I Am Error: Gears of War 3
|November 2, 2011||Posted by S.A.Perkins under I Am Error|
Gears of War 3 is the much awaited finale to the Gears of War trilogy. You know the general idea by now: the world is absolutely buggered, there is some insidious alien threat that will destroy the planet (ten points for originality), and men who look like part of the Steroid Enthusiast Weekly readership run around with giant guns, apparently capable of doing the job of an entire army with only four men, leading to significant job cuts and a hard time for all. That’s essentially the main gist of Gears 3 as well, save for some slight – and oh do I mean slight – differences. There will be severe spoilers in this review, so if you’d rather not know, don’t read on. You have been forewarned!
Gears 3 takes place two years after Gears 2. I’m going to fill you in on the basic plot details: the last remnants of the government took shelter on an island called Vectes, but the Lambent (some kind of Uber-Locust who, considering all the glowing yellow bits, apparently have achieved Super Saiyan mode) caused a bit of a ruckus that led to a split: half the people went onto boats to sail the seven seas (anyone else have that Village People song stuck in your head?) while the other half made the very, very wise decision to retreat back to the mainland – the one they had just run away from because it was filled with murderous alien creatures. Chairman Prescott from the last game left the government and caused it all to collapse. We pick up with our main cast as they sail around on one of the ships, and it goes on from there.
Why did I need to explain this to you? Well, unless you watch the very brief and rather lacking video detailing events since the last game, Gears 3 assumes you’ve read all the books and comics beforehand. Not just for plot. It throws characters at you who were never seen in the previous games, only in books and comics, and assumes you know everything about them. I don’t know who these characters are and I would appreciate some time being spent on their character development (although could I really hope for that, given the series’ usual trait for character development?) but instead we get thrown a whole heap of characters who have no in-game back story, no development and, well, no character. Jace Stratton, a skilled sniper and Delta Squad member, could have been an interesting addition to the cast, but aside from being somewhat stereotypical, mostly in voice (though what can I expect from Gears, in which stereotypes abound in no uncertain terms), he is just another character to fill the roster when needed. Sam Byrne, who gets a little more character development, still lacks any real power as a three dimensional character, and her dialogue only seems to enforce the point that she is, actually, a girl. Plus, that plaster she wears annoys the hell out of me. Why is it there? Is that the reason for regenerating health? Is it some magical plaster with healing properties? If so, I want one.
Graphically the game is pretty crisp. There are some very detailed environments and the textures are great… so long as you don’t zoom in on them, which regrettably the game often does. There are also some slow loading textures and a few areas where the graphics don’t really work (like Anya’s eerily blonde hair; I mean, come on, no shine, no darker areas? It’s just yellow) but overall the graphics hold up and the game looks very nice as you run about the place throwing chainsaw bayonets and Boomshots around. It is strange how the Locust – or whatever it is that you happen to be killing (oh, did I just imply some kind of inter-human conflict? Why, I think I may have done) – never seem to get riddled with bullet holes even when you’re sinking twenty or so rounds into them per kill. The one time a wound is shown – on a skewered Prescott – the wound just looks unrealistic and the blood looks like cherry Vimto, so maybe it’s a good thing that bullet wounds aren’t shown more frequently. The one overriding issue with Gears 3’s graphics is that from afar, everything in gameplay looks fine and environments can be really striking (and a refreshing change from the brown-coloured brownness with a hint of grey that was Gears 2) until you examine them closely, at which point you realise that the developers probably assumed no one would ever notice the environments since the characters’ necks are the size of several brick shithouses and block the view. Which, to be fair, they do. I can’t tell you how many times I haven’t been able to spot an erstwhile sniper at my flank because Marcus’ (Or Cole’s, because now you get to play as other people… for all of five seconds) huge Onyx-like arms were blocking that side of the screen. I’m not even sure Onyx is a Pokemon worthy enough of being attributed to Marcus’s muscles. Unless steroids were involved the only way anyone could get that muscular is if you used daddy issues as a muscle stimulant, which might explain Marcus’s beefy body because the man is a smorgasbord of daddy issues. “What’s that, you say? My father may or may not be alive in a hidden location that we can only get to through tremendous hardship and suffering, and if we go we may cause the people we leave behind to get mercilessly slaughtered? Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!” Marcus, you clever, clever man.
Gameplay-wise, you wouldn’t be remiss in thinking that they’ve essentially copy-pasted all the controls and mechanics from the previous games into this one. There are a few additions, such as the ability to roll in any direction which does actually make it easier to roll behind cover, although the number of times I’ve rolled then had to wait so long before being allowed to enter cover that a Locust has been able to blast a Boomshot round five feet into my skull… It is rather annoying. Plus, the Hammerburst now comes with an iron sights mechanic, allowing you to enter first person – if I’m honest, this sort of defeats the purpose of a third person shooter and the aim is terrible. It honestly felt like trying to shoot the side of a barn with a Gatling gun from five feet away, with several huge signs saying “shoot here”, and still missing. Maybe the eighteen-wheeler that these people use as armour threw their aim off a bit. Executions are fun though, and the sight of a Locust being impaled through the side before having his head lopped off with the bayonet of a Retro-Lancer (one of the decent additions to this game) is… Well, if you were a more sadistic person than I, you might say “orgasmic”, but seeing as I’m not a creepy weirdo (whatever my psychiatrist might say) I’ll just go with “bloody hilarious”.
The story is, regrettably, underwhelming and cliché. It seems like Gears 3 has pulled the old trick of “Hey, you know that guy who has only ever been involved in this one game? Turns out he’s developed a weapon that we never explain that can kill all the evil aliens!” Now I’m pretty sure that if I was in an apocalyptic situation, surrounded by half-Necromorph, half-Super Saiyan monsters while a pissed off alien woman attacked me atop what I can only describe as a rejected boss from Devil May Cry, complete with “Chargin’ Ma Laser” powers (I am honestly ashamed of myself for making such a reference), I wouldn’t mind if the weapon wasn’t explained, but in a game that’s supposed to be a blockbusting finalé to a series – and I say finalé loosely because we all know what Microsoft does to finished series *cough* Halo 4 *cough* – I wouldn’t mind having some of those loose ends tied up. Why does Myrrah look oddly human? What exactly is Imulsion? Why does Adam Fenix know Myrrah personally? And how in Thor’s name does the Oneshot kill a Reaver faster than a Hammer of Dawn? These are more questions yet unanswered, and we’ll probably have to wait for another sequel before we can get these holes fixed. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the story, although I did roll my eyes at the sheer Ashton-Kutcher-level stupidity of it, and it did have its moments. For example, the moment when (huge spoiler incoming) Dom sacrificed himself to save the others from the Lambent and Locust was a pretty epic one, but after a while I found myself wondering: why did he have to die? He could have jumped out of the truck just before it collided with the tanker, or, you know, done that thing which the entire game is based around and shot the bloody thing from a safe distance (COG Health and Safety standards set it at 50 feet) without risking his life. It seems like it was done just so Marcus could have some emotional turmoil and a big “Nooooo!” moment, but even that isn’t even done well. He takes a few steps towards the burning wreckage, Anya makes an asinine comment that is unnecessary given the fact that Dom just drove headfirst into a big cloud of “BOOM”, and then he’s essentially forgotten save for a few key mentions. Yes, there’s a moment where Marcus gets pissed off with the oddly insultingly-stereotypical black businessman (I did say that stereotypes abounded in this game) and he mentions Dom, but does Marcus really need a reason to get angry? The man’s a huge ball of wrath contained in several overlapping layers of steel-hard muscle. You might think I’m mentioning the muscular size of the characters too much, but seriously, its not something you can tiptoe around.
Overall, Gears 3 was an average game. It was good, yes, but it was also underwhelming, clichéd, and, lets face it, Gears was never that good a series anyway. It was full of such steroid-filled homoerotic bromance that they had to stick a missing wife subplot in there with Dom to ensure that the player understood Dom and Marcus were not having sweaty sex, which considering the amount of testosterone oozing from these games probably would have been too manly to be considered gay. It always had an easily predictable plot and is responsible for – though not the origin of – the many, many, many cover-shooters we have these days. I wanted more out of the end of a series. I suppose I’ll get it once Gears of War 6: Dom’s Revenge roles around in about 2015. Until that time, I suppose I can sustain myself by playing Horde 2.0. What’s that, a Brumak just randomly spawned on my skull? Well, guess I’m dead then. So much for that.