|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Epic Games|
|Release: September 20, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by James Trujillo
With the closure of the Gears of War trilogy close at hand, Epic Games is making a hard push to ensure its franchise's future remains bright. From novels to comic books, and even action figures, the name is everywhere. However, the future of Marcus Fenix still remains unclear, but one thing is certain: soon millions will be crowding Gears of War 3 multiplayer servers worldwide. Fans will finally get a peek at four brand new maps coming in mid-April. Luckily, we got a chance to check out a few ourselves, which included Old Town, Mercy, and Trenches.
Old Town felt exactly as its name describes, and oddly enough, it had a semblance to an abandoned Sicilian village square. There were rustic building structures, chickens aimlessly wandering the streets, and bright colors atypical of a Gears of War game. It was a small map, but had a nice back alley choke point that witnessed some great standoffs. Mercy was much larger, and featured an open courtyard with a fountain in the center of the map. It almost lends itself to setup like a football scenario, where both teams were trying to gain control of either side of the field. There were plenty of engaging battles around the fifty-yard line, but it also had plenty of nooks and crannies around the outskirts that featured a hectic skirmish or two. Trenches, on the other hand, was probably the most interesting of the three. It favored close-quarters tactics with its maze-like features, but felt large because of the alternate path choices in its layout. It also had a great overhead view for someone daring enough to stake a claim at the center perch.
Three modes will be featured in the upcoming beta, two of which will be brand new to the series. Team Deathmatch, although familiar in name, will be a first for Gears of War. It's essentially a revamped version of Warzone, but will now feature a ticket system similar to the Battlefield series. Each team will get fifteen respawns, but the last five will keep players held out a bit longer than normal. By doing this, the developers hope to create more dramatic tension for those nail-biting two-, or three-, on-one scenarios towards the end of the match.
Capture the Leader is an optimization on two previous modes, Submission and Guardian. The objective is to down the leader of the opposing team and hold him as a meat shield for thirty seconds to end the round. The spin on this mode is that whoever assumes the leader role will be semi-invincible. Ultimately, he has to get back to his feet if he hasn't been picked up after being downed. It's also worth noting that the ability to get up will be featured throughout all multiplayer modes, which will replace the prolonging of your bleed outs. The last mode available in the beta, King of the Hill, will rework the rule set a bit. There will be a single hill that will rotate to random locations on the map and will also integrate randomized spawn locations.
Considering all the changes they've put into their multiplayer game modes, it's fitting that they've overhauled their servers as well. They started to role out the dedicated servers during Gears of War 2, but now they'll be focusing on a global scale to account for separate ping rates from region to region. In addition to that, the game will also include peer-based matchmaking complete with host-migration. They've assured us that if a server ever fails, or is down for maintenance, they want to be prepared. Even something as simple as a host quitting a match early will no longer affect the experience, but will seamlessly migrate the session to another host.
The "experimental" leveling system introduced in the last game will also become more significant this time around. Although it was fairly meaningless in gaining abilities in Gears of War 2, this time it will grant a means of aesthetic customization. Players can gain collective experience though all modes of gameplay to unlock things like weapon skins, medal titles, and character variants. Items like golden armor for Locust characters, or flaming weapons, will all be available once you meet the specific requirements. The most amusing we saw during our time with the game was the "Thrashball Cole" character variant. It was great to see him decked out in full-fledged football gear while shredding the Locust to pieces.
A main focus for the team at Epic was to remain true to the series they created without getting swept up by the hype train. They didn't want to go all out with adding new features to the game that weren't needed, but really wanted to hash out the groundwork that was already there. That's not to say there isn't anything new. Beast mode will now compliment Horde mode as its counterpart, giving players a chance to experience the Locust on the offensive. There will also be a ton of subtle features to enhance the multiplayer component; like iron sights, swapping weapon sets during a respawn, or viewing an overhead map with weapon spawn points at the start of a match.
Epic Games sounded confident about their remodeled multiplayer setup, and it's hard to argue. The upcoming beta will be a true test to how they can handle the huge workload that's headed their way, and fan feedback will be a huge factor in figuring out what works and what doesn't. So, if you're going to be a participant, be sure to do your part and remember that it's not just a demo; otherwise you might be judging things a bit prematurely. Besides, if they fix all your complaints by their release date on September 20th, 2011, you'll be the only one missing out.
CCC Freelance Writer