April 18th – May 15th. That is how long one of the most anticipated betas to ever be beta’d lasted. Gears of War, Microsoft’s second biggest franchise and one of the highest selling exclusive games this generation, had the interwebs and Xbox Live a buzzed with activity when people found out they would be able to play this anticipated game early. Console betas are usually viewed as glorified demos and with the level of polish the Gears 3 beta had, I’m not surprised some think that. But in this case, the beta was used to collect mostly server stats, weapon stats and any random glitches that might exist. So how did I view this beta? Read on.
A quick background on myself. I’m an avid Gears of War fan who can point out negatives of the game and so I have been looking forward to Gears 3 as it sounded like Epic’s mission was to address as many of the problems from Gears 2 as they could. I was lucky enough to get into the beta 3 days early and I spent much of the next month playing the game inside and out. I’ve decided to break my “review” down into 3 categories. The New, The Good and The Bad:
Sawed Off Shotgun – The Sawed off Shotgun (henceforth referred to as the SOS) is the new controversial weapon added to the game. The SOS has a VERY wide spread and causes massive destruction if you fall within that spread. The gun is so powerful if multiple people are within the spread they can all die. I’ve seen a bunch of double kills and a handful of triple kills when used correctly.
Retro Lancer – Also known as the Pendulum Era Lancer. This throwback lancer was the COG’s main rifle until the Lancer we know and love got upgraded with the Chainsaw Bayonet. There was a lot of mystery surrounding the Retro before the beta came out but once it was out we saw where it excelled. Short to mid-range distances however the recoil on the rifle is unforgiving. The trade-off you get is an EXTREMELY powerful gun especially off of an Active Reload.
One Shot – God bless Epic with their ability to just name a gun for what it does. This gun falls into the heavy class category where you can not run with it and it slows your character movement down..however, if you have the chance to prop this gun on a ledge it will cause massive (and by massive i mean death) damage to anything in its path. I’ve personally have pulled a triple kill with this weapon and its very gratifying.
Incendiary Grenades – Like the name says, these grenades create an area that is covered with fire. This helps to block routes and slow down a rushing enemy. If it hits an enemy directly it will immediately kill them. Pro-Tip: Throw the grenade on the ceiling to watch a very cool “dripping fire” effect.
Pretty much everything. Ok, ok maybe i’m exaggerating a bit but honestly, this feels like the Gears of War multiplayer that many fans were waiting for. One of the biggest improvements is the improved netcode and dedicated servers. There was only 1 or 2 games where I felt there was some lag that was causing me to not be playing to my normal level. Other than the the majority of the beta was lag free and that one change there made the game feel amazing.
Also just as good are the additions of the above weapons. While I think the Retro and SOS could both use a bit of tweaking, the fact that not every player is using the same weapon is outstanding. It simple makes players approach each situation differently. Is the enemy carrying a SOS? OK i’m going to keep my distance. Additions like these just added a new angle to the game. Where Gears 1 and 2 were pretty much just a shotgun battle, with Gears 3 people actually use the rifles and its a great feeling.
There were also some tweaks to long time favorites such as the Gorgon pistol which has now become a Gorgon SMG. Combing that with a meatshield and you have a pretty good combination. Another change was to the Longshot (again Epic and their gun names) where the non zoomed in aiming now blooms based on your movement. This places a bit more emphasis on those with the weapon to stop moving to take their shot which takes away some of the cheapness of it.
In addition to the above tweaks, Epic decided to basically upgrade the effects of all of their grenades. Smoke grenades are now VERY useful. The smoke fills and moves around the environment very realistically and you can easily get the jump on a group of enemies with a surprise attack through the smoke. Ink grenades now last a lot longer and create a stun effect as well. Frag grenades now have more details in their explosions and look as powerful as they are sometimes.
I also must point out how awesome some of these executions are now. I don’t know what sick sick person at Epic is coming up with these but please, you need to star on Dexter or something.
Also to note, the 4 maps in the beta were also very nice and really showed off the improvements Epic made to their engine.
This is less “bad” and more recommended tweaks. I’ll start with the most controversial weapon, the SOS. The main issue people have with this weapon is how easy it is to gib your opponent. Once people learned they did not have to hard aim to kill someone in front of them, it became common to watch people just roadie run into a crowded area and fire a shot. Even with the negatives of the weapon (only 4 shots, long reload time) many learned they could just run away as fast as possible until they could sweep in again. While I learned to deal with most people carrying this weapon, I still was killed cheaply by it. My tweak suggestion would be that you can not fire the gun from the hip…it has to be a hard aimed shot. If that happens? Who knows. But even if they left it the same, its a minor issue for me.
The Retro Lancer also has a few issues. The biggest is how accurate the hip fire is with the weapon from mid range. Often times I find myself not able to get close to someone as they are just blind firing their retro and each bullet seems to be hitting me. The easy tweak to that is just to reduce hip fire accuracy. Everything else works fine in my opinion.
Other then those listed above thats pretty much my main wishes for the full retail game. I enjoyed all the other aspects greatly and I simply can not wait to play the full version of this game.
Its been weeks since the beta has ended and I honestly am going through withdrawal. While proof-reading this post I realized that I didn’t even get to touch on the unlockables, the medals, or the great stat tracking and thats what made me realize just how good this game is shaping up to be. If I couldn’t fit in everything I wanted to talk about for a beta, the full game is just going to blow most of us away. I’m obviously looking forward to the release of Gears of War 3 and hopefully I’ll see some of you on the battlefield. Gears of War 3 Ships on September 2oth.
Thoughts or comments on the beta? Feel free to leave it below.