There were many long lines at PAX East this past weekend. No line that I waited in had a bigger payoff than the relatively short line for the Gears of War 3 Multiplayer beta. The reason that the line was so short had nothing to do with the number of people waiting to play it or less buzz about this game than others on the show floor. Much of the credit goes to Microsoft for their extremely intelligent booth design. The line was maybe fifty people long when we joined it and we were playing in 20 minutes. Enough about the stupid line, already, what about the game?
You know what makes a good game like Gears of War 2 better? It’s the small, smart changes that enhance an already great game. Example? The loading screen in GoW3 shows an overhead map of the level you are about to play in. This map can also be viewed when you are killed in battle, a very useful feature, especially for new players as it also shows available weapons and team member locations. Another small difference that packs a big punch? Take a shotgun, here’s a hacksaw. Do you see where I am going with this?
The sawed-off shotgun in this game is the most fun I’ve had with a boomstick since Action Half Life. The sound this thing makes when you pull the trigger is one of the most satisfying explosions I’ve ever heard in a game. It is great to see new weapons being added to the game that are super functional in certain situations. The regular shotgun has decent accuracy at medium range, the sawed off does not, but nothing is better at quick, short range damage than the new sawed off. I wish that I could have played longer to explore the additional weapons and game modes, but we were only allowed one quick round of team deathmatch.
The first thing that my friends and I noticed was that the game looks noticeably better than Gears 2, and Gears 2 was no graphical slouch. I watched several other groups play and the lighting effects, in particular, were very impressive. Also, how has it taken this long to make a muliplayer map out of a destroyed sports arena? There is a scoreboard hanging down in the middle of the map! One of the best executions of a new multiplayer map that I’ve seen in a while.
I walked into PAX expecting to be impressed with Gears of War 3, I didn’t expect to be blown away by it. The game is being released on September 20th in North America. That is when it will blow you away too, unless you pre order the game at Game Stop, or have purchased Bulletstorm, beta access is included with both.