The Gears of War series is one that’s pretty synonymous with the Xbox, with the first entry in the series being released within a year of the Xbox 360’s launch almost twenty years ago (yes, I was shocked it was that long ago too). Thanks to the original game receiving huge critical acclaim and massive sales, a sequel was green-lit straight away, with plans to wrap up the story in a third instalment. In 2011 that third entry was released, and the story of Gears of War came to a close – until a sequel trilogy began in 2016.
Gears of War 3 picks up two years after the conclusion of the second game, where the remnants of humanity destroyed their last remaining city in an effort to stop the deadly Locust Horde. As the game picks up, players are put back in the story of Marcus Fenix as he and a group of survivors try their best to survive on board the Soverign, a huge ship in the middle of the ocean. When the former president arrives and gives Marcus a disc filled with military secrets, and reveals that Marcus’ father is still alive, our team of heroes set out on a mission to finally end the war once and for all.
Joined by new allies, and some old friends who have now had to step up into the fight rather than just being in a support role, Marcus and his friends head out across Sera to reach their target; a journey that not only has them coming into conflict with the Locust, but the deadly new Lambent, a twisted, mutated version of the Locust that acts as a third party. Travelling to some remote locations, finding distant human outposts, and delving into long buried secrets, the team will have to fight harder than they every have before – even if it costs some of them their lives.
The plot for the game, provided by author Karen Traviss, who had been penning the Gears of Wars novels, is probably the best of the series up to that point, featuring interweaving narratives, dives into the history of the world and the characters, surprise appearances from characters from the novels and comics, and some genuinely heartbreaking emotional scenes. Despite the series continuing on after this point, years later with a time jump and a new main cast of heroes, this game felt like a fitting conclusion to the story, and is still one that holds up well a decade later.
The game also featured a host of new elements that gave returning players something to look forward to. The most obvious is the leap in visuals the game gave players. The series had always been one that looked good, a series that made ruined environments look beautiful when it wanted to, but often it would fall back on bland corridors and underground tunnels that would look pretty similar and drab between the big set pieces. As a contrast, Gears of War 3 offered players a lot more visual variety, allowing you to play through ruined cities, desert environments, and tropical beaches. These locations were helped by crisper visuals than the previous entries, along with dramatic lighting and great smoke effects that really helped to make this seem like a living, breathing world.
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The combat was also improved upon, though not completely revolutionised. The features that made the series recognisable were still there, but they worked a lot better this time around. You could charge across the battlefield snapping from cover to cover much smoother, meaning that you didn’t have to worry about your character getting stuck or bogged down during a fire fight as often as you did with previous games. The developers also introduced a host of new weapons that changed up combat too, especially guns such as the Digger, which would fire through the ground to pop up at targets behind cover, and the Silverback, a huge mech suit with guns and chainsaws that you could wear into battle; and yes, a mech suit with chainsaws is as cool as it sounds.
As someone who’d not just been playing the games, but reading the expanded material too, Gears of War 3 felt like a great way to round out the series. It introduced some great new characters, it took existing characters in new directions, and it brought in some people from the other media and put them into the games. It felt just as big, over-the-top, and bombastic as the rest of the series, and frankly, that’s what you come to Gears of War for.
Gears of War 3 was released on 20th September 2011.