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Gears of War 3 Act-One Campaign Preview

Posted by OujaStrike on August 15, 2011

Today was the day the Media was allowed to upload & share their expereience with Act-One Chapter 3 of Gears of War 3
just search any gaming site to find out what they had to say on Gears of War 3.
here is what Gearscon #1 Gears of War fansite had to say:

This preview is spoiler free, minus some minor pieces of information, to ensure you can get in the know about what to expect this September without spoiling any of the campaign itself. Certain parts of the campaign that have already been talked about or touched on publically may be mentioned, but no story details or major gameplay moments will be discussed.

Expectations are a funny thing. After just under a three year wait since those final harrowing words from Adam Fenix at the end of Gears 2, I was finally about to get a taste of the first act of this final story for the characters I’d been following for almost five years. Sitting down in a dimly lit blood red room in the middle of London, that feeling of expectation for something incredible was more apparent than ever before. The question is, would Act One deliver on those high expectations?

First, let’s get the surprise out of the way – Gears of War 3 will have a 3D mode for those of you with 3D televisions, which adds yet ANOTHER feature onto a seemingly gargantuan sized game releasing this fall. I didn’t get “eyes on” with the 3D mode due to some unfortunate flight issues cutting the event short, but expect more information to be available in the near future.

Before getting our own hands on with the campaign mode, Rod Fergusson (Executive Producer, Gears of War) introduced the session with a “Previously on Gears of War…” cutscene that recaps the story up until the start of Gears of War 3. If you’ve read the books, it’s going to be a startling wakeup call as to how simply you can explain away the entire trilogy of books to the audience that didn’t read them, and how well-crafted the transition from Gears of War 2 to Gears of War 3 has actually been to accommodate that time gap.

One of the most notable changes to the core of Gears experience from the second the game begins is the heavy investment into story. Even from an extremely unique opening sequence, the story has a much heftier, confident tone thanks to Karen Traviss’ writing standing up to the transition to gaming. Whilst I can’t talk about anything for the sake of avoiding spoilers, just know that fans of the fiction are in for a massive treat come this September.

The meat of this campaign though, and the key to its replayability, is going to lie in the core combat design. This is far and away the best combat design in Gears so far and, judging by the opening act of the campaign, some of the best seen in gaming so far. Gears had ditched the more linear fashion adopted by Gears 2’s campaign in favour of combat bowls, giving you multiple approaches, hidden weapons and different enemies to tackle in almost every single firefight. Diversity is simply everywhere, from the deck of Raven’s Nest with its wide open spaces and multiple levels of combat to below deck with its small cramped nature and its closed corridor flanks. Later in the game, I found myself fighting transforming Lambent Drudges, Lambent Wretches, Lambent Drones and stalks all at once – the combat is simply breathtaking and constantly requires every ounce of your attention, blending that perfect mix of variety, strategy and shooting to create a gripping blend of third person shooter action that was actually pretty exhausting to play.

The enemy variety plays a big part in this – the transformed Lambent provide a much tougher challenge compared to their Locust counterparts, with the transforming drudges coming in various forms depending on the situation – one form sprouts a large tentacle head that fires beams of imulsion that can hit you over cover, whereas another sprouts three tentacles that can allow it to deal with three of you at once. This constant shifting nature of the Lambent adds an element of unpredictability, resulting in a fun new type of enemy to tackle. Later into the act, the Savage Locust make their appearance as a brute force aggressor compared to the adaptive nature of the Lambent. Savage Locust are very much like fighting your usual Locust except they are far deadlier, piling the pressure on with Butcher Cleavers, Retro Lancers, Gnashers and Longshots to force you to keep your head down and find those flanks. They are surprisingly different to fight, and a testament to yet another way Epic finds to constantly keep the variety in gameplay there as much as possible.

Speaking of enemies, the new enemy reveal (if you didn’t catch glimpses of it from our E3 Horde Coverage) is the Gunker – a Lambent Boomer that is going to make you die inside every time you see one on the battlefield. By throwing large balls of imulsion that will hit you THROUGH cover, you’re going to be forced to move from cover to cover constantly as you shoot its glowing lambent shoulder. Be prepared to be shooting that shoulder for a long time though – it takes a full three direct Boomshot hits to take one down on Hardcore, and a lot more Lancer ammo than you’d ever expect without one. Forcing you to move makes it incredibly fun though, and fighting Gunkers alongside transformed Drudges and Lambent Drones proved to make for some thrilling gameplay – just don’t expect to have it easy.

Thankfully, the friendly AI is good enough to make your experience in solo play feel somewhat supported by your teammates. The AI will pick you up fairly quickly after you go down, only committing one character to come and revive you whilst the other two continue to fight off enemies – and yes, that does mean you don’t have to reload the checkpoint anymore if you go “down but not out” in solo play. They’ll also do a fair amount of damage too, and I actually found myself getting surprised when one of my AI teammates finished an enemy off that I hadn’t even fired at yet.

If you’ve been expecting Call of Duty style set pieces for this next iteration of the franchise however, you’re not in luck in Act One. The impression made on me in Act One is that rather than showing incredible stuff happening around you, Epic wants to involve the player in those big situations instead. It’s a refreshing move to see a blockbuster video game actually keeping itself as close to a video game as possible in a market full of “movie wannabes”, but it also means there is a big reliance for those moments to deliver. Some of the unique situations you are given really mix up the gameplay and provide refreshing memorable moments throughout the experience to change up the pace fairly regularly. The problem is that Act One never brought anything incredibly special to the table until nearer to the end, with a moment that I’m sure fans are going to talking about for weeks after the release.

All of this is bookended into one seriously good looking game thanks to the latest iteration of Unreal Engine 3, with some monumental technical gains instantly apparent over Gears of War 2. The lighting system is a simply astounding step up in graphical fidelity, providing realistic light and shadows compared to Gears 2’s relatively flat lighting. The animations in Gears 3, especially when it comes to facial animation, have also had another big step up in creating a sense of fluidity – I was especially impressed at smaller animations that play in certain situations that lend another touch of realism to the game. One good example below deck on Raven’s Nest, where walking through a doorway will have Marcus hold on to the side and step through with a custom animation. I’m also happy to report that I didn’t experience (or notice) any texture pop in during my entire playtime.

But it’s not just the power of Unreal Engine that makes this game so pretty – it’s also the strong art direction and attention to detail that is absolutely everywhere. From the abundance of NPCs with custom animations and routines in non-combat areas to small little items that just give a feeling of belonging in the universe, the entire act felt like no area had to be skipped over and rushed. The sheer variety of areas you visit, and how much they differ from one to the other, kept things extremely fresh, and it was always exciting to reach the next area just to see something new.

All in all, it took me around two and a half hours to complete the entire first Act on my own with the difficulty set to Hardcore. Whilst Rod made clear that every act length is different, it’s a staggeringly impressive length to open the campaign with, and could be a telling indication on a lengthy campaign mode at a time when other campaign experiences are becoming shorter and shorter. The entire game is designed around this seemingly “variety first” approach, and throughout the whole first act no two combat situations felt the same, whether due to the variety of enemies thrown at you, a gameplay twist, or even just down to being in a brand new environment. The only question remains is whether this very strong opening can continue over the remaining 26 chapters of the campaign, but all indications point to an extremely refined and perfectly paced rollercoaster ride this September that will live up to expectations – and then some.

Gearhead Facts

• Easter eggs are everywhere, and they are awesome. You’ll have a lot of fun finding them.
• The Retro Lancer blindfire recoil is insane now – your reticule shakes all over the place.
• The sensitivity options have now been increased even further, up to a maximum of 20. Your old beta settings won’t feel the same so prepare to find your sweet spots again.
• Seeing a Crimson Omen on the wall to alert you that COG tags are nearby is so awesome. You won’t realise how much you missed it until you feel that urge to hunt for it surge through you again.
• I got to play roughly 10 minutes of Arcade Mode in solo play using two mutators – Headless Chicken (Headshots don’t kill enemies, they run around still shooting for a while before dying) and Scavenger (No ammo boxes).
• The Sawed-Off didn’t appear once for me during the entirety of Act One
• Trishka from Bulletstorm voices a character in the game

 

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