Monday, December 12, 2011

Gears of War 3 review

So I've finished the campaign on Gears of War 3 and I wanted to think about my impression of the game before I posted a review. You may agree or disagree with some of what I have to say and that's okay . . . just say what you have to say in the comments section.

1) The boys are back . . . but their neutered
This games was cowritten by Karen Traviss who wrote a bunch of Star Wars books and is writing the Gears books. While I've liked her books there just seems to be something off with the characters in this game. Their banter could be a little annoying sometimes in the earlier game but it's what made those characters stand out and have their own personalities. In this game it feels like everyone is the same. The constant banter between Cole and Baird is gone and everyone walks around like a mute. Part of what made some of the characters hilarious was their interaction with Carmine (and his responses). There was a whole promotional campaign to "save Carmine" or "kill Carmine" a year or so ago but the Carmine brother in this game seems nonexistent. So what was the point of those avatar t-shirts except for making money? There was so much potential for the characters in this game, given the history of the planet, but I feel like they've all been neutered.

2) Hello, not everyone is going to read the books
I've only read the first Gears of War book although I own the next 3 or 4. When the game started I had no clue what was going on in the story or why things were the way they were at that time. What made it worse was there was no backstory in the game. If you wanted to know what was going on you had to read the books. There were some things that made sense because I have read the first book, but other things are still lost on me. Since I've told my friends NOT to spoil the books for me they can't tell me anything. So if you haven't read any of the books you're basically going to be lost for a lot of what is going on and the why behind it all.

3) A major case of deja vu
While playing this game I couldn't help but get the feeling that I was actually playing other games. The doors and wires the squad had to walk through to get from one area to another was like the elevator rides in Mass Effect. It's a way to load the next area without a blank load screen. Towards the end the designed gave up that pretense and had their own elevator rides/load screens. And the "farmers" (I think that's what they're called) that all of a sudden came chasing after you like zombies from Left 3 Dead? Been there. Done that. There was even a scene that felt exactly like one from that game. It involved not disturbing ash people just like you shouldn't disturb cars to set off their alarms in L4D. And then there wasn't much story between action scenes . . . kind of like a Call of Duty game. That wasn't like the first couple of games. Who could ever forget the "slow" moment of Kai's death? Or when Dom finds Maria? Or either Carmine's deaths? Gears wasn't a run-and-gun type game. It had story. It had heart. But not in this one.

4) Foreshadowing should be more than 2 minutes before things happen
When you want to foreshadow something you should really lay hints out long before the event happens. Having Dom give up his dog tags before the "event" happens in the next scene is NOT foreshadowing. It's an "oops we forgot to set this pivotal moment up" decision. When Dom is looking for Maria in the second game you see and hear him talking about that long before he finds her. And when you get to the part of the story where he's looking for her he doesn't find her in the first place he looks. Once you have a big pivotal scene like that you have the after effects. And based on previous games the after effects should have had a longer deeper feeling to it than "oh well, let's move one". Whatever passion for life Marcus had been keeping a tight hold on for years should have at least bubbled to the surface a little bit afterwards. But Marcus was just the same afterwards as he was beforehand. While I liked him in the first two games, I though he came across as a emotionless bastard in this game. When they neutered the characters they stripped all emotion from them as well.

5) combat de-evolved
One area of combat that annoyed the heck out of me was the corpser scene. All the other "boss" battles and such in all the other games was about finding a way to kill all the enemies present. There was no "do this" then "do that" and then "boss dies". Going through the 5 stages with the corpser (and to some extent with the final boss battle) felt like battling a boss in an RPG game that evolves as the battle progresses. The first incarnation is a fire demon (attack with water). The next incarnation is a dark demon (attack with light). The next physical defenses are down (attack with your weapon). It's repetitive and monotonous. And boring. There had to be a better way to make that battle more interesting. There's a ceiling so no Hammer of Dawn. Why not have the guys try to position the corpser under a section of roof and blast a pillar down, hopefully not on their heads? There was potential there but I think it failed miserably in the execution.

6) weapon change outs
I could buy that the saw-off shotgun and retro lancer were older guns that Gears retired and moved to something a little more advanced. But where does the One Shot fit in in all that? And what about the Hammer of Dawn? I can't tell you how many battles I faced where the Lancer (or retro) was all I needed to get through an area. In the other games there were several places that only a certain weapon would see you through to the next area. In this game it didn't really matter what you had equipped. So where's the challenge in that? I want a little challenge to my murderous rampages. Is there a guy on a far tower I need to kill that my guns won't reach? Give me a special gun in order to get him. Unfortunately there were no special guns because there were no guys on far ledges that you couldn't reach. Everything was up close and personal so a Lancer and and shotgun was all you needed.

I'm sure I could tell you more things that bugged me about this game, but I want to hear what you have to say. (Just don't get me started on Marcus's hair.) I'll give my review of the multiplayer portion later. Overall I liked the game. I just wished I knew more about what was going on and that the feel of the previous two games was included in this game. The campaign was short but that's a typically Gears game for you. I didn't find it all that challenging to play but I'm glad I played it. I'm now working on the hardcore and insane play throughs. If you want to join me jump on it.

Overall score (out of 10): 8
Combat: 7
Story: 5
Characters: 7

Poll Results - How do you display your Xbox 360?

I'm sorry for the delay but sometimes life creeps up on you, grabs you by the scruff of the neck and just won't let go. I'm better now. Thank you! Here's the (belated) results of my last poll:

How do you display your Xbox 360?

Horizontal = 3 votes
Vertical = 0 votes
I don't have an Xbox 360 = 0 votes

I've displayed mine horizontal almost all of the time. There was an experimental period when I tried it vertical but it just didn't feel right. I wonder if Zenra's comment about it being a matter of age might have something to do with it. Or maybe it's all that advertising I see. They always have it vertical. It seems that younger people like it vertical and they're more susceptible to advertising than us jaded old folks.

I did have a sales clerk at Gamestop (a young one) tell me when I was buying a new Xbox 360 a while ago tell me to use it horizontal because standing it up on end was what was causing all the Red Rings of Death. Really? I got the RRoD on my first machine and I never stood it up. I guess that's the intelligence of today's youth for you.

The Wii on the other hand just doesn't look right when used horizontally. I don't know why, it just doesn't seem right that way. The PS2 could be done both ways and you could even swing the logo around on the front to match the way you had it set up. Maybe it's my history with the SNES and PS but I never considered playing the PS@ up on end either. It just never felt right. And there was not RRoD to worry about on that machine.

I guess it doesn't really matter how you display it, but how you play the games for the Xbox 360. As long as it works for you, you can be a backwards-stand-on-it's-end type of gamer . . . just remember to let me win.