Gears of War 3 multiplayer: First impressions

Warning: violent content. On Thursday of last week I was lucky enough to get my hands on a beta code for the Gears of War 3 online multiplayer.

NameOnline multiplayer beta: Gears of War 3 multiplayer
Games Info:Developer: Epic Games; Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform:Xbox 360
Test Platform:Xbox 360

On Thursday of last week I was lucky enough to get my hands on a beta code for the Gears of War 3 online multiplayer. Unfortunately at this point only media, testers and developers have access – those who bought first-person shooter Bulletstorm get access to the beta on Monday – so there weren’t a whole lot of people online in the evenings New Zealand time. Lucky for me, a bunch of fellow game reviewers from Auckland and Christchurch teamed up to give it a real go.

In the third-person Gears of War series, you play as COG soldiers against a subterranean race called the Locust Horde. Since this is a multiplayer beta, there’s no storyline involved, just a lot of ruthlessly cutting in half both COGs and Horde members alike. Like in previous games, you can run at people and chainsaw them to death, and if you’re feeling even more uberviolent, you can now beat your enemy to death with their own dismembered hand until you crush their heads.

Yes, really. In case you haven’t figured it out, this is not a game you should be buying for your kids. I repeat: do not buy this game and then whinge about how violent it is.

If you have a strong stomach and can laugh at the comically over-the-top kills, Gears of War’s online multiplayer is a lot of fun. You get to compete for kills in Team Deathmatch, hold the enemy team’s leader hostage for 30 seconds in Capture the Leader, and capture and hold territories in King of the Hill. All fairly standard game types, but for good reason.

When you don’t have a full five-person team, bots stand in, and the AI is actually fairly useful. The bots are definitely capable of killing you, no matter how 1337 you are – a fellow game journalist and I won a game after one extremely skilled opponent had picked everybody off but our last remaining bot, because the bot was good enough to take its sweet and bloody revenge. (I apologised to our opponent in the game lobby – he truly deserved that win.)

The matchmaking system is one of the best I’ve seen in online multiplayer, despite the fact that hardly anyone was online. I had to go into my router’s admin page and do some port forwarding before the outside world could connect to the Xbox – a common problem with matchmaking systems on the platform – but after that it was all go. It’s less likely to be a problem once more people are online, anyway. You can easily join friends in their games, as long as they allow it, and inviting friends into your party is equally straightforward. You can also invite everyone on your team into your party at the end of a match with the press of a button.

The best thing I can say about the Gears beta is that I started playing at about 10:30pm on Thursday night and didn’t stop until 12:30am, even though I had to get up for work at seven and I don’t function very well on little sleep. Hell, I didn’t even notice exactly how long I’d been playing until around midnight. There’s just so much fun to be had. I’m looking forward to the beta opening up to those who bought Bulletstorm, so I have more corpses to kick when they’re down.

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Tags gaminggamesGears of WarGears of War 3Previewfirst impressions

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Siobhan Keogh

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