Looking for a Gears of War 3 campaign guide to get you started? Look no further. The story-based campaign in Gears of War 3 is one of the most elaborate yet, digging into the histories of major characters not named Marcus Fenix as the trilogy that first started in 2007 comes to a close. Epic Games' Cliff Bleszienski spoke of a "bigger, better and more badass" game when Gears 2 came out, and Gears 3 seems to adopt a similar approach.
The scale is bigger. The stakes are higher. The weapons are more numerous. The bosses are bigger and more numerous. Hell, there's even a whole new type of enemy to contend with. I've spent most of the past week pouring so many hours into Gears 3 that it has quite literally started to haunt my dreams (this is not a joke). All that time has left me with some inights that I'd like to share, tips that will help day one players quickly acclimate to the latest release in the Gears of War series.
NOOBS OF WAR
Those who have never played a Gears game before should start reading here. First, know that there's a two-pack available that collects the series' first two games (plus DLC) into a single box. The core mechanical improvements in Gears 3 are pretty big, to the point that you might have a hard time going back and playing the first two after this one. Keep that in mind.
In terms of basic strategies, Gears of War 3 is a third-person shooter that places a heavy emphasis on sticking behind cover. The enemies you'll face are quite hardy overall, and crack shots as well. You'll want to keep yourself concealed whenever possible in the heat of a battle, and advance your position only when there's an opportunity to do so safely. Also be sure to keep a steady stream of fire on the battlefield's largest threats. It takes a lot of bullets to bring your Locust opponents down.
In that same vein, don't be shy about snatching up a new gun if you're low on ammo. In Gears 3 especially, you'll find stretches of the game highlighted by enemies that favor one type of weapon over another. Use what you like whenever possible -- blue- and red-glowing ammo boxes carry ammo for all standard weapons -- but don't hang onto an empty gun in hopes of finding an ammo box when the newly cleared battlefield is littered with pickups for some other weapon.
Another Gears-specific quirk worth knowing about ahead of time is Active Reloads. You can reload your weapons at any time with the press of the RB. The reload can be quickened, and the stopping power of the newly inserted bullets strengthened, by pressing RB a second time at the right moment. Watch the progress bar below your ammo counter after you press RB; press the button again when the vertical line passes through the grey zone for a quicker reload. Press it when the line is inside the white zone, and you get a quicker reload plus boosted damage for that clip.
LAMBENT OF WAR
Gears of War 3 is home to an entirely new type of enemy, the Lambent. Explaining what they are and why they exist would delve into spoiler territory; know only that they can essentially be described as the Gears equivalent of Halo's Flood.
For the most part, you'll use fewer bullets gunning down a Lambent grunt than you will a Locust. The new enemy type comes in a couple of different shapes and sizes -- including one that randomly mutates -- but all of these beings share one common feature: they explode as they die. Downed Lambent enemies burst apart in a spray of glowing, yellow gunk, hence the slang that refers to them in-game as "glowies."
Some Lambent forces will simply be waiting for you on the battlefield, but more often than not you'll find yourself suddenly facing a neverending supply of them as Stalks rise up out of the ground. These tentacle-things are several stories tall and often appear on the battlefield without warning, snaking up out of the ground and spawning Lambent forces out of pods that sprout on their surface.
Targeting those pods should be your first priority -- look for your targeting reticule to turn red when one is in your sights -- as taking them out prevents additional Lambent from spawning. It takes very few hits to destroy one, roughly the same amount you'd use bringing down your average Lambent grunt.
Generally speaking, your strategy with the Lambent should focus on attacking from a distance. They don't have the explosive power of the Locust Ticker, but you'll take some damage when one explodes right next to you. Especially the bigger ones.
More than that though, keeping your distance from the Lambent is a good idea because of how unpredictable they are. The Drudge enemy type, which looks like a misshapen mass of glowing yellow with legs and arms, will frequently respond to sustained fire by mutating into a new form, essentially replacing the enemy you were just shooting at with a more deadly one. A good rule of thumb to follow with all Lambent forces: shoot the yellow bits. Those are the most explodey.
There are also a couple of Lambent bosses. The Gunker is an artillery unit with a twist: you flat-out cannot get close to it. Or even a medium distance from it. The Gunker attacks anyone in its immediate vicinity with long, snake-like arms that amount to an instant down for any COG it strikes. Just keep pouring bullets into these guys until they explode, dodging as necessary to avoid incoming artillery bursts.
The Lambent Berserker is also a tricky customer, though for different reasons. While the typical strategy with the Lambent is to keep your distance, the glowie Berserker isn't having it. This is a melee-oriented creature in its natural, Locust form, and it's very much the same as a Lambent.
Expect to be dodging this thing's running charge frequently. Though take care to shoot at the glowing, yellow "heart" in the center of its chest whenever its ribcage pops open, something that conveniently occurs just before it dashes at you. Bringing down a Lambent Berserker requires patience, so prepare yourself.
GEAR OF WAR
The Locust are largely unchanged in Gears 3, but the range of tools you'll be able to use to kill them (and the Lambent as well) has expanded. The basic rule of thumb you should be following is: always keep at least one machine gun handy. Read on for a rundown of what's what, how it works, what it's good/not good for and how much you'll encounter it...
Standard Loadout Weapons
- Lancer -- The Lancer needs no introduction for anyone who is familiar with the Gears series. This is the series' now-famous chainsaw bayonet-sporting machine gun. The Gears 3 take on the Lancer is the best one yet, delivering a surprisingly high level of accuracy (even at range) with minimal recoil, a high rate of fire and good damage. The Lancer's ammo and clip capacity both are the highest of the standard machine guns. Plus, it's got that chainsaw, for awesomely brutal close-range executions.
- Hammerburst -- Another returning standard machine gun, the Hammerburst is smaller than the Lancer and even more dead-on accurate. The tradeoff is the rate of fire, which is the slowest of the game's MGs, and the ammo capacity, which is the smallest in this class. The Hammerburst lacks any sort of bayonet attachment, so it is best used at range. The rate of fire may be slow, but those bullets pack a punch, so choose your shots wisely. Clicking the right stick while holding down the left trigger drops you into a first-person iron sights aiming perspective, essentially eliminating what little recoil this weapon has to begin with.
- Retro Lancer -- The Retro Lancer is a newcomer in Gears 3. Similar in appearance to the regular Lancer, this gun trades the chainsaw for a nasty-looking blade bayonet. To use it, you'll need to line up an enemy and charge at it by holding down the B button. The Retro Lancer is easily the most powerful of the machine guns, but it comes at a considerable cost: the recoil has a severe upward pull -- exacerbated by a reasonably high rate of fire -- and the ammo capacity is half of what you get in a regular Lancer. There's also a slow reload time for this one. Seriously though, the recoil is no joke; expect to be correcting your aim constantly even if you're capable with the burst fire.
- Gnasher Shotgun -- The Gnasher is your basic semi-automatic shotgun. It's got a slow-ish rate of fire and is basically useless at a distance, but it also gives you eight shells per clip. If you can get right up in the face of an enemy -- I'm talking inches away -- and land a point blank shot, it's an instant kill for most human-sized enemies. This is a solid secondary for those who like to mix it up close. Try to get good at hip firing with this puppy; it becomes a deadly force to reckon with in the right hands.
- Sawed-Off Shotgun -- The Sawed-Off Shotgun is new in Gears 3, though people got to play with it in the beta earlier this year. This thing is a beast at close range. You only get one shot per clip, but it covers pretty much everything in your current field of vision when you fire. The reload time is insanely slow, so make sure you have an exit strategy in case your shot doesn't land or other enemies are nearby. The lengthy reload time and lower ammo cap (both the clip and how much extra you can carry) make this tough to recommend over the Gnasher, at least for the purposes of the game's campaign. Multiplayer is another story entirely.
Secondary (Non-Loadout) Weapons
- Longshot -- The Longshot's absence from the list of basic loadout weapons has always been puzzling, but it's something you'll need to acquire on the battelfield rather than simply start with (certain co-op situations notwithstanding). This is the Gears version of a sniper rifle. One shot per clip, long reload time, high damage -- though only headshots offer one-shot-kills -- and scoped, with a click of the right stick while the left trigger is held down.
- Boomshot -- The Locust take on a greande launcher. There's not a huge arc on this thing, but you'll definitely want to aim a little hire if you're aiming at a more distant target. A single head-on shot to the body of the larger Locust types -- Boomers, Maulers, etc. -- won't be enough to take it out, but will nonetheless weaken the enemy to the point that a couple machine gun bursts should do the trick. Also great for taking out groups of human-sized-or-smaller creatures.
- Digger Launcher - The Digger Launcher is basically a Boomshot with a twist. While the latter weapon resembles a standard grenade launcher in the way it behaves, the Digger Launcher instead fires a small, burrowing creature – a digger – that’s been strapped with proximity explosives. When you hold down the left trigger, a targeting line is overlaid onto the battlefield showing you where your shot will travel. Once fired, the digger follows that path, popping up out of the ground and exploding either when it reaches the end point or when any enemies get too close to its travel route.
- Scorcher -- This is the Locust flamethrower. It can be very, very powerful at close range, though it doesn't offer the insta-kill opportunities that your shotguns do. Which means that whichever enemy you're burning alive might have some opportunity to take a few parting shots at you before turning to ash. Keep that in mind.
- Torque Bow -- This is a unique Locust weapon that compares best with the compound bow and exploding arrows that Sylvester Stallone's Rambo character put to good use in Rambo II. The Torque Bow must be charged before it can be fired; hold down the RT and you'll see a curving line slowly becoming more straight as the charge time increases. This is your explosive arrow's arc of flight. You can fire at any time, but a fully charged Torque Bow is dead-on accurate; wherever your reticule is when you release the trigger, that's where your arrow will land. The only thing to note: the Torque Bow can only be charged with a shot for so long before it automatically lets that shot fly.
- Hammer of Dawn -- While the Hammer of Dawn's stopping power easily qualifies it as one of Gears' super-weapons, it's also something you can carry in your inventory like the other, more standard weapons. You only get a handful of shots with this highly damaging weapon, so make each one count. You're not actually dealing any direct damage either; the Hammer of Dawn is a laser targeting system for an orbital satellite that fires an everything-killing laser once a target has been properly "painted."
- Snub Pistol -- This is the pistol that everyone starts with, and also the weapon you should always seek to replace no matter what. You can carry a reasonable amount of ammo for it and its got a good clip size/reload time, but this thing is weak. Only pull it out if you have no other choice. As with all three sidearms, you can zoom in your aim slightly by clicking the right stick while holding down the left trigger.
- Boltok Pistol -- The Boltok is the standard Locust sidearm, a hand cannon that begs comparisons with real-world firearms like the Magnum revolver. It's not nearly as powerful as a hand cannon could be -- the Boltok actually seems a bit tamer than it was in Gears 2 -- but it's useful in a pinch. Quick reloads, but only a moderate rate of fire and small clip/ammo capacity.
- Gorgon Pistol -- The Gorgon should be your go-to sidearm, no question. It's got the highest ammo capacity in this class, largely because it's a fully automatic weapon. That's right, folks: the Gorgon burst fire seen in previous games is gone. So what you're basically looking at is an Uzi. It's not terribly powerful, or qiuck on the draw, but it's a much-needed supply of bullets when the well runs dry on your machine gun.
- Smoke Grenade -- Only marginally useful in the campaign since it really doesn't do any damage. Good for concealing your advance, but you're better off engaging at range anyway. You'll be better off with any of the other three, damage-dealing grenades.
- Frag Grenade -- This one goes boom, plain and simple. You don't get much more basic than a frag grenade. If you're playing a co-op game, at least two players in your group should keep these handy.
- Ink Grenade -- The Ink Grenade is a good area attack weapon. Toss it to create an inky, black cloud of liquid smoke, causing significant damage to anything -- friend or foe -- caught inside of it.
- Incendiary Grenade -- New to Gears 3, the Incendiary Grenade serves pretty much the same purpose as the Ink Grenade -- controlling an area -- only it uses fire to maintain that control.
- A NOTE CONCERNING GRENADES: While all grenades can be thrown, they also all share a secondary feature that allows you to essentially set them as mines. Arm your grenade, aim your reticule at a nearby wall and press the B button. Your character will plant the explosive in the wall, and it won't detonate until/unless an enemy gets close. The same tactic can also be used to plant a grenade directly onto the body of an enemy. This is especially useful against the game's armored foes.
- Cleaver -- This thing is no knife. It's really more of an oversized machete, and probably a horribly rusty one at that. Not terribly useful overall, as it only has a limited number of attacks and, as the old saying goes, it's not generally a wise idea to bring a knife to a gun fight.
- Mulcher -- The Mulcher is a chain gun you can carry. Max ammo capacity is 200 shots, though the gun will overheat if you attempt to fire them all at once. No reloads are required, but watch the heat bar as you're firing to maintain a steady outpouring of bullets with this puppy. If you're using a Mulcher to keep watch on a specific area that's about to be flooded with enemies, feather the right trigger to keep the barrel spinning,. You'll be quicker on the draw when trouble arrives.
- Mortar -- The Locust Mortar is devastating when used correctly. It works like any other mortar you've ever seen. Line up your shot, get your range (by holding down the right trigger until you feel you're sending the shot far enough) and fire. Everything in its blast radius will probably be blown to pieces.. Immediately.
- One-Shot -- The One-Shot is a Longshot on steroids. You only get a few shots with this thing but, as the name implies, just about anything you connect with will fall in only ONE SHOT. From the smallest nothing Polyps all the way up to the flying Reavers. One shot and they're toast. Hold the left trigger down to look through the scope and charge the weapon up. Once a red dot appears in the middle of your sight picture, you are free to fire.
- Vulcan Cannon -- Technically speaking, the Vulcon Cannon is a four-handed weapon. Two to man the gun -- which sends 600 very powerful bullets downrange at an insane speed -- and two to man the ammo feeder. While there are 600 shots to fire, the gun's clip holds only a fraction of that. A second player (or team AI) can man the ammo feeder, tapping A continuously to keep a steady flow of bullets moving from the magazine into the gun. Whenever you see one of these, make sure you put it to good use. It's devastating.
- Loader -- You'll only encounter Loaders a couple of times during the campaign. They're pretty similar to the exo-suit seen in Aliens: a yellow-colored mech suit that works sort of like a human-powered forklist. You can run (slowly) by holding down A and deliver melee attacks to up-close enemies by pressing B.
- Silverback -- A mech suit that looks like a chrome version of the Loader. Unlike the Loader, however, this thing is built for offense. It can run a limited distance, governed by the same heat meter that goes with your Mulcher-like chaingun weapon. Pressing the A button drops your Silverback into a "protected" state, switching your primary weapon from the chaingun to rockets. The Loader and Silverback both have health bars (visible near the bottom of the screen), and they can't be healed, so put them to work wisely.
Adam Rosenberg is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, NY and living at the whims of his lovable chow, Loki. You can find his work plastered all over the Internet, or just follow him on Twitter @geminibros for daily doses of his crazed, nonsensical ramblings.