Microsoft and Epic Games launched the Gears of War 3 beta for the media on Friday, and for anyone who picked up a copy of Bulletstorm Epic Edition today, and it’s worth saying that the game is seriously addictive.
While my skills behind the controller of your average shooter is probably best compared to a monkey’s driving abilities (read: amusing, but with frequently terrible results), I still love playing, and the beta for Gears of War 3 hits every mark you could hope for from the series, and for any serious multiplayer game.
Starting out, you get to pick what your preferences are for weapons and characters, choosing between three types of rifles and two different shotguns. As you progress though, you can unlock different characters, weapons, weapon skins, and medals, most of which can carry over to the full game, once it’s available.
Unlockables include the Beta Tester Medal, which gives you the Beta Tester title in the Gears 3 multiplayer lobby; Thrashball Cole, a character you can unlock after completing 50 matches (playing ten games as Cole will unlock him permanently for the full game); the Flaming Hammerburst, Lancer, Sawed-Off Shotgun, and Gnasher Shotgun, all of which are unlocked by playing a single round in one of the given weeks of the beta; and maybe best of all, the Gold-Plated Retro Lancer, which is unlocked after 90 matches, and you get to keep it in the full game after 100 kills with it.
Once you start playing, the beta has three game types: Team Deathmatch, Capture the Leader, and King of the Hill, but Epic decided to change things up a little for GeOW 3. For instance, in Team Deathmatch, each team has a pool of lives, and the goal is to deplete the opposing team’s pool before they kill your team off. Capture the Leader works about the same as usual, except that the leader can struggle, and inflict some damage while going it.
These games are played in four different, and completely awesome maps: Old Town, Locust badlands, Checkout, and Thrashball, with Checkout and the badlands being my favorites, mainly because the environments feel different from what I’d call the norm in the average shooter game.
My GeOW skills are slowly coming back to me as I play, but the real key to this game isn’t just your fighting skills but your team work. A group of expert players will always lose to any competent team that can strategize and learn how to fight together, and that’s frankly way more fun than being a lone wolf all the time. The GeOW 3 beta is really built for that kind of player–at least it seems like it to me–and that makes for a brilliantly visceral gaming experience. The game design so far looks brilliant, with very strong, slightly modified game mechanics, and the wonderfully intuitive controls that we’ve come to love since the first game.
Most of all though, what I love about the game is that, even after the twentieth time it happens, when a demented looking Locust comes barreling around a corner, firing wildly at you, it never fails to give me a little jolt. At times like that, you either stay cool and take careful aim, or you fire blindly and hope for the best. Either way, I love the mood of the game, and the way it manages to induce a credible level of video game fear.