Feature: Massive In-Depth Gears of War 3 Beta Hands-On Impressions

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Gears of War is quite an important game around the Lazygamer crew. In many ways, it’s quite possibly the reason that the site that exists today, exists because of that game in some strange way.

It’s how Gavin met Geoff, it’s how I met them both and it’s how a lot of friendships, acquaintances and even business partnerships were formed in the early days of the current-gen when the online console community was pretty small (I think that story may just deserve it’s own article in the near future). We also competed in tournaments for the first Gears of War, my team finished top 3 at the first AGASA tournament, myself and a friend also placed second in the Gamerlobby Gears of War 2 vs 2 tournament and all this after clocking well (and I mean well) over 1000 hours in the multiplayer as we all played night after night after night.

It’s no small thing then, for me to say that Gears of War 2 felt like it undid everything that had been done with the first and before we knew it, the community was split, half stayed while the other half had moved on to other games and the ‘golden era’ of Gears of War (and anyone who was apart of it knows EXACTLY what I am talking about) was over.

Now, we have finally had our chance to test out CliffyB and Epic’s attempt to make it all right again, to bring back the magic that started it all. So hit the jump for our full impressions.

Bigger, better, more Bad-a… Oh wait, that didn’t work last time

Let’s take a look at what all has changed or been added to Gears of War 3. There are a couple of new weapons, new maps, female characters and all of the other kinda things that make a sequel a sequel.

The visuals are as gorgeous as ever and the Unreal Engine 3 is definitely firing on all cylinders. Everything looks sharp, the lighting and textures are fantastic although do expect to still see the trademark late-fade-in texture trick that Epic still employs to speed up load times.

One of the major elements that made Gears of War 1 multiplayer what it was, was the sheer amount of respect that you needed to have for another player, because anyone, no matter how outnumbered, was incredibly dangerous if they had the skill behind them. Gears of War 2 decided to slow things down a little, make the game more strategic and to be quite frank, a whole lot more noob-friendly for all the three of the novice players running to forums and crying about how the shotgun is too strong.

Let’s take a look at more of the elements in detail.

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A match made in heaven

Matchmaking lobbies were also introduced in Gears of War 2 and removed the ability for players to make their games private, as well as force players to have to return back to a lobby between maps, which significantly slowed down the addictive “just-one-more” nature of the first games’ method of simply flowing from map to map. The issues were eventually changed with title updates at a much, much later stage but by then the damage was done.

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In the Gears of War 3 Beta, the matchmaking has been simplified down so far, although (being a beta and all) we haven’t easily been able to invite or join other people’s squad parties out of the friends list without getting errors most of the time, although others may have been more successful.

Finding a game is very simple though, and by picking what game mode you want and then whether or not you want to play public or ranked you are pretty much ready to go. You are give statistics of how many people are playing in your region as well as worldwide. The matchmaking does a fantastic job of finding games in your region, so much so that the first time I hit the button it actually chucked me into a game with our very own Geoff and a couple of other locals.

Any empty spots are filled with bots in public matches, but if you play ranked then you will have to wait for an all-player lobby before the game will begin. The are currently three modes available: The all new team-deathmatch-like mode, king of the hill and capture the leader. I have had way more trouble getting into games of the latter two, but the other was a pretty simple affair most of the time.

Embrace the pace

What the differences really came down to between Gears of War 1 and 2, were those of pace. So has Epic fixed a lot of the issues that made Gears of War 2 push away some of its biggest fans.

At this point, the very short answer is: yes. The pace has been taken back to what original fans will remember, but also integrated good elements from Gears of War 2. In other words , the game is still strategic and teamwork will always pay-off, but the pace has been sped up again and an individual is very dangerous if not handled with care.

Yes, for those of you who are dying to ask, the shotgun is back to all of its Gears of War 1 glory. It’s fast, can be used well from the hip and incredibly deadly in the right hands however they did still decide to leave out the ability to fire the gun while also holding in the run button, but its no biggie.

All that you need to know, is that you won’t spend entire rounds being slowed down by Lancers anymore until inevitable death over and over again anymore, it’s a play on spacing and strategy now. Use your assault rifles well and you can still keep people suppressed and at bay, but let them get near you with their shotguns and you have a serious issue on your hands.

Last Updated: April 19, 2011

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Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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