After fighting against the Locust and the Lambent, Marcus and Co. are finally ready to put an end to the war and in true Delta Squad style, that's going to mean lots of chainsawing, curb stomps, and the occasional shotgun blast to the face. The final game in the Gears of War trilogy is everything fans expect - massive explosions, gravelly voiced soldiers, surprising enemies, and, of course, an abundance of chest-high walls. It also happens to contain a tremendous amount of fun, despite its sometimes ridiculous characters.
The best thing about this game is the gameplay. Epic has a well-deserved reputation, having honed its craft through several iterations of Unreal and the first two Gears games. The feel of the weapons is satisfyingly weighty, so when you connect with your shots or your chainsaw bayonet, you really feel the contact with the characters. The feedback from the enemies helps you connect with combat, which is particularly great since, apart from a couple of fetch quests, combat is basically what this game is all about.
The Lancer is still the go-to weapon for me, but I appreciated the range of options here, including the new Retro Lancer. There are a few rare cases where certain enemies can't be taken out unless you're using a very specific weapon but on the whole the game rewards smart play rather than just knowing which enemies are vulnerable to which weapons. Even here, the weaknesses of certain enemies are based more on tactics than weapon selection. You'll have to take out the scrambling centipedes by shooting their tail, for instance, or hit the polyps at a distance to keep them from blowing up in your face.
Each of the spaces in which you fight are full of tactical options, from suppressing enemy advances to flanking fortified positions. It's a shame that each of these spaces lead to each other in a strictly linear fashion, but you'll have so much fun shooting it out in large warehouses, mountainside meadows, and city streets, that you won't care that your entrances and exits are so limited. It's true that some levels will give you a chance to take one of two routes to get where you're going, but it hardly amounts to much of a difference in the long run. I still have issues with having a single button control cover and running, particularly when trying to wind my way through the wealth of cover locations in the larger levels. Inevitably, I will wind up passing too close to cover and end up sticking to it instead of running past it.
For the full experience, you can tackle Gears of War 3 in four-player co-op, and even play as female members of Delta Squad who wear armor that properly protects their precious cleavage. New additions to the other online modes have also been made but, for me, the real draw is Beast Mode. Here players get a chance to play as the Locust in a reverse version of Horde mode. Players can buy a variety of different powered Locusts and use them to assault a fortified COG position. Some enemies are great at destroying fortifications, others excel at melee or ranged combat. When your unit dies, you can buy another and keep pressing on. What I like about this mode, apart from seeing how the other half lives, is that it starts off with lots of interesting tactical options. Being able to decide how best to spend your money and actually eliminate the COG soldiers gives players a great sense of freedom.