One of the most highly anticipated games of the year without a doubt is Epic Games’ Gears of War 3. At the Microsoft Press Event preceding GDC, Epic made the multiplayer beta available for demo and in a few words, the game’s bad-ass factor certainly jumps up a few notches.
“Team Deathmatch” and “King of the Hill” were the available game types on showcase and various press entities took up controllers and did battle. In Team Deathmatch, each side starts with 15 total respawns and when they’re gone, they’re gone. This feature added a degree of comfort, where if someone died 20 seconds into the match, the other team wasn’t at a complete loss immediately. For players who are a bit nervous about running out of lives, King of the Hill features infinite respawns until one team wins the game.
The first map I jumped into, “Checkout,” took place in a decrepit grocery store . The second map, “Mercy” was based in a church area with a beautiful garden courtyard area with vines and overgrowth. The third map, “Old Town”, put players in a seaside marketplace complete with fruit stands (which make the headshot noise if shot) and roaming chickens. There were several other maps available for play as well: “Trenches”, “Overpass”, and “Thrashball.”
Of the aforementioned maps, the confirmed playable locales to be present in the multiplayer beta are “Checkout” and “Thrashball.” The other four will be voted on to be included. Each map of course, has been inspired by scenery featured in the single player campaign.
Minor tweaks to the controls include having to hold X/Y to perform certain actions. Holding X over a weapon will replace your current one or replenish ammo for it. Pressing X on downed enemies turns them into a meat-shield. The Y button, when pressed against a downed enemy, curb stomps them immediately, whereas holding the button results in your weapon contextual execution. The feature gives players an extra window of time to make sure they want to either kill their enemy quick and dirty or take extra time for something pretty and special.
And let me tell you, the executions are very special, oh my. They are back, gorier and more violent than ever. Many of the executions are based around the most violent way to kill someone, whether it be sticking a chainsaw in their gut and revving away or beating them senselessly with your weapon in hand.
Each weapon has received a change to their operation as well. As mentioned earlier, recoil and fire control are going to be large contributing sources to your accuracy, firing full auto won’t cut it anymore. In reaction to auto firing, the reticule for your weapon will change, so keeping it as small as possible will ensure bullets hit the target.
Core gameplay mechanics are largely unchanged from the original “Stop and Pop” motif of shooting, promoting strategic maneuvering and flanking over brute force gunfights. The differences in the presentation and in-game options are immediately evident. Upon death, a player may choose a different load out of their primary and secondary weapons, between the Retro/current Lancer and the Hammerburst and between the sawed-off shotgun or Gnasher shotgun as a back up.
Now present in a larger way is the added recoil in all guns. No longer can you just pull the trigger on the Lancer and draw the line on the enemy. Recoil will disrupt your reticule and will cause shots to miss your target. Burst-firing or using the Hammerburst’s single-fire mode is rewarded with downing enemy players faster. Shooting at the head works just as well.
The new sawed-off shotgun is a powerful weapon capable of dismembering and instantly killing enemies in only a single shot, which is all you have before reloading. Thing of it as the “all or nothing” gun in close combat. The reticule on it is huge, spanning nearly half the screen in total. But when you kill someone with it, the result is undeniably awesome and rewarding.
The Retro Lancer takes some getting used to and is almost incapable of firing full auto, relying on 3-shot bursts. However, it is immensely powerful and once an enemy is downed, they are setup for the impalement with the bayonet (done by holding B). Also new to the Gears armory is the Digger, which fires a little explosive creature that travels underground. Franchise stables The Boomshot, Longshot, Gorgon Pistol, Mulcher, Mortar, Torque Bow and Boltok Magnum all return to multiplayer duty.
Post-game, aside from the regular stats of kills/deaths/downs/assists/revives, the screen that follows depicts various ribbons and medals awarded to you. These accolades are given to the player according to how they performed. Upon finishing a match, I myself had 14, ranging from most perfect active reloads, highest K/D ratio, and most assists. A leveling system is also in place and the better you do in a match, the more experience you get. Nothing new to shooter fans, but nothing that’s going to be dissed.
The most notable change from the beta was how compacted the maps were. Prior to a match, players can press the B button to see an overview of the map which details where all of the weapons are located, greatly appreciated by people who are just starting to play the game and don’t know where anything is. Because of this new feature, matches will not consist of running from one side to another trying to head off enemies to the power weapon.