The Gears of War 3 beta for the Xbox 360 was recently brought to an end after four weeks for people who either bought the Epic Edition of Bulletstorm, or pre-ordered any edition of Gears of War 3. The Beta featured the four maps Trenches, Checkout, Old Town, and Thrashball, and also brought three new gametypes to the series including Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, and Capture the Leader. This is Epic Studios first ever beta and was released because their previous title in the series, Gears of War 2, had major lag and modding issues on Xbox live when it was first released. It was also delayed to September of 2011 so that they could become the marquee title for the holiday season.
Starting with the new gametypes there is a lot that has been changed from previous Gears of War games. Team Deathmatch is brand new to the series allowing each team to spawn with 15 lives and when those lives are depleted the opposing team wins the round, two rounds to win the match. Team Deathmatch has been in almost every single shooter since the time of Quake so even though it’s new to the series it’s obviously nothing revolutionary. Gears of War is unique from most shooters in that most of its gametypes have some sort of high-intensity sudden death where only two or three people are left and someone has to pull out a clutch move to win the round. It makes games much more exciting and you can never count a team out till the very end. Team Deathmatch does have these situations, but they are rare. Most games will end with the winning team having in the vicinity of five to seven lives left, and if a team is really good they can win with twelve to all fifteen lives left and that happens more often then one may think. King of the Hill and Capture the Leader are the two objective based gametypes. King of the Hill is a combination of the previous modes Annex and King of the Hill, where there is one hill that moves every 30 seconds. Capture the Leader is a combination of the previous modes Guardian and Submission where there is one leader and the other team must down and pick up the leader then hold them for 15 seconds. Both of these gametypes work really well in the game and are a much needed breath of fresh air to the series. In Gears of War 2 the gametypes Submission and King of the Hill always were some of the lowest populated modes so it was smart to combine them with more popular gametypes.
The weapons have all been tweaked since the previous game, some of the highlights being the sawed-off shotgun, the hammerburst’s iron sights, the sniper hit detection has been greatly improved, and the new weapon, the digger. Players now have the choice of five different starting weapons, the rifles which include the hammerburst, lancer, and retro-lancer, and the shotguns the gnasher and sawed-off. Anyone that has played Gears of War 2 recently will know that the entire community of players will use the gansher ninety-percent of the time, and rightfully so because it’s the best weapon and you spawn with it. Gears of War 3 thankfully pulls away from this by adding a much better variety of starting weapons and more importantly increasing the damage of the rifles to stand a chance against a shotgun. This creates a more variety in the type of battles you will face with people, which creates a more lasting experience. The new weapons are all fantastic and also improve the gameplay to have more variety. There has been discussion of the retro-lancer and sawed-off shotgun being overpowered, but that’s been said about nearly every single weapon and people are just getting used to not having one-on-one gnasher battles all the time.
The new maps are great and they feel like the developers really tried to make them fan-friendly by adding little things like running chickens, falling scoreboards, and shoplifting alarms. Some hardcore fans were hoping the maps would be darker more like the original Gears of War game, but these are far from that being the most vibrant and colorful of the series. The weapon spawns are well thought out and show that Epic has really stepped into a groove with knowing how to make fantastic maps. The addition of medals and ribbons is a great way to add some longevity to the multiplayer. The way medals work is that you must complete a certain milestone like 500 kills and this earns one star towards a medal, which comes with a title like ‘Massive Killer’ that you can brag about with friends. Get more stars and your medal gets bigger and changes names. Ribbons are in-game milestones, but they differ from medals because its only over the course of one game where medals track your entire career online. A problem with the medals is that their names are recycled and feel bland. For example the gnasher and sawed-off have the same medal names on all stars except one has gansher in front of it and the other says sawed-off.
The Gears of War 3 beta was a fantastic experience and Epic deserves great praise for having such a great game and it’s only the beta! When Gears of War 3 comes out in September of 2011 the potential of this game will be humongous.