta afterall.
You can unlock characters by playing ten to twenty matches in each game mode. (Anya Stroud, Cole Train, Kantus, and more.) You can set up who you wish to play as by default, but they all play the same. There aren’t any pro’s or con’s about any one character versus another, so it’s strictly personal preference. Weapons, however, have pro’s and con’s. You can choose to start with the lancer, hammerburst (the only of the three to have an aim-down scope which comes in handy for long range fire), or retro lancer (which is way less accurate than the other two and instead of a chainsaw attachement, it has a bayonet. It’s more powerful from a shorter distance, though.) You can also choose between the sawed-off shotgun or the gnasher. The former is a one-hit kill from very close range and is great for surprising people with. The drawback is that it takes much longer to reload and only fires one round before you have to.
- The gnasher seems to be a self-proclaimed “pro” favorite, as it takes much more aim to get a head shot, which is the only way to get a one-hit kill with it. No matter which shotgun you choose, people on the other team are going to complain about it. Just remember, everyone is using a shotgun 98% (fake statistic) of the time anyway and they are just being sore-losers.
There are three game types in the beta: Team Death Match (TDM), King of the Hill (KotH), and Capture the Leader (CTL).
The TDM doesn’t play by the same rules as other games you may be used to, but is probably the most straight-forward mode of the three. Each team starts with ten respawns and they are shared amongst the entire team. (So, you had better hope one guy doesn’t use them all up.) When your respawns are depleted, each of the five members on the team only has one shot to do as much damage as they can, because once someone dies on your team, they aren’t coming back. The first team to get two victories is declared the winner.
KotH, on the other hand, IS like one would imagine. Two teams duke it out for control over a “hill” (which is really a designated circle visible on your screen). The timer starts at seventy seconds and counts down as control of the hill is maintained. Once it hits zero, the location of the hill changes, and it’s a mad dash to beat the other team there. The first team to maintain commulative control over the hills for 170 seconds is declared the winner. There are unlimited respawns in this mode, and like TDM, two is the magic number when it comes to victories. My only gripe about this game mode, is that there is no telling how long it is going to go on for. Sometimes, a team can’t seem to maintain control for even a second and the round drags on and on. (Don’t forget, you have to win two rounds to win a match.)
CTL moves a little quicker, but like every other game mode, you have to win two rounds to take the match. One person on your team is given the title of (you guessed it) “Leader” and it is the rest of the team’s job to capture the other team’s leader while making sure to protect their own from being captured. This can be somewhat tricky if you have a trail-blazing, lead by example leader who makes it a point to jump right into the middle of the action. Once a leader is captured, he or she must be held for thirty seconds before the round is over. This, too, can be trickier as it sounds since as a captured leader, you can tap the “B” button every few seconds to struggle with your opponent and slow him down. Also, taking a leader is much like taking a meat shield (when you pick up the body of a downed, but not killed, opponent to protect yourself from the onslught of bullets), where as you can only use your pistol to defend yourself.
- My advice to you is if someone captures your leader, it is usually their first instinct to back themselves into a corner or closed off space so they can see you coming at them. Use this to your advantage and throw a smoke bomb directly at them. It will cause them to drop your leader, give you an extra second to run in there for the kill, give your leader an extra second to get the heck out of there, and stop the count-down on the clock.
All three of these modes are played on the same four maps: Trenches, Old Town, Thrashball, and Checkout.
Trenches is a symmentical desert environment with old rail cars strewn about and a crane in the middle on the botton end. About once a round, there is a very loud horn that sounds warning of the incoming sand storm. The storm lingers around for a little while making it really difficult to see. (Run around with a shotgun in case you turn the corner and find yourself toe-to-toe with your enemy.) Teams start on opposite sides and usually dash towards each other. About half will go towards the bottom of the map near the crane, but there is invariably a couple that try to make their way up the hill at the top, because that’s where the one shot is located. Imagine a sniper rifle, but you don’t need to be hit in the head to wind up on the floor. Anywhere on the body, it only takes one shot (get it?)
- I can promise you that someone will be hiding out up there with that one shot. From there, it’s possible to see pretty much everything on the other side of the map. If you can, grab the mortar next to the crane and fire a couple of rounds up that way. Alternatively, if you know which side of the map the other team is spawning on at the time, fire a round over in that direction. If you wait until more than one are dead, you could find yourself with a nice multi-kill.
Old Town is a deserted (there’s gonna be a theme here) town built on a hill with a nice little beach at the bottom. One team will start here and the other will start at the top of the map, next to a road block. On the left side of the map, there is usually either a torque bow or a longshot. (It’s a hot spot.) Most of the time, your two teams are going to meet there first. On the right side of the map, there are a couple of flame-throwing scorchers (one at the top and one at the bottom). These spots aren’t very popular in TDM or CTL, but in KotH they are critical. It can be very easy to defend these spots with a little teamwork and a scorcher, but if you weren’t there first, it’ll be hard to take control of it.
- My advice to you is to take one for the team and try to break the circle. You’ll probably die, but you’ll be a legend told to future generations… until you respawn.
Thrashball is a (here’s that word again) deserted stadium, home what we can only assume is an alternate (more brutal sounding) version of football. There is even a nice scoreboard dangling above the center of the map. Be careful not to find yourself under it when it falls… because it will. The teams will start on opposite sides in either a red or blue tunnel entrance. This is a relatively small map, and the middle is pretty cluttered with cement blocks behind which, you’ll want to take cover. The hot spot on this map, is up the stairs (accessible from both red and blue sides). There’s a mulcher stashed in the area and if you are playing CTL, let me tell you, it’s really difficult to rescue your leader once the other team has brought them up there.
- Have a shotgun ready and take cover behind the wall. Angle your camera so that you can see when someone comes running up the stairs and when they are close enough, pop ’em in the head. You may want to roll backwards to give yourself time to reload if using the sawed-off, because whoever you were with might not have been alone. Have a teammate do the same on the other side, or if you can handle it, dash back and forth.
The last map is my least favorite and the only one set indoors. Checkout is a (one last time) deserted mall. It’s small, there aren’t really any good viewpoints, and it’s a square. This isn’t a long-range weapon kind of map. I find myself using my shotgun most-to-all of the time. There honestly isn’t much that can be said about this map, because not much happens here… I can tell you that the hot spot on this map is on the side with the mulcher, but like I said: shotguns… all day.
It’ll be interesting to see what changes between May 15th when the beta ends and September 20th when the pre-orders ship, but this game already looks finished. The lighting, the textures, etc. looks incredible. That’s one thing I have come to really admire the Gears franchise for: stunning visuals. Everything from the characters to the background scenery is simply amazing.