Gears of War 3 – Game of the Year?
Epic games published the finale to their muscle-covered trilogy, Gears of War 3, and it’s poised to be one of the best games of the year. So what do we think of it, and how does it work as an end to the story?
Gears of War 3 is a pretty epic game, there’s no doubt about it. It takes place 18 months after the ending of the second game, with increased Lambent attacks over the months, and all the danger that comes of it. The plot (spoilers ahead) revolves around Marcus’s dad and his experiments in killing off the Lambent. If that tag wasn’t obvious, consider this your warning. This article is full of spoilers.
So as a game, Gears of War 3 is standard fare for Gears games. All the bullet-spewing blood-spraying grit and gore of the first two games is here in full force. It’s still a third person cover-based shooter, with some refinements to the system that improve it overall. New functionality in marking enemies for your teammates, mech pilot gameplay, and a few new on-rails shooting sections bring some live to the old formula. Even the missions get tired after a while. There’s only so many times you can be tasked with finding X piece of tech that’s guarded by horrible monsters before the horrible monsters are just par for the course. At this point, Marcus can’t even go get a midnight snack without gunning down a dozen grubs.
Gears of War 3 is very much a game for Gears fans. Its chock full of more of the same. If you loved Gears 1 and 2, it’s obvious you’ll love Gears 3. If you weren’t a fan, this one doesn’t add much to change your opinion. If it’s new content you’re looking for, you don’t get much. A few new weapons, mechs to pilot, an update to the Horde game mode, and the new Beast Mode are just about it.
End of the Trilogy – Does it End Well?
So, here’s the thing. Gears 3 could be accused of ripping off Halo, with the Lambent being extremely close to the Flood. The reveal that the Imulsion is a living organism? Why did that need to happen? I imgine it's supposed to add a sense of impending doom. It’s nearing the end of its life cycle, so Adam Fenix tells us, but we never know what that means exactly. If, like all Lambent, it explodes when it dies, that would mean the planet is about to explode.
It rings out as an attempt to make the story more high-stakes than before. Between the planet exploding, the Imulsion infecting humans instead of just Locust, and the ongoing war, it just adds up to an unnecessary amount of drama. The world, of course, is saved at the end. It’s saved by one machine that somehow has the power to generate multiple waves of Imulsion-killing energy that not only circles the entire globe, but penetrates it to it’s depths to kill every cell of Imulsion - despite that same Imulsion being the fuel supply most of the world uses at this point.
That’s not to say the game doesn't end well. All of the above was a good reason to slaughter your way through various interesting set pieces on the world of Sera, and form the basis for plenty of Michael Bay-style explosions to keep your mind occupied and away from the plot holes.
Oh God the Plot Holes
There are a lot of unanswered questions that Gears 3 leaves us with. It places plot twists above explanations and making sense. The Imulsion is alive! It has been that way for how long, and why has no one noticed before now? Why are the infections only just now spreading? Adan Fenix brings up the life cycle of the Imulsion, but nothing more about it. No “this is how it ends." No “this has happened before" or, if it hasn’t, “this is where it came from." No explanations of anything.
Speaking of no explanations for plot twists, it’s suddenly revealed right at the end that not only has Adam Fenix been in contact with the Locust since before E-Day, he’s been trying to save them? And they knew that E-Day was coming? AND that there’s something unique about the queen that isn’t revealed? That’s the kicker right there. She looks surprisingly human, but no one will ever know why. Marcus, of course, decides that rather than capture her for answers, he’ll just stab her in the gut. Cathartic, but not good for resolving the plot threads.
All of this suggests that they’re leaving information open for a Gears of War 4, despite saying that this game is the end of the trilogy. It’s hedging your bets, and potentially bad storytelling, to resolve the plot arc without actually resolving everything.
Need another hint? How about Griffin shouting that he’ll see you again, as he slides down a cable car into the unknown?
All in All
When it comes right down to it, Gears 3 is a sequel that rides heavily on the previous games, and leaves itself open for hooks for a sequel itself. This isn’t a bad thing, unless your stated goal is to make it the last game in the series. So what it really comes down to is what did Epic mean by “the story concludes" with this game? Is it simply the tale of Marcus Fenix that’s over, and they’ll make a new game to cover these plot hooks, starring other characters? Who knows? Time will tell.
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