So for the last two to three weeks EPIC has allowed us all access to the Gears of War 3 Beta which has featured three gameplay modes (Team Deathmatch, Capture the Leader and King of the Hill) four levels and a whole host of unlockables for us to enjoy before the game is fully and finally released in September this year.
So how is the beta? What’s new? Well from the start you now have dedicated servers which speeds up the connection to online games as well as gameplay. All too often in Gears 2 you’d spend ages waiting to get into a game only for it to slow down and disconnect in round 4 of 5 so it’s nice to know this seems to be a problem that can stay in the past.
The weapon loadouts have been chopped and changed a little, for a start you can change your loadout a bit more from the start up as well as in games if you die so you don’t have to worry if you are using the wrong gun for the game type. Speaking of weapons, in addition to all of the previous weapons from Gears 2, you now have the “Sawn Off Shotgun” which has enough power to kill anything close enough in one shot but at the cost of a four second reload time so you have to make that shot count! The “Retro Lancer” has a bayonet instead of the usual chainsaw allowing you to do a running charge at enemies which can result in a one hit kill if you are not seen and gunned down while running. “The Digger” a burrowing mine style weapon designed to catch out players who stick behind cover taking pot shots. “The Oneshot” a laser guided sniper rifle with enough power to shoot through a meatshield (hostage) but whose laser gives off an obvious trace back to it’s location as a trade off with it’s firepower and flame grenades which are more useful to box enemies into areas as oppose to being used as an offensive weapon.
The four levels have a nice level of variety, starting with ‘Thrashball’, set in ‘The Cole Train’s’ thrashball arena you have a huge game field to fight across while tunnels lead to each teams changing rooms, dugouts and the seats overlooking the field. Second is ‘Checkout’ which takes places in an abandoned shopping mall, the layout is really a big cross where everyone can be seen meaning snipers are currently having a field day with this one! In third is ‘Trenches’ a dusty desert with sandstorms that can rush through the map causing zero visibility so you have to look out for sneaky chainsaw kills and make sure you use the cover of this open area when the sandstorm has passed. The final map is old town, a maze of twist and turning passages where the sawn off shotgun can lurk around every corner…
These new maps really show how the game has risen above the “Browns and Greys” of previous games by not only injecting colour but also new relatable locations into the mix. These new levels also promise multi-layered combat areas where you can shoot down cover, parts of the level will sink into the ground and weapons will become available and unavailable as matches go on.
There is a cosmetic difference to weapons now with different skins being unlocked as you play as well as medals and ribbons being awarded for various feats performed within the main and multiplayer game (think along the lines of Halo Reach’s daily challenges), there are also unlockable executions earned from doing a certain number of kills with that particular weapon and earning you extra xp when performed in a match, all of which will add replay value to the game long after the campaign is over.
So what do I think? Well being a massive gears fan I was always going to see the best in the beta but I am truly impressed with the balancing of the weapons; Gears 2 quickly descended into everyone shotgun rolling into each other doing one hit kills but with the new sawn off acting as the powerful shotgun and the original gnasher shotgun being taken down a bit in terms of damage while the chainsaw lancer, hammerburst and retro lancer all have their own much more visible perks and cons this issue has now been adressed. The maps as I mentioned have much more life and colour to them and the new multi-layered approach means that teams wont be able to just ‘dig in’ to the high ground to attack, another problem that was found on the maps in Gears 2.
Couple this with the amount of unlockables to keep us playing and some fantastic new features such as jumping over cover, spotting enemies for other players and throwing grenade planted meatshields into other enemies with the feedback from the beta and this could be something pretty amazing, roll on September!!!