Gears of War 3 Multiplayer Beta Hands-On ImpressionsBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Feb 24, 2011
Beep…..beep…..beep…beep..beep..beep.beep.beepbeepbeepbeepBOOM! A cloud of pink mist erupts inches from my face as one of my teammates is disintegrated before my eyes. A cleverly perched opponent picked him off from a distant ledge with the One Shot, a sort of “elephant gun,” as Epic Games creative director Cliff Blezinski refers to it, that features a scope that scans the battlefield and locks onto a target and then turns said target into nothing more than mist in the wind. And so began my hands-on session with the multiplayer beta for Epic’s “most polished,” and “best” installment yet in its acclaimed shooter series, Gears of War 3.
From the outside looking in, and especially as someone who hasn’t played a round of Gears multiplayer for easily a couple of years, the Gears 3 multiplayer looks and feels exactly as you’d expect Gears multiplayer to look and feel. Granted, the visuals have been improved sine Gears of War 2, thanks to the stunningly capable Unreal Engine 3, which brings the environments and characters to life in absolutely stunning detail. But, for the most part, its Gears through and through. This means that fans of the series will most likely feel right at home, and gamers who have been away from Marcus Fenix, Dom, and the gang for a while, will also be able to jump right in and be able to hold their own.
One of Epic’s goals was to make Gears 3 the most accessible entry yet. To help with this, the developers have added a couple new tactical features to give players a clearer idea about what’s happening on the battlefield. For instance, holding the left bumper dims the screen slightly and adds a white outline to your teammates, letting you instantly see where they are on the map, and letting you see the placement of weapons. The weapon icons are hard to see sometimes, and they only tell you where you can find the weapon, not if it’s still there, but it still a welcomed addition. There’s also a top down map that shows your teammates’ positions for that added bit of intel.
As for weapons, Ia lot of old favorites have returned: the Lancer rifle, the Gnasher shotgun, and the Hammerburst to name a few. I tended to favor the Hammerburst rifle, which now has iron sights that can be accessed by clicking the right thumbstick while aiming, and which adds a whole new level of skill and satisfaction to this long-ranged weapon. While I definitely used the Hammerburst the most, I found the damage to be a little lacking. Six or seven solidly placed iron sighted shots to the torso and neck region should be more than enough to bring an opponent down.
The biggest new addition in the close-quarters weapons class is the double barrel shotgun, which happens to be Epic lead Cliff Bleszinski's favorite weapon by the way. This utterly devastating weapon fully embodies the risk/reward design of the Gears multiplayer. From about two feet and under, this shotty is capable of liquefying enemies in a single, gooey shot. However, from anything beyond two feet, it might as well be firing marshmallows, and with its agonizingly long reload time, this is one of those weapons that you’ll most likely only whip out in spaces where you can catch people hastily barreling around corners. Still, when you connect with this thing, it’s a big mess ‘o fun. For more info on the other new weapons and abilities, read our previous Gears of War 3 preview.
Another nice new feature is that you can now change your loadout after you die, ensuring that you can constantly adjust to best suit your team’s, as well as your opponents, strategy. There are plenty of new weapons to keep you killing in style. In addition to aforementioned One Shot, there’s the Retro Lancer, which is standard lancer machine gun but with a knife bayonet instead of the standard Gears chainsaw (harkening back to the early days of the battle between human and locusts). The Digger Lancer fires an explosive, burrowing round in the ground that will then pop up and decimate any players in its vicinity.
Each weapon also comes equipped with executions. If you want to quickly curbstomp someone, all you have to do is tap Y near their downed body, but if you want to pull off a flashy, ultra violent finisher, then you have to hold Y for a few seconds, which leaves you vulnerable to attack, but also nets you bonus points if you’re successful. One particularly gnarly execution has you ramming a the tip of a flamethrower into an enemy’s stomach and melting them from the inside out. Good times.
The X button (i.e. action button) also has this new hold system, and it’s meant to remove the frustrations of accidentally picking up a nearby weapon when you’re trying to revive a fallen teammate. Now if you want to revive a pal, you just tap X, but if you want to pick up a weapon, you have to hold X, which makes picking up weapons a bit more nerve-wracking, but also makes you no longer dread having to help up dying squad mates.
The smoke grenade has been given a concussion feature, which can stun enemies, knocked them off turrets, or even cause them to drop their precious meat shield (aka an opponent they’ve picked up and used as a human shield). But new to the game is an incendiary grenade, which behaves similar to a napalm Molotov cocktail, spreading fire and agonizing death wherever it happens to land. Another nice new addition is that grenades can now explode on impact, making perfectly placed tosses all the sweeter, especially when it results in a fiery ball of molten death.
As if all of that wasn’t incentive enough for you to check out the Gears 3 multiplayer beta, Epic is offering up two items that can be unlocked in the retail version of the game, but that can only be acquired via the beta: the Golden Retro Lancer, which is just a blinged out version of the Retro Lancer and Gears vet Cole, who appears as an unlockable character. But Epic isn’t just handing these bonuses over to just every player who strolls into the beta; they must be earned two fold.
For the Golden Lancer, you have to play 90 multiplayer matches, and then you have to get 100 kills if you want to keep it. To unlock Cole, you have to play 70 matches and then an additional 13 matches to keep him. And, again, these items will not be available in the retail version of the game, so if you want them, be prepared to sink some serious time into the beta, which, based on my hour or so playing it, you’re definitely going to want to do when it goes live.