Mad Mack: Gears Of War 3 Review
I picked up the latest 3rd person chest-high wall loveathon from Epic Games with the following convictions:
- The plot will make no sense
- I will still have no idea what is going on – can someone please tell me what planet we are on and why there are people and alien monsters on it?
- Things will happen. Some of them will be things I will do directly, that will lead me from A to B to C but without a really logical flow or sense of continuity
- None of this will matter because I am going to get to cut shit up with a chainsaw bayonet!
You see, I have a bit of a soft spot for chainsaws in games. It is the reason I always have high hopes for Warhammer 40K games, even though I am always utterly disappointed, and is in my mind the sole good thing about Left 4 Dead 2. So I have always enjoyed the Gears games, because running up to a locust and cutting him in half has the uncanny ability to restore me to an almost Zen-like state of calm. It is for this reason, and THIS REASON ONLY that I was willing to overlook the constant stream of retardions flowing out of my TV and into my brain, lowering my IQ while making Cliff Bleszinski seem more and more like the savant he thinks he is.
You see, Gears of War reeks of immaturity. The plot is utterly senseless and completely incoherent. I could literally sit here and reel off inconsistencies, plot holes or just plain old steaming piles of bullshit the writers shove in there just so they have an excuse to make a particularly impressive set piece. Well, I am sorry to tell you Gears writers, but when I am sitting there thinking ‘what the fuck is going on and how did this just happen?’ it really takes away any feelings of awe or surprise I might have otherwise felt. Let’s just look for a minute at the realities of this particular conflict. The fact that the humans in the game are completely unable to run any sort of effective military campaign (evidenced by the fact that they insist on using helicopters during every engagement despite the fact they are destroyed like space invaders every time – I swear the whole fucking war effort must go into making replacement helicopters) should send out some warning signals. Gears of War basically sacrifices any coherence in the plot for ‘coolness’, and that pisses me right off.
Now, I said in my opening statement that I picked up the game intending to ignore the stupidity in the plot and just get on with playing the game, because I am in this for the chainsaw bayonets, but when the game decides to actually reference just how nut-crackingly crazy the story is (towards the end of the game one of the characters remarks on whether or not the locust queen is human or not, because she looks human- that was a question I raised at the end of the very first game when she appeared at the end, but I thought the game was just going to ignore that big fuck-off elephant in the middle of the room) then I am not going to just ignore it either. If the game is going to make a reference to the fact that at no point has anything been properly explained, or more accurately, at no point has anyone stopped and said to their buddy ‘seriously, is no one else going to question the fact that the enemy commander is pretty hot?’ then I am going to damn well make reference to it. I was able to ignore it all, because to me that was what everyone else in the game world was doing, so I could assume that they all knew what was going on, but don’t normally talk about it in the middle of a firefight (sensible precaution I would say) – which is pretty much the whole of the time I am in control of them. But no, it turns out that no one knows who the fuck the locust are or where they came from or what the lambent are or where they came from, or why the queen is human or why they keep flying helicopters when they keep getting shot down.
That leads me to another point that highlights just how simple the people writing this story are. It turns out that Imulsion, the lava type stuff that is a wonder fuel and was the cause of the so called Pendulum Wars that preceded the Locust emergence, is actually made up of micro-organisms that are slowly reaching critical mass. Apparently the Lambent are individuals who are infected with this micro-organism and are contributing toward the spread of the Imulsion across the planet. They are sort of the later stages of the Imulsion breeding process (or something –remember, the plot is difficult to follow because it is too retarded to function).
So my question is this – did the humans just find this shit underground and just stick it in their car petrol tanks to see what happened? Because I am fairly certain that if the Imulsion was a micro-organism capable of infecting humans the way it was described then it would be pretty easily identifiable as a potential pathogen. Additionally, we can say one thing for certain – neither the Locust or humans evolved on Sera, because had they done so they would be familiar with this lifecycle, or at least have evolved a countermeasure against it, the same way we have immune systems that protect us so well against all the diseases we have evolved alongside. You could argue that throughout the whole evolution of the Locust/Humans that it had just not happened yet, but that would mean an organism having a lifecycle that extended across several million or billion years – bullshit.
So, ignoring the mind bogglingly low likelihood of two alien species evolving to live in the same environmental conditions (oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere, trace noble gasses, similar temperature range), how did the Locust come to the planet and establish a co-existence with the native flora and fauna, and how did the humans not detect them over such a long period? In fact, better question – why don’t they all just fuck back off again? Enough with this bullshit ‘our whole species will die’ – just get back into your rocket and fuck right off. Or, just accept that you will all die, but elsewhere your species will survive. Or fucking call for help? Oh yes, that’s right. You can’t, because it would mean the writers having to own up to the whole litany of bullshit they have created just so they can have an excuse to keep raising the stakes throughout the whole trilogy.
Right. So I have vented about the plot. I promise I will do my utmost not to mention it again. Because if I do then this review will just degenerate into even more senseless and incoherent rambling. Believe it or not, once I stopped using the part of my brain that actually says ‘hold the fuck up. What?’ you know, the bit that most of the commenters on my previous articles are missing, I actually really enjoyed Gears of War 3. Like, really enjoyed it. I should state now that I played through the whole campaign in co-op, and that I have a massive soft spot for co-op games.
I will be returning to my usual rating out of 10. In this case, it is going to be rated in crayon drawings out of 10, because I am fairly certain that the original design documents for Gears included drawings like the one below:
I am not once going to mention the plot between now and my summary.
With that in mind, I actually really enjoyed the gameplay in Gears of War 3. Yes, it might be yet another hug-a-wall-o-thon, but I am just not bored of those yet. I have made a point of not playing every generic 3rd person chest high wall combat game, so to me the combat is still a lot of fun. One criticism I had with the previous Gears was that the combat felt a bit clunky, with none of the parts blending together very well. I feel that this has been fixed for the latest instalment. I could not point to one particular aspect of the combat that has been fixed, and rather suspect that it is a product of many almost imperceptible tweaks to how the game reacts to the player input that have combined to give an experience that is much more flowing and satisfying to take part in.
One criticism of 3rd person shooters I have oft heard of late has been the way the camera jumps around when you press the sprint button. It has been suggested as unnecessary and little more than a distraction or pointless gimmick. While this is true in part, I feel that it provides a better reflection of what the game avatar would be experiencing at that moment for the player. While some might say that yes, that is all well and good, but the game avatar does not spend the whole game staring at the back of his own head and therefore we should assume the camera represents the ‘omnipotent observer’ and so should not be bothering with all that jumping around bollocks. Again, I would agree, but I would point out that the camera shaking when the Gears run is another aspect to the same thinking that causes the camera to zoom in to varying degrees when the player instructs the avatar to look down the sights of his weapon. However, one major beef I have had with all of the Gears games when you run is the fact that you suddenly have the turning circle of a fucking freighter. Turning corners requires about 30 seconds of planning, which is not ideal given that some sections require you to get out of dodge rapid style. I know the Gears are all wearing fridges for armour, but come on!
Finally I would say that while on the surface this game lacks the gameplay variation of many games of this age, as nearly the entirety of it is spent on foot shooting, with only a few, brief vehicle sections, there is actually a wealth of variation in the settings and scenarios you will find yourself in. From defending a fortress against wave after wave of Locust, to carving your way through hordes of enemies to reach an objective, to fighting on board a stolen blimp (don’t ask – it makes no sense), each of the levels presents its own, unique twist that makes for a much more rewarding experience. People seem willing to forgive Valve for almost anything, but try to remember that the entirety of Half Life 2, plus Episodes 1 and 2 were spent trying to get from A to B, with relatively little variety in between. You know what else was just going from A to B? Fucking Frogger. Apparently we are still there with game plot design. In my opinion they got an easy pass on this fact (Episode 2 was a whole game of walking through the forest to get to a place) and games that actually try to create inventive reasons for you to be on the ground killing shit should be given a reward.
Finally, I felt that the boss battles fitted perfectly in with the Gears experience. They were giant monsters you had to kill by attacking its weak point – very old school – but each one was different enough to make it feel like a novel experience each time. They were challenging and fun in equal measure. Well done.
Gameplay overall: 9 Crayon Drawings
Well, it’s not quite as grey and brown as the last two offerings. Not quite…but nearly. The new Lambent enemies add a nice dose of snot-green and vomit-yellow to the landscape, and I saw a couple of plants on the first level. They quickly got set on fire, but it was nice while it lasted.
Colour palate aside, the graphics are an improvement over the previous games. A significant improvement in terms of detail in the weapon and character models, and the environments. Looking beyond the colour scheme of the environments, there is a healthy variation in the locations. There’s a ruined desert, a ruined city, a lush but ruined hotel….ummm another ruined city, a ruined boat, another ruined city, a ruined harbour and a nice, brand new fort (aaaaah only kidding- that place is totally fucking ruined). The scenery has a sufficient level of detail to make them feel alive (or that they once were alive, before everything got ruined).
I would like to point out how impressive the boss battles are in the game. Why does this come under graphics you ask? Well, because all of the bosses had a very distinctive visual style that did more than highlight their weak spots or telegraph their attack patters (though they did this as well). I actually remarked how impressive the attacks of the final boss looked (basically a heat-ray type weapon) and how it affected the terrain. One of the other bosses (not going to tell you which one) also begins to leak increasing amounts of corrosive, glowing liquid that not only make the arena more difficult to fight in, but also look very visually appealing.
Graphics Overall: 8 Crayon Drawings
“Oh COME ON!” You will hear that a lot. You will also hear a lot of swearing by angry men with gravelly voices. You will also have to put up with a lot of very unfunny quips by one of the regular characters (Baird). What you will not hear is that much of the Cole Train (now a shadow of his former Office Linebacker self), any explanation of what is going on (NO – BAD MACK! IGNORE SENSELESS PLOT) and what you will definitely not hear will be any character express an emotion other than rage or anger. Not once. So that’s it for the voice acting. I am not sure if they hired terrible actors or if it is that the actors are good but the terrible dialogue has made them abandon all hope (or a bit of both, perchance). All I know is that conversation is to this game what advertisements are to your favourite TV show – a distraction from the main event, and frustrating because you know that British Gas are not looking after anyone’s world and are in fact thieving fucks, no matter what the ads say.
Apart from that the game does a pretty impressive job of keeping you in the moment with the usual mix of one-liners shouted from both enemy and friendly characters. The enemies all have their own distinctive sounds (well, the special ones do), which helps to alert you to their presence, something that is important given the often chaotic nature of the fights.
Overall Sound: 6 Crayon Drawings
So here we are. It has been a long rambling article to this point. I hope I have managed to convey that I really wanted to like this game. The individual elements are really quite well brought together – from the standard fighting to over-the-top boss battles, the impressive graphics and the decent sound effects (overlooking the terrible voice acting). The problem at the end of the day is the plot. If they had just pulled that shit together into a vaguely coherent story that did not reek of being written before the authors balls had a chance to drop, then I could have really enjoyed this game.
In a time where you have fantastic story telling in Metro 2033, or any of the Bioware games, or even the Modern Warfare games, the Gears of War 3 plot is just entirely outclassed. It belongs to an era where games were expected to give you a few lines of text and then set you on your way killing as you went. If it wanted to be that sort of game, then fine, but don’t then go and bore the shit out of us with hours of meaningless dialogue or try to tempt us into buying novels or comics or whatever (feel free to explain to me at length how the plot makes much more sense if I had just read the supplementary material, so I can then feel free to tell you to fuck off and that I should not have to spend more of my own time and money reading poorly written ‘books’ to understand something I have already invested a significant amount of effort in – explain it in the game or do one).
Overall, I would have given this a solid 8.5 crayon drawings, but I am afraid the poor story, terrible dialogue and awful character development means that this Gears of War just cannot justify that sort of score. Gears of War 3 is like someone wanted a suit made out of the finest Egyptian Cotton and silk blend (or something – I ate sachets of ketchup for dinner last night – the fuck do I know about fine suits) but instead of getting a tailor to put all of the individual pieces of cloth together, they got a hobo with some baling string and a fishing hook to make it. And for that crime against fashion, it gets 7 crayon drawings out of 10, and it should consider itself lucky at that.
Dave McConkey is attending etiquette lessons. Mad Mack continues next week.