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'Gears' begin to turn once again

Apr 11, 2011

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Gears of War 3 It's amazing how many memories a chainshow holds.

See, if it's been a while since you last revved up your Lancer in Gears of War 2 (or its predecessor, for that matter), you may be surprised at just how addictive the series still is.

With several big-name shooters coming out recently that focus more on run-and-gun as opposed to cover (Halo: Reach, Killzone 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops to name a few), it's easy to forget just how influential the two Gears of War titles were. The amount of cover-based third-person shooters that were released in the months and years after the first Gears of War bordered on ludicrous.

It's been well over two years since Gears of War 2 launched, which is an eternity in gaming terms. How quickly gamers forget about everything that made that blockbuster so great. Horde mode, superb cover mechanics, visceral executions - there was a lot to love about the game.

A launch date that's still over five months away may seem downright painful to many 'Gears' enthusiasts, but Epic is giving those people a bit of fix in the form of a multiplayer beta that's launching in April.

Gears of War 3 G4 Canada had a chance to preview what the beta has to offer, and if you were a fan of the first two games in the series, there's little reason to think you won't love the second sequel.

The beta is shipping with four maps and three game modes, and we get a chance to check out three of those maps ('Trenches', 'Thrashball' and 'Old Town') and one of our favourite game modes, Deathmatch. In Deathmatch, teams share a set number of respawns. Once a team runs out of respawns and the remaining players are taken out, it's game over. In this mode, a team truly is only as good as its worst player.

Weapon loadouts can be chosen not just before matches begin, but also in between respawns. In our first match on Trenches, we opt for the new-but-old Retro Lancer, and the classic shotgun. The Retro Lancer has an old-school bayonet in place of the chainsaw. Hold the B-button down and your character will do a roadie-run with the bayonet lowered. Anyone on the receiving end of one of these melee actions will be eviscerated in a thoroughly violent fashion. It's a powerful gun, but the recoil is too much, so we move back to the trusty Lancer.

Gears of War 3 The map itself is fantastic. It's an outdoor level that has some long, narrow sections that could prove very dangerous if you're stuck in front of an opposing player. There is of course plenty of cover opportunity regardless, and to really do well on the map, you'll have to get above your enemies. Snagging the mortar doesn't hurt, either.

There is an environmental aspect to Trenches too, similar to the avalanche that would kill anyone in its way in the Gears of War 2 map, Avalanche. On Trenches, a horn blows halfway through the match, warning players that a massive sandstorm is incoming. When it kicks in, players will only be able to see a few short feet in front of them.

It doesn't last terribly long, but it can easily change the flow of the match. The sandstorm also allows players to try a new feature in Gears of War 3, which is the ability to use the Tac-com (left bumper) to see where all your teammater are on the screen. Activating the Tac-com also allows you to see the spawn points for all weapons. The better players will use this to their advantage.

Gears of War 3 The second map, Thrashball, takes place inside a destroyed sports stadium. Though there is plenty of cover on the field, you don't want to stick around too long, as there is a lot of opportunity on the sides of the map to get up high and pick people in the centre off. Not only that, but it's possible to shoot the massive scoreboard hanging from the roof. We probably don't have to tell you that you don't want to be underneath it when it comes crashing down. In a neat little touch by Epic, the scoreboard actually keeps score of kills throughout the match.

With so many places to duck and hide in Thrashball, it's worth noting another key addition to Gears of War 3 multiplayer. Players can now tag enemies by aiming at them and clicking in the left thumb stick. Doing this puts a blue dot above the enemy's head, which can be seen by everyone else on the team. It only lasts a few seconds, but can be a life saver for someone who can't quite figure out where shots are coming from.

Old Town, meanwhile, is classic Gears, and actually feels like Avalanche, only with sand and a hot sun replacing snow and a cloudy sky. It's easy to run into dead ends on this map, so be careful when you're being chased; you never know when you might run out of room. It's a solid map, but the least interesting of the three nonetheless.

Gears of War 3 There's plenty of white-knuckle moments in our time with the beta. Initial matches seem lopsided, but once everyone gets back in the groove of things - using cover, firing in bursts, sticking very close to teammates - matches typically become tense affairs.

There are plenty of 'wow' moments, including watching players finish off downed enemies using any of the new executions. As mentioned earlier, this is 'Gears' through and through. It feels very slick, it looks wonderful and despite being the third in a trilogy of games, it manages to feel new all over again (that may admittedly have something to do with the long time between releases).

The Gears of War 3 beta will be available to Bulletstorm: Epic Edition owners on April 18, and on April 25 will open up to those who pre-order Gears of War 3.

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