Review: Gears of War 3

“This is where it ends. One way or another.”

Microsoft’s other flagship shooter is back with its third and final instalment. This is the end to a trilogy which has influenced modern gaming mechanics, perhaps more than any other, and the conclusion to an epic story which has engaged millions for half a decade. Is it an explosive conclusion or a whimpering end? Will Gears of War burn out or fade away?

Gears of War 3 is about struggle. It’s about the fight, the battle, the wars. Gears 3 is about the victory but it is just as much about the loss. It’s about love, friendship, loyalty, honour, brotherhood, tragedy, bereavement, sacrifice and new beginnings. Gears of War 3 is about relationships – building and breaking, living and dying.


Gears of War 3 is not about discretion. It’s unreserved, brash. Loud.

From the very first chapter of the campaign mode, the player is thrust into desperate situations with deadly enemies and powerful weapons. Epic simply doesn’t do subtlety in their action sequences and Gears of War 3 epitomises that attitude. It kicks in doors, it blows up buildings and it throws its middle finger in the air at anyone who wants to avoid the fight.

Case in point: Gears of War 3 has, at one point, a kind of stealth mission. How is that stealth achieved? By shooting enemies with automatic weapons until they explode, before they have the chance to sound an alarm. In Gears of War, you shall not sneak.

[drop]So it is incredibly fortunate that the mechanics of the fight are so perfectly tuned. The guns all feel weighty and solid to shoot and the range of weaponry available is impressive. The weapon-boosting active reload system returns and it continues to be one of the best innovations in the genre. Special weapons are a joy to find, even though their situation is usually a serendipitous discovery preempting their necessity. It’s a joy to fire these weapons and a pleasure to behold the carnage they give birth to.

The sound design in this latest Gears game is exemplary, as expected, but its greatest contribution to the overall is that it never overpowers. Each thumping boom from a grenade launcher portents an explosion of enemy body parts and a visceral, almost gruesome, landscape of gore. Each rattle of the Lancer, Gears’ trademark weapon, sets in motion a staggered enemy’s descent to the floor. There to crawl for help that is only ever going to be a passing reprieve from the darkness of death.

The growling chainsaws and guttural enemy calls sit perfectly in the grizzled battlefield alongside the explosions and small arms fire. The incidental voice work from all the characters is also very good, although at times it feels slightly stilted, assumedly due to the way it’s triggered by events rather than sequenced by a director. Cutscenes are more efficiently paced and they are surprisingly emotionally charged, considering the setting and the reputation Gears has built.

The battles along the way are won, mostly, by your ensemble cast of ragtag warriors. The thousands of enemies, of various shapes, sizes and species charge headlong into your hail of bullets in blind loyalty to their cause – be it cultural, ethical or the result of some madness brought about by contamination. Allow yourself to be washed over by the bombastic approach. Enjoy the hyperbolic, never say die attitudes on parade and Gears of War 3 extends the Gears universe perfectly and with an intelligence that will be overlooked or ignored by many but which is comparable to any and better than most.

There are multitudinous enemy types, including a few new ones, and they come at you thick and fast. Some types feel a little like bullet sponges but the liberal scattering of ammunition and dropped weaponry means that you’ll always have plenty of firepower at your disposal during the lengthy campaign. With some imaginative set pieces, on rails sections and huge enemy types that act as kind of mid level bosses in places, you will need to familiarise yourself with all the various weapon types and attack strategies for the fight ahead.

The gameplay boils down, in very simplified terms, to working your way through areas of cover, fighting through waves of various enemy types, to find an objective. The fighting is attritional rather than check pointed so it is possible to set up camp behind cover and pick off your enemies until they’re all dead before moving on. At least, that’s possible as long as your enemies don’t rush you. Staying in one spot is often not the best strategy to take, particularly later in the game when enemies require the use of explosives or melée attacks in order to defeat them.

In terms of how it looks, Gears of War has always been at the forefront of visual improvements but this iteration is a little disappointing. It’s not that it looks bad, it just looks like a game wringing the last ounces of worth from an ageing game engine and it has been surpassed on several fronts now.

[drop2]The Unreal engine seems in dire need of a big overhaul if it is to compete with the very best visual presentation of the latest home console offerings. What it does is in keeping with previous games in the series and at times it is capable of great beauty, particularly in the scenery and towards the end of the game. Character models and textures will always have a slightly generic look to them outside (and occasionally not) of the cutscenes though, thanks largely to the ubiquity of the incredibly popular game engine. There are also very occasional instances of frame rate slow down during the most strenuous scenes but it is very rare.

Where Gears of War 3 surprises the most is in the narrative. This series has long been the poster child for the fist-bumping, catcalling frat house crowd of gamers, something that Epic has often capitalised on and encouraged in its marketing efforts. Don’t worry, it still has all of that pseudo-military brotherhood spiel and the shameless overconfidence in its delivery. But this time around, Gears feels more like a story about humanity (or should that be Seranity?)

For the first time in my experience with the series, it wasn’t just an extremely enjoyable tear through exploding aliens (sometimes literally). It was an emotional journey too. It is difficult to convey without venturing into spoiler territory but the exploration of relationships in this game is far more complex and interesting than in any previous visit to the Gears universe.

So what of your real life brothers in arms? The game is, as one should expect, extremely well stocked in the multiplayer departments. From a full on, four player online cooperative option on the campaign mode, with drop in and out functionality, to the Versus, Horde and Beast modes that present the player with various wave-based and deathmatch game modes which all seem to be very well built, with a nice mix of maps and unlockable upgrades. The servers for multiplayer are very quiet, as is to be expected before the game’s retail release, but we will revisit the multiplayer modes after release when our bot-filled games will be populated by other humans and we can actually get Beast and Horde modes up and running with reliable regularity.


  • Fantastic weaponry and combat.
  • Lengthy campaign mode which is playable in cooperative mode.
  • Much better narrative than previous games in the series.
  • Masses of enemy types and plenty of them rushing at you.
  • Great characters with genuine likability.
  • Multiplayer is certain to be well populated for a long time to come.


  • Starting to look a little flat at times.

Gears of War 3 is the best in the series. While it doesn’t make generational leaps in terms of its visual presentation, and the multiplayer modes are more evolution than revolution, it adds a whole new layer of emotion to the dynamic. Gears has always been the best third person cover-based shooter available but now it rivals most other modern games in terms of narrative, characterisation and empathetic attachment. Put simply, it’s a brilliant end to one of the finest trilogies in gaming.

Score: 9/10



  1. Great read! Really chuffed they are paying a bit more attention to the story!

    • Hmm, cynical that this site is currently being sponsored with Gears Of War branding, so it would be impossible to give it anything but a good review.

      Me, I won’t be buying I sold my Xbox last year and bought a PS3 instead. Looking forward to Uncharted 3, Resistance 3 amd The Last Guardian.

      • Well Eurogamer gave Gears 3 an 8 and Cliff Blezinsky in turn called them haters. So give us a a 9 if not that means you hate the game which Eurogamer did not.

  2. Yeah! Can’t wait.

  3. I own Gears 1 and 2 and haven’t beat either game >_>

  4. I don’t have an Xbox but sounds like a great game from the review. Those screens looks pretty great too.

    • same, PS3 and Wii in my house, so I’ve missed all the XBox exclusives. Loved the Ice T unboxing the other day, if I was flush now is the time I’d pick up a 360.

      • Your not really missing out, there are plenty of better PS3 exclusives that Xbox owners will never see. Killzone and Resistance franchies make Gears look very last-gen.

        Whilst that statement might upset a few Xbox folk, it’s nevertheless true.

      • You might be correct on Graphics, But as stories go Gears has always done well in my eyes, Whereas Killzone on the most part let me down. I do own both and ps3 and xbox so there is no bias opinion from me but I’d have to say Gears is better than the other two. Though that is only my opinion and you are equally justified to yours

    • same here, only a ps3 and wii so I unfortunately miss out on some big games. Luckily one of my friends will have bought this and I can play it over theirs :) looks stunning

      • me too, I borrowed a console to play the first. was great. This looks even better..

  5. the only game that I wish would make it to ps3. there used to be mass effect too, but that made the leap and it was awesome. this really is the last string xbox has to its bow.

    • forgetting Forza? ;)

      • Poormans GT5.

        Forza is an arcade racer, Gt5 is the real deal.

    • Don’t own an xbox anymore and never played it, but you forgot Halo as well :)

  6. nope. I’m more than happy with gt5.

    • you might be, but that doesn’t make Gears the ‘last string’ by any stretch. Forza’s a far more rounded game than GT5.

      • Alright jeez, the guy just likes gran turismo and isn’t interested in forza. Stop cramming your xbox fanboy crap down his throat. Far too common from staff on this website.

      • I Agree.
        tonycawley specificially said “I’m”, basically spelling out that he’s only referring to himself
        Yet a mod just HAS to answer with a pro-xbox agenda and basically trying to say “My opinion has more validity than yours”

        Unfortunately this bigger this site gets the more it seems to be going down the shitter. I remember the days someone could make a post like that without a mod going “OMFG HE DUZZNT LYKE XBOX, MUZT REEPLI!!!!!”

        Anyway, I have the epic edition of Gears on pre-order, went into Game yesterday and they already had them in, bloke took one out the back-room and opened it up to show me, it really is epic. That statue is WAY bigger than I expected!

      • you been pissing on peoples chips nofi? ;)

      • I think you read way too much into nofi’s comment. Grow up…

      • “Unfortunately this bigger this site gets the more it seems to be going down the shitter. I remember the days someone could make a post like that without a mod going “OMFG HE DUZZNT LYKE XBOX, MUZT REEPLI!!!!!””

        Was just stating my opinion, dude. I’m hardly a fanboy of anything (except maybe Apple stuff) and certainly wasn’t shoving it down anyone’s throat.

        IMO Forza’s better than GT5. Just my opinion. Sorry!


        edit: and TonyCawley knows me well enough too.

      • If anything there are to many people on this site now looking for an excuse to call someone I fanboy. I don’t see anything wrong with what Nofi has said, I totally agree with it to be honest.

      • Apple nofi,Omgwtf dude??:)

      • Totally agree, thought nofi’s comments about Forza/GT5 were fair enough tbh, which is doubly annoying because I’m a PS3 owner who bought GT5…

      • Yeah nofi. You’re an Xbox fanboy. That’s right. I’m calling the person who co-created a website called TheSixthAxis, a PS3 website , an Xbox fanboy :P

      • i think grabacr and scythegpd are just reading to much into it but saying “forza’s a far more rounded game then gt5” does sound like your stating a fact rather then a opinion.

      • Jese its getting dangerous to have an opinion round here lol. Its not the TSA staff you should be concerned about though, the fact you are reading a Gears3 review on a once ps3 only site should tell you they aren’t exactly biased ;P

        P.S Forza kicks the crap out of GT and anyone who doesn’t agree is obviously a moron* :D

        *may not actually be true.

      • I thought this was about Gears 3 not Forza/GT5? :)

        Thanks for the review, I’v got too many games on the go at the moment so I’ll probably give this a miss (playing Dead Island and Deus Ex: HR), and with Dark Souls on the way I don’t think I’ll have room in my gaming calendar. Might pick it up when it’s cheap though!

      • Congrats to david24, apparently the only person to actually get it. Saying “I prefer game X” is a statement of opinion, waying “Game x is the better game” is a statement of fact. I’d send you a cookie as a prize but I ate it on the way to the post office :(

        Although I’ll accept my reply was over the top, I’m currently very highly strung (awaiting the results of a life-changing exam) and thus probably should be a bit more careful when I post, I’m tending to be a bit more unreasonable than I would normally be. It’s a reflection of my current stress levels, although it doesn’t excuse my post.

        But props to nofi for a civil and clarifying reply (separating opinionated statement from factual statement). Your clarifying post I have absolutely zero issue with, your original post made it look like you were trying to make a factual statement … and I have no time for people who post opinion trussed up as fact to try and “over-rule” someone elses opinion, especially from a mod, hence my (as previously admitted, unnecessarily aggressive) reply. The actions of some mods during the hacking scandal (some resorted to swearing and personal attacks directed towards other members) had left me a seriously jaded towards this site however it seems not all hope is lost.

        Although I will stand by my comment that I preferred the site when it was smaller (I may not actually post much but I’ve been visiting this site since it first started and the original creators used to bombard the official PS3 forums advertising for hits)

    • I agree. Halo bores me and Forza is a good racer but I prefer the unrelenting realism of GT5’s physics.
      For me, Gears is the only game I miss about not having a 360. That said, I don’t fully forgive it for introducing the world to automatic health recovery which is now far too overused.

      • Forgive me if I’m wrong but wasnt the regernating health thing from Halo on the original xbox?

      • Halo had regenerating shields. The health stayed the same until you picked up a health kit.

  7. I like the Gears of War series, but only because of the co-op. I think the storyline and graphics are pretty dull. This one looks much of the same so I’ll probably wait until it goes cheap on pre-owned like the others I bought.

  8. Awesome. This will be at the fore-front of our LAN’s for the next couple of years I’m sure :D

  9. Great review. Gotta wait a few months before I can get my hands on it. Should get round to finshing GoW1&2 though. problem is it’s the mrs’ xbox and shes currently ploughing through red dead & undead

    • Sweet wish my mrs’ played games lol all i hear is your always on that thing blah blah…. Shes only watchin tv! Haha

      • shes become much more competent at games than me. Plus she finishes them lol. Im gonna get her into COD & BF next…. ;)

      • You shouldn’t spoil her innocence with CoD! Especially if she’s enjoying other great games :P

      • lol. she likes to watch me play cod but shes having skyrim and ass creed for her birthday so I wont get a look in on the xbox

      • I was only talking to the girlfriend lastnight about how my mate’s girlfriend sometimes sits & watches him play CoD. The only games my girlfriend likes are the likes of Angry Birds/Bejeweled on her phone or the odd game of Wii Sports or Wario Ware on the Wii.

        She absolutely hates everything else!

      • Lol I feel your pain. My wife is heavily into gaming at times. At first it was cool (and it still is really) but I must admit I did end up buying a cheap 40quid 360 core console so I could hook it up to my spare tele and play some games too lol

      • @SpikeyMikey23

        Girls love “Ass creed” as a birthday gift… >_>

      • ;)

  10. So excited, i got all of them to play still.

    • oh wow, that could be an amazing weekend ;)

    • Gears 1 is better than the 2nd by a country mile. Plus its pretty short so it shouldn’t take you long to storm through it :)

      • Agreed, Gears 1 is much better than 2.

      • Like Mass Effect though it’s impossible to have one without the other imo,right and left,ying and yang,fo and shizzle.

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