Gears of War is one my favorite Xbox 360 franchises. While at first glance one would think it's just an overblown testosterone marathon, in reality, Gears of War has much more going for it. The entire story has a long, rich history. For one, the narrative of a different world (Sera) is perfect. It gives the game its own identity since none of the events are taking place on Earth (for that matter Earth doesn't exist in this universe nor any of our nations). The idea of another intelligent species that exists in a "modern day" world inhabited by humans gives the story more mystery on where these beings came from. The technology is also different, as well as the world economy and ethnic groups. And yes, the gameplay is pretty awesome, too.
Gears of War 3 begins where we left off in Gears of War 2. If you stuck around until the end of the credits in Gears of War 2, (SPOILERS!) you would have heard a message from Marcus' father saying, "This is Adam Fenix... Can you hear me? What have you done?" Of course, he is referring to the sinking of Jacinto, a major city for the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG). It was the last, biggest human city. Delta Squad discovered that if Jacinto sinks, it will take the Locust with it by flooding the corridors of their underground home.
It worked. However, this only gave rise to a new threat: The Lambent. The Lambent are Locust and humans infected by Imulsion, the very thing that started the Pendulum Wars. The Lambent are relentless and durable. Easily they are a big player in this now triple threat war for Sera.
First let's look at gameplay. Gameplay is still in the third person perspective with over the shoulder shooting mechanics. I always go by the phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This gameplay has always worked for Gears of War with little add-ons to keep it interesting. The jamming of weapons due to player reloading times, getting downed from receiving too much damage, and "bleed out" time have returned.
New to the game is being able to mark specific enemies and have your team concentrate fire on said enemy. So if you need a Grinder taken care of because you want that sweet Mulcher, then all you have to do is order your team to shoot it together. Multiplayer saw a new swapping mechanic with teammates. So if you want the shotgun and I have it, swap me another weapon and the shotgun is all yours.
You will face moments of complexity in that you might get gunned down a lot. Enemies are more dangerous than ever, especially the Lambent foes. Big Lambent enemies can cause heavy damage to you or possibly get you downed quickly. REMEMBER: Don't go guns blazing, unless absolutely necessary! Keep your distance and know that your squad is there to back you up.
The Lambent make a drastic approach here. No longer will you be facing the same old Locust enemies. Here, mutations that the Lambent cause in the Locust give way to insanely difficult-to-kill enemies. Lambent Drudges mutate in different forms and you must figure out how to take them down. Lambent Gunkers are by far the most difficult and should be your immediate target to annihilate before all other enemy types. Gunkers' distance attacks are deadly so be smart in how you approach taking one down.
Also new to the series is female Gears in your squad. Anya gets into the fight, as well as newcomer Samantha Byrne (voiced by Claudia Black). These two are excellent additions to the male dominated squads and offer more character development for not only themselves, but the other protagonists (i.e. Anya with Marcus and Sam's interest in Dom).
Graphics have improved a bit. Character models have more facial expression and their appearances are given unique looks to differentiate them from others. Environments are given a complete change in that you go to other kinds of locations (i.e. open ocean, dried out wastelands, and Stranded compounds).
Sound is nothing short of great. The Gears of War universe is a violent one. As such, war is rampant and the sounds of explosions, gunfire, people yelling, and everything you ever knew and loved being destroyed around you are heard perfectly here. That sounded pretty dark didn't it? Well, it should. War isn't pretty and everything can go FUBAR in a matter of seconds. Gears of War 3 captures this and as such doesn't disappoint. Voice acting is great as usual, plus the bigger cast gives way to even more interesting dialogue.
The story is phenomenal and, for me, marks a successful end to the Gears of War franchise. Yes, yes, I know Gears of War: Judgement is coming, but I mean "end" for the main trilogy. There are a lot of big, epic scenes mixed in with emotional highs that come full circle when you realize the effects Imulsion really has on not just living beings, but the planet itself. I can't really explain it without giving away vital details, but I will say that the main plot consists of Delta Squad trying to discover the work of Adam Fenix (and possibly Adam, himself) to find a way to put an end to the Lambent and try to take out the Locust who are harboring a secret of their own.
Gears of War 3 is great. It goes down as one of the most fantastic franchises I have ever played. It also is under my personal Game of the Year list. Perhaps I will list that here, but who knows? If you like action games or a good narrative to combine with intense battles, then Gears of War 3 is for you. However, if third person shooters have grown old on you or if you're just sick of Gears of War, then steer clear.