Gears of War is known for having a gripping campaign, but the multiplayer is what sucks you in and keeps you coming back for more. In Gears of War 3, there will be six maps available in the final game, four of which will be available in the beta. The two confirmed beta maps are Trashball and Checkout. The other two will be decided by fans via the Gears 3 Facebook page. During the preview event, I was able to check out the maps: Checkout, Trenches, Mercy, Old Town, Overpass and Thrashball, and just one game mode, Team Deathmatch.
What’s nice about TDM in Gears 3 is that instead of it being about which team can rack up the most kills in a set time, each side has 15 respawns, and the team that runs out first loses. This round-based system adds an extra level of intensity because it leads to a lot of last man standing scenarios, which are always thrilling. For more on the other modes, once again check out our previous multiplayer preview.
Checkout is set in an old supermarket, with tipped over shelves and freezer cases providing cover positions, and a circular layout that pushes teams to constantly be rotating around the too-cluttered-to-pass interior space. A lot of the fights on this map came down to bum rushing around corners in large numbers.
There are a few spaces where you can peek through and pick guys off from a distance, but there are so many pillars and other objects obstructing your view that close quarters is really your best bet. What’s also great here is that along one side of the map are display cases that can be shot through, spraying glass and debris everywhere. Blind firing into these cases, and trying to snag enemies entering this area is just delightful to watch. Also, if you have someone who likes providing cover fire (like me) on your team, the staggered pillars that stretch the length of the map is a great place to use them, since mobility can be tight here if you don’t have cover.
Trenches is a visually stunning map that incorporates a pronounced wood theme, as you’d expect from…well, trenches. The map is set in late afternoon, giving it a crisp, orangey glow, which accentuates the sandy, wooden surroundings. On this map, it was very easy for teams to get bottlenecked in one particular section just ahead of a respawn point, causing quite a few massacres to unfold in the span of just a few seconds.
Once you’re able to push ahead though, you’re able to spot enemies approaching from the lower, more open portion of the map, leading to some great shooting gallery moments. But thanks to the One Shot placement that overlooks this position, it was rare to see anyone hold this area for very long. Although, this tide turning also had something to do with the random sandstorm that would blow into the map at various times through the matches, and make it impossible to see anything beyond four feet in front of you.
Mercy is a wide open map set in a bombed out monestary courtyard. Most of the action takes place on the periphery of the no man’s land in the center, which is extremely exposed, and doesn't offer much in the way of cover.
A mortar launcher can be found on a balcony that sits against one side of the map, directly in the center, giving the user a clear view of the entire battlefield, and making it easy to rain down explosive hell on all parts of the map. There are also two staircases on either end of the map that can be an ambusher’s dream, since it’s easy to spot enemies approaching and by the time they are able to see over the top of the stairs, you already have them in your sights. Because visibility is pretty high on this map, ranged weapons are preferred, but the edges of the central area can get claustrophobic fast, so stay on your toes.
Old Town is multi-district layout, with lots of alleyways and courtyards to maneuver through. The European-style village is laid out perfectly for ambushes as there are always side shoots to get you around the main flow of the lower and upper portions of the village.
Taking cover is still crucial to your success in multiplayer, but it’s particularly true on this map as there are a lot of street corners and blind turns, so definitely proceed with caution. But be sure to capitalize on this when you have the high ground, since it’s easy to spot approaching enemies as they move through the central plaza and make their way to the left and right alleyways. Waiting around the top of these alleys is a great way to catch enemies completely by surprise.
The last map I played through was Overpass, which is set in a bombed out portion of a city. While it was my least favorite gameplay wise, it was my favorite from a visual perspective because it has a wonderful aesthetic composition thanks to the destroyed freeway backdrop and the dark, imposing cave on the far side of the map that serves as a constant reminder that the map is actually collapsing into the earth.
In fact, as matches progress, the map rumbles underneath you and water floods the streets. The environmental destruction has no impact on the gameplay, but it’s a great visual touch that gives the map a life all its own.
I didn’t have a chance to play Thrashball, a map set inside a dilapidated sports arena that finally gives us a view of what the Cole Train did for a living before killing Locusts became his main job.
What I can tell you though is that there’s a giant scoreboard hanging over the center of the arena, and not only does it actually keep score during matches, it can also be shot down and used to crush unsuspecting foes. Which is nice.