Review: Gears of War 3

Brothers to the end. That’s a tagline I can stand behind. The acclaimed Gears of War trilogy has finally drawn to a close (or so we think, anyway) and the conclusion to the explosive series is bigger than ever: bigger explosions, bigger pecs, and bigger drama. And while everything fits together as one deliciously gory whole, I couldn’t help but feeling as though Gears of War 3 left a lot to be desired, despite its tight controls, concise campaign, and ability to engage. While the conflict between the Locust, Lambent, and humanity has finally come to a head, I just couldn’t shed many tears at the end of the sprawling battle.

Maybe I was simply too busy with whipping out my Lancer to chainsaw through each unfortunate enemy like a hot knife through butter, or giggling giddily with each opportunity that arose to wipe out an entire area with the destructive Hammer of Dawn. Or maybe I was too enthralled with the tight cover system and my analysis of the Retro Lancer’s diminished accuracy to take in the supposed grandeur of it all. Gears of War 3 never felt like anything final to me – yes, Cole had his big “moment” and we saw a few unfortunate losses, but nothing I wasn’t expecting, nothing I DID expect, and nothing to make me sit back, put the controller down, and reflect. It was simply another entry into the Gears saga for me. So I’ll wait a couple more years, eventually come back to the third title for some inspiration when I’m bogged down in some poorer imitators, and wait for the next game. Right?

Except that might not be the case. Who knows what the future will bring? I’m still not fully convinced that Epic has closed the door on this wildly popular Xbox exclusive, but is this how the story is really meant to end?

Don’t misunderstand – I’m certainly not calling Gears 3 a bad game. It’s quite the opposite. Everything feels exactly as it’s “supposed” to. Every epic battle is in its place. All your favorite weapons are at your disposal. The only thing that’s missing, in fact, is a terrible Cole Train rap echoing from your TV throughout the credits. There’s a satisfying weight to each and every kill, and each downed Armored Kantus feels like a miniature achievement in itself. Every single design element comes together beautifully, much like a well-oiled machine.

All is in its place, and I’d be hard-pressed to find a complaint about the nonstop stream of action – aside from the fact that it’s so sterile it’s almost painful. Everything feels oh so routine, and amidst a sea of annihilated Locust and Lambent monstrosities, I calmly wandered from one linear scripted sequence to the next, reveling in each bloody kill. I was satisfied with top-notch game design and the bro-tastic relationship of Delta Squad, but as I knelt behind tidy rows of destructible cover and squirreled between courtyard to courtyard, I never felt the sense of urgency or awe the first two games inspired.

And I’m just wondering if it’s Epic plan to end the series not with a bang, but a whimper, with a lackluster end-boss, leaving far too many questions unanswered and far too many characters underdeveloped. Do they have another game in store? Are we ever going to unlock the mystery of Myrrah? What becomes of Sera after the final chain of events that unfolded in the last few hours of the game? To put it bluntly, the entire experience felt much more like the “calm before the storm” you see in shounen anime: you think it’s all over, the world is saved, but is it really? To me, Gears of War 3 was a fun-to-play, extremely well-made daydream in the midst of a testosterone-fueled killfest that previously got me pumped up and ready to take on the world. This game just left me feeling uncomfortable, like the Gears entered some sort of strange, parallel world in which familiar friends make the ultimate sacrifice and a relatively simple solution saves the day. Sera’s a mad world, apparently, and I’m just not convinced this is the last we’ll see of it.

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