Today is the day that many people have been waiting for; those of you who bought the Bulletstorm Epic Edition will be getting early access to the Gears of War 3 beta (if you pre-order the game you’ll get into the beta next week on the 25th). However the beta has actually been running for a few days already with select people given codes or winning them. I found myself lucky enough to participate in this and have been playing the game for the past couple of days, so if you’re wondering how the third game stacks up to the first two, I urge you to read this preview.
Let me give you a little forward note right here. I come to you as somebody who was a HUGE fan of the first Gears of War‘s multiplayer. I played it all the time and got to be quite good at it. I played it off and on with friends until the sequel came out, and even then I found myself still playing it more often than the sequel which I was disappointed in. The rampant glitches and problems that were present when Gears 2 came out put me off of it for a long time and by the time these things started getting fixed, all of my friends had moved on and I just couldn’t get back into it. Gears of War 3 has won me back.
The beta gives us access to four maps and three game-modes; Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Capture the Leader. TDM is something you should be familiar with but with a small twist; rather than trying to reach a certain score each team has a pool of respawns that they all draw from, and the first team to hit zero loses. King of the Hill is essentially Annex, and Capture the Leader is basically the Meat Shield game from Gears 2, except one person on each team plays as the leader / “flag” (Prescott for the COG and Queen Myrrah for the Locust).
The maps are all a bit on the small side which ensures that you’re never very far from the action. This can sometimes be a problem in these game modes where there are respawns, as it’s easy to occasionally get spawn trapped (or trap your enemy) and sometimes you’ll find the enemy spawning behind where your team is currently standing. It’s not too big of an issue, but is very annoying every time it happens. This won’t be a problem in the “regular” original mode where there are no respawns, and hopefully will be addressed before the final release. That’s what betas are for after all.
The ability to choose your preferred starting character and weapon loadout returns from the previous games, with a couple more options other than the choice between the Lancer and Hammerburst. There are now two new “default” weapons for you to choose from; the Sawed Off Shotgun and the Retro Lancer. The Sawed Off only has one shell at a time, a very large targeting area and is extremely powerful. To balance this it has a long reload time, only starts with about four shells and you must get very close for it to be effective. The Retro Lancer features a bayonet instead of the chainsaw and is also a lot more powerful than the regular Lancer. To balance this out it has quite a bit of recoil that definitely takes some time to get used to. Holding ‘B’ with the Retro Lancer equipped will send your character into a running bayonet charge which will automatically impale an enemy if you hit them with it. Very cool.
Oftentimes the first two games (especially the first one) would see the Gnasher shotgun getting more use than any other weapon, due to how incredibly useful it was. Rushing at your opponent and unloading in their face was a very viable strategy, and the best counter for this was to have your own shotgun out. This still seems to happen from time to time, but I have definitely been noticing a lot more long range encounters than before. I think the biggest reason for this is the variety of different weapon loadouts available. All of the default weapons balance each other out, and can beat or lose to any other weapon depending on the situation.
One interesting change to the game comes in the scoreboard. If you press ‘B’ while it’s up, you can view an overhead layout of the current map, including where all of your teammates are at (including yourself of course) and where all the power weapons spawn and what they are. In addition to this all of your teammates have a small diamond above their head in the actual game which is visible through walls, smoke etc. and makes it very easy to spot where your team is at with a simple glance.
While you’re aiming at an enemy, you can press in on the left thumbstick to “spot” your enemies. This puts a similar symbol above your enemies head for about 10 seconds and calls out their location to your teammates. This is a game-changer, in a very good way. That sniper got you pinned down? Mark him. Somebody hiding in the back with a Mortar? Mark him. Spot an enemy flanking your team? You get the idea.
Overall, I’ve been having an absolute blast with the Gears of War 3 beta. As somebody who felt burned by the way Gears 2 launched, I find myself happy again. Every kill is rewarding, and it’s very rare to find yourself yelling in frustration when you get killed. I’ve rarely felt like a kill was “cheap” or not in some way my own fault. The beta will be running until sometime in May and I’ve just barely scratched the surface. Keep an eye out for more information, and if you’re interested in playing it yourself make sure to go pre-order the game to get in on the 25th or fire up your Bulletstorm Epic Edition to get in today!