Even if you’re a fan of the series, you could be forgiven for approaching the Gears Of War 3 multiplayer beta with some trepidation. The original Gears Of War’s multiplayer was a fast-paced, unforgiving shotgun-fest where only the most hardcore would succeed, while Gears Of War 2’s multiplayer was plagued by glitches and connection problems (as well as still being a bit of a shotgun-fest). Still, there was fun to be had if you could get a decent game, and so I hoped that with Gears Of War 3 the series could finally strike true multiplayer gold.
So far, the beta seems promising. Playing on dedicated servers seems to have largely eradicated the dreaded ‘host advantage’ and there seem to be a lot more simultaneous deaths (instead of the host winning by default) – although there do seem to be occasional bullshit moments where you think you’ve pulled the trigger to kill someone but then die a split second after. Perhaps that’s just been bad timing on my part though. Does the shotgun still rule the battlefield though? Sort of. The dreaded Gnasher shotgun still seems to be pretty powerful and is still more than capable of instantly downing or killing an opponent if you get a good hit at close range. I found myself preferring the new Sawn-off Shotgun though – you only get one shot before a lengthy reload, and the weapon’s effective range is very limited, but connect with that shot and your opponent can kiss their ass goodbye. You can even kill multiple opponents with a single shot if they’re stood close enough together.
However, catch a shotgun-toting fool outside of their effective range and you can make mincemeat of them with the game’s rifles, which seem to have received a boost since Gears 2. Particularly effective against shotgunners is the Retro Lancer – its power is offset by a heavy recoil that makes it a bit of a pain to use at long range, but when someone’s trying to get up in your face it’s the perfect weapon for downing them before they can close the gap. While holding it you can also hold B to use an immensely satisfying bayonet charge move, which is best used when you can catch an opponent off guard. The original Lancer is back with a slight difference – the chainsaw now takes a couple of seconds to rev up, but once you get it going the only way your opponent is going to stop it is if they drop you before you cut them in half. It also seems like the most balanced of the three rifles in terms of range and power. The Hammerburst also gets an upgrade in the form of iron sights (which can be used by clicking down the right stick), which do a lot to increase the effective range of the weapon. I never really used the Hammerburst in Gears 2, but I find myself liking it a lot more here – with a steady aim and a quick trigger finger, you can down someone in a flash.
There’s also a new grenade type, the Incendiary Grenade. Overall these don’t seem quite as useful as the standard Frag Grenades, although if you hit someone with one directly it’s an instant kill, and the persistent flames can be used to block off advancing opponents. On a related note, Ink Grenades now seem to be completely useless – they can now briefly stun opponents, but their area of effect and damage seem to be severely nerfed. The only other new weapon I’ve had access to so far is the Digger Launcher. This nifty weapon fires a projectile that burrows underground before jumping up and exploding when it senses an enemy nearby – thus allowing you to bypass cover entirely. The projectile does have a tell-tale trail as it travels towards its target though, so it’s best used against an unsuspecting opponent, or as a way to dislodge heavily entrenched opposition.
I’ll be posting more impressions from the beta in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
(Screenshots via IGN.com)