At this point, there's almost not a lot left to say about Gears of War 3. Die-hard fans have been following the game with bated breath for quite some time. There have been betas, tons of previews and trailers, and the game is now only a few months away. As one of the Xbox 360's most hotly awaited titles, Gears of War 3 is one of those games where every last bit of detail has already been revealed. The weapons, the monsters, and the gameplay have all been showcased to a phenomenal degree. At E3 2011, however, we had a chance to see that the game still has plenty of surprises in store for fans.
Our single-player demo began shortly after the pulse-pounding battle against the Lambent sea monster, which was seen during the E3 press conference. Perhaps it's more correct to say that it began shortly before that same battle. You see, Gears of War 3 isn't entirely a linear title. Due to the fact that the cast is rather large and spread out, you're going to have situations where you switch characters. The aforementioned monster battle involves Dom and Marcus fighting their way across the ship, delaying and damaging the monster until Baird, Cole and the other members of the team can drop massive explosives on a bridge.
That isn't just a cut scene, though. After Dom and Marcus are finished, the plot rewinds in time, and players switch over to play as Baird and Cole during the exact same sequence. The duo is forced to fight across an enemy-held bridge, utilizing a new brutal heavy gun that requires two players to use effectively. In essence, you get to do everything, as opposed to your NPC allies saving your rear end. It's a nice twist and allows for some very dynamic set pieces without taking the player out of the action. A lot of games would have your NPC allies helping you out in the background. Here, you get a real idea that everyone on your team is important to the victory, and you don't play second fiddle to the computer.
Most of the single-player details have already been revealed, but Gears of War 3 has some new details still waiting in the wings. One of the big new features in Gears of War 3 is the Horde 2.0 mode. Even if you've never played a Gears of War title, you're probably familiar with the concept behind Horde mode. A group of players is forced to last as long as it can against wave after wave of enemies. As the mode progresses, the enemies get more and more difficult. Players try to last to the end — or at least last as long as they can.
On the surface, Horde 2.0 is a straightforward advancement, although it has plenty of new features. The most notable change is fortifications, which are various defenses that you can purchase. They include barriers, decoys, sentries and even the almighty Silverback power armor. To set up fortifications, you find a location where a barrier can be set — they're marked by glowing green "ghosts" — and you're set. Since Horde mode depends so heavily on staying alive, it's pretty easy to see how fortifications can be useful. It's not exactly new to the genre, but there's plenty of room for customization. Your fortifications can even be upgraded. As you play the game, you'll gradually gain the ability to create enhanced fortifications for everything except the Silverback. For example, razor wire can be upgraded to electric wire, and then to laser wire. Once you've unlocked the ability to earn an upgrade, that upgrade is persistent. You'll be able to go into any game and start laying down laser wire.
Also new to Horde 2.0 are mid-mission objectives. These objectives pop up at the start of a round and task you with completing various side objectives. You may have to get eight headshots in a single round or perform a certain number of close-quarters "execution" moves. The objectives are shared by the whole team, and completing them earns you rewards. Surviving the Horde can be tough enough on your own, but when you're trying to complete challenges at the same time, it can offer some real risk and reward. It isn't difficult to get headshots, but if you spend so much time trying to get the perfect headshot that you let a bunch of Lambent-infected monsters munch on your face, it'll end badly for you.
One of the other cool new things to show up in Gears of War 3 are mutators, which are special bonus modes that you can activate to add silly extra features. One of the modes replaces sound effects with an '80s-style laugh track, so that you can chainsaw monsters in front of a live studio audience. Another mutator replaces the blood and gore with flowers, making Gears of War 3 a far more cheerful experience. Fans of the original GoldenEye will also welcome the return of Big Head mode. These modes don't have a significant impact on the gameplay, but they add some humorous fun to the proceedings.
Gears of War 3 is a solid example of a sequel that knows exactly what the fans want. It's the same as before, only bigger, better and more involved. It has bigger weapons, monsters and explosions, but at its heart, it's still Gears of War. Whether it's Horde 2.0, the new Beast mode or the involved single-player campaign, every aspect of Gears of War 3 is shaping up to be exactly what fans have been craving. If you're one of the millions of gamers who are addicted to killing Locusts alongside Dom and Marcus, Gears of War 3 is shaping up to be a worthwhile, action-packed ending to the Gears of War trilogy.
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