Microsoft exclusive Gears of War saw the launch of the third game of the series on 20 September. The series is known for excellent gameplay and powerful visual design, and Gears of War 3 manages to live up to the expectations.

Gears is a cover-based shooting game with excellent level design, suiting varied play styles.

Epic Games has crafted a comprehensive offering—there’s a fun campaign, and Horde mode, in which players have to work as a team to defend a base against enemies, makes a return with some fine tuning. But just as the last game introduced us to Horde (which was picked up by most games that came later, including Call of Duty and Halo), this time Gears of War 3 gives us Beast mode.

Delta Squad: Players ready for battle.

Horde mode has seen small updates too, with lessons taken from other games. Now you can buy decoys and fortifications, or weapons, instead of relying only on the resources already present in a map. This gives the players flexibility to play according to their own styles.

As for the campaign, well, it’s bigger, and arguably better than before in terms of gameplay. There’s a lot more colour than the traditional Gears of War brown uniforms in brown arenas under a brown sky. But the remarkable change is in the writing. A game like Gears of War doesn’t really need good writing—it’s enjoyable because of the gameplay. The dialogues in the previous games felt like they were written by a 10-year-old who was high on paint thinner, so the decision to get noted science fiction writer Karen Traviss on board was a great one.

The characters talk in more believable tones, and the character, Augustus Cole, actually gets to have some of the best lines. The enemies are also fleshed out now, and for the first time you learn more about the wars that have defined the history of the planet, and what you’re fighting for.

In terms of gameplay, there have also been tweaks to the campaign, such as the inclusion of Mutators, which change the way the game functions. This can range from simple difficulty modifiers, like the no ammo mutator, all the way to the ludicrous headless chicken mutator that sends wounded enemies off on blind rampages against their cohorts.

All in all, Gears of War 3 comes off as a hugely polished shooter, and has enough content to keep people playing for quite some time. The last two Gears of War games had imperfect multiplayer experiences, with bad matchmaking, dropped matches and other small technical issues. A long beta test of just the multiplayer answered that complaint handily, and Epic manages to bring enough new content to keep the most demanding fans happy.

Gears of War 3 costs 2,499 and is available for Xbox 360 only.

gopal.s@livemint.com

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