Chainsaw loving, Bulletstorm-buying, Gears of War fans will get the chance to jump into the multiplayer beta for Epic Games’ much anticipated Gears of War 3 on Monday, and everyone else will have their chance on April 25. A painfully short wait, I know, so to hold you over, a bunch of G4 staffers put in some early hands-on time with the Gears 3 beta, and they decided to group up and pass along their initial thoughts, feelings, doubts, trepidations, praises, and general ruminations about Epic’s latest gorgeously rendered multiplayer bloodfest.
Eric Eckstein: I dig the Gears series, but I've rarely had a good time playing online except for Horde mode. So getting in early on the Gears of War 3 beta is appealing to me as I'll never see my name in the top 200 public leaderboards ever again. I had a blast re-learning GoW again, bayonet charging fools and unleashing Mortars on my enemies. Ribbon and medal rewards flow like water, and I barely know how or what I'm earning, but you'll gain something on every map whether you win, lose, or get totally hosed in the process. It's simple and purely cosmetic, but I like that kind of positive reinforcement. The game itself is beautiful, incredibly well-polished for a beta, and fast, but not ridiculous, unless you're facing off against shotties. Shotguns seem to still ruin the day, with a spread and range that just doesn't make sense in my mind, and the sawed-off has a super long reload making it next to impossible to use unless you're an ace. I found myself rocking the Lancer and Hammerburst (hate the Retro Lancer recoil) mostly and doing okay, but players will want to track down a Digger Launcher as soon as possible. It's the new gun that burrows underground and pops up to kill people. It rules.
The Team Deathmatch variant with a shared life pool is a neat concept, made tense when your respawns are depleted and you see the final players on the map. Knowing that you're the last man standing can make it incredibly nerve-wracking, but seeing your buddies in the same state really ups the ante. There were four maps that we played, but I think my favorite was Trenches, because periodically, you hear a horn blow and the entire map is taken over by a blinding sandstorm. I love interactivity on maps, so being able to shoot down the scoreboard in the Thrashball arena or having something like a weather effect is pretty sweet. That map has a huge flaw in it currently that can keep teams trapped in their spawn points though, and with somebody armed with the Mortar, it's nearly impossible to break through. I learned this the easy way, but raining down death and getting multi-kills in one match felt like cheating, so I stopped, but I can see that happening a lot throughout the beta. If you're playing out there, don't be a cheeseball.
Long story short: Loving the Gears of War 3 beta. Going to play a ton more this weekend and can't wait to see where it goes from here.
Nikole Zivalich: I'm a huge fan of the Gears of War series. I think the story is interesting, I like Marcus, and I like to hate Dom. Story aside, the reason I've been playing Gears of War 2 long after it's '09 release has been the multiplayer. I'm a member of a secret cult, and we play Gears in private matches all the time. That being said I was really excited Epic decided to take their multiplayer into beta. Gears 2 had a lot of problems when it started, and the majority of these problems have been fixed or acknowledged. But wouldn't it have been nice if they never had them in the first place? Go beta, young man!
The Gears 3 beta was exciting, and for the most part not frustrating. Additional weapons added a newness to the game that I had forgotten I could feel about the series. Some guns are awesome, some suck. The sucky one is the sawed-off shotgun. Basically, if you can get close enough to use it, your foe will soon be in multiple pieces. Sadly, I was incapable of getting this close, save the few times where I got lucky. However, I was perfectly capable of being obliterated by it over and over again. Sure it's balanced in that the reload takes a long a time and there are only four shots, but with the ability to change your reload in-between repawns, you can just keep getting it. And thus I keep dying. It's a shame that gamers will still be complaining about how overpowered the shotguns are in this game.
Another aspect I didn't like was the amount of pastels. What the hell are colors like baby blue and light yellow doing in Gears? And why are they suddenly fighting the Locust in a small city in France? Yes, I'm hating on the European influence and the cottages with shutters. Deal. Gears has a certain color palette, and I liked it. There are also maps that are littered with cuckoos except if you hit them, they don't all gather together and attack you; they just die. I just don't get why they are there. It seems so out of the Gears universe to have farm birds running about amidst a battle. Make them lambent chickens, and we'll talk.
But again, I'm a Gears fan, and these faults I'm finding have been found because I'm nit-picking it. And I found them because I can't stop playing. I love it. I get to play as a girl who can roadie run a locust and rip out his intestines. I couldn't ask for more. Okay, I could, but I'll cut my losses and get back to the beta.
Kevin Kelly: Gears of War 3 has been a long time coming, so the fact that Epic is offering us a beta when we should have an actual disc in our hands isn't entirely insulting. I mean hey, we're getting to play the game, right? I have to keep reminding myself that we're playing a small sliver of it, and not just the beta. What, you mean there aren't just four maps and no single-player? No, instead you're just guinea pigs inside a very fun plastic ball.
GoW3 definitely feels faster this time around, whether it's swapping weapons, running, or engaging in combat. The new weapons (the Retro Lancer is a personal favorite) feel organic and not shoehorned into the game, and all of the dynamic elements in each level are welcomed additions. The sandstorm on Trenches, the falling scoreboard in Thrashball, to the alarm in Checkout that signals god knows what, and even down to the chickens in Old Town that yes, you can kill. All of these make each one of the maps come to life. Even if my life doesn't last very long by the time someone grabs the Oneshot or the Mortar on Trenches, damn you.
But so far, it's like Gears 2.5 multiplayer. The gameplay hasn't changed much, but they've added a lot of flash and bling. You can color-customize your weapons (which does what, exactly?) and change your skins, but everything else is the same, including the annoyances with the shotgun. It's very easy to get rolled several times with someone wielding a shotgun, something that I hope changes once the dedicated servers are switched on. Matt Keil suggested that they put "No Shotguns" playlists into the game, a suggestion that I fully support. Also, several times when I was downed behind cover, I would fall right into an enemy's line of fire. Ouch.
Still, I'm playing it every night, which is the sign of an addict, right? At least I can admit that I have a problem. And that my problem also has problems, however minor they might be. When this thing opens up wide, I expect to meet all of you inside. And Epic, I sure hope some much bigger maps are on the way.
Matt Keil: I’ve been enjoying the beta quite a bit, aside from the occasional game rife with diving shotgun twerps. I understand the burning desire to win at all costs is pretty much the crux of competitive multiplayer gaming, but it’s such a shame that a game with so many interesting elements and gameplay mechanics has been repeatedly reduced to “guy blasting with shotgun.” If I wanted to run around with a shotgun I would play…well, pretty much any other shooter. I hope there’s a “no shotguns” playlist in the final game so I can play Gears of War and not Hobo With A Shotgun: The Game. Still, I’m at 50+ matches played, so it’s not like the game isn’t fun. I’m really enjoying the faster gameplay, the beautifully implemented incendiary grenade, and the Thrashball map. I’m warming up to Trenches, but man is it easy to lock people down/get locked down in the spawn areas in that one. The reward system is accomplishing its objective and very much illustrates Cliff’s comments about wanting the players to “marry the game.” I can see myself following this carrot-on-a-stick for quite some time.
Leah Jackson: As someone who has never played Gears before and is basically a console shooter noob, I thought Gears 3 was a lot of fun. I played as a Locust, and my teammates and I rolled house during the multiplayer. There were some really cool guns, and one guy had a flamethrower that looked so awesome. I didn’t mind him melting my face off at first because I just wanted to look at how cool the graphics were. All of the player models looked great and so did the environments. Overall, it was really fun, and I’d like to get back in there and try out some of the crazier guns in the near future...like now!
Blain Howard: I loved the shotgun...a lot. So much in fact that it and the magnum were pretty much the only weapons I used. Enjoyed nearly every aspect of the beta...except getting mauled down by the beta testers. Luckily, I got a medal for playing with a beta tester, but nobody likes dying so fast! The bots were surprisingly smart and tricky, and there were very little glitches in my matches. It was literally rip roaring fun...or chainsaw roaring fun...whichever you choose.