E3 2011: Gears of War 3 Single-Player Preview


The final day of E3, I somehow finagled my way into the two-story Microsoft pleasure dome for a private look at Gears of War 3. In this plush little man-cave full of comfy couches, I sat directly next to Mr. Cliff Belezinsky (Design Director at Epic Games). He played through an extended version of the level shown during the Microsoft press conference stage demo earlier in the week. In this section Marcus-and-team fight through Locust forces on a ship at sea, then make their way outside to the deck where they battle a gigantic Lambent Leviathan.

The first noticeable change is that Gears of War 3 looks–surprisingly–a lot prettier than Gears of War 2, specifically in how objects are destroyed. You’d almost expect Epic to use the exact same tech from Gears 2, but that’s not the case at all. Bleszinski noted this:

You’ll notice the entire room just got torn to shit. Gears 1 had very little of that kind of destructability. Gears 2 had a little more. Now we have this vertex defermation techology that allows things to just be shredded and torn up in front of you that our artists and animators have really used quite a bit in the campaign.

You can see this in the stage demo video, where a whole wall of the ship’s hull gets literally shredded like paper, splintering apart into tiny bits. Lighting, too, has been given an upgrade. The character models are more vibrant and “poppier,” casting darker, longer shadows than before. “We wanted to have better lighting first and foremost [with the new tech],” said Bleszinski. “I think the global illumunation really does that. The characters stand out a lot better than they have in the previous two games.”

Next, the Gears team bursts out onto the ship deck, and makes a b-line for an ammunition bay containing two “Silverbacks.” These extreme powerups are new to Gears of War 3, and are basically kick-ass mech suits. Unlike the stage demo, Bleszinski actually has Marcus get inside one of the Silverbacks, so he can “tear shit up and show [us] how cool it is,” he says. Why, thank you!

He’s right, though. They are cool. They’re slow, but extremely powerful, sporting two alternate modes of fire. In regular mode, you can run around with a gatling gun and tear shit up, as it were. For serious destruction, kick into “deployed” mode: the Silverback locks into a braced position–kind of like a Siege Tank in StarCraft 2–and lets you fire rockets(!) More cool stuff: the Silverback has its own custom “curb stomp,” which turns enemies into instant jelly, and other players can duck behind the Silverback for cover.

We fast forward now and change teams, focusing on Cole and Baird, who are way up above the ship’s deck on a bridge. Their goal: drop a crate filled with Tickers down onto the Lambent Leviathan. As the team makes their way across the bridge, we’re introduced to yet another new weapon: the Vulcan Canon. It is a two-player controlled gatling gun. Player one fires the gatling gun itself, while player two holds the ammo box and cranks it like “a little organ monkey,” as Cliffy describes it. He continues, “If [player two] does a great job feeding ammo to player one, player one never has to reload. So player one could just unload the entire payload. It’s very powerful, more powerful than the Mulcher. The kicker is the two of them are connected by an ammo belt. So they’re kind of like two guys in a Donkey suit. They can’t go too far apart from each other.”

Finally, Cliffy shows us the One Shot sniper rifle, which you’ll know very well if you played the beta. He demonstrates how powerful the One Shot is, which can shoot straight through a Mauler’s shield. Yeesh.

The sequence ends with Baird and Cole pushing a crate full of Tickers off the bridge onto the Leviathan below, which goes down in grand fashion.

We had questions about the storytelling here, since one second you’re Marcus, the next you’re Baird, and the chronology was kind of mixed up. How does that work? Bleszinski likened this storytelling philosophy to Pulp Fiction:

“Once you’re done with the boat section [controlling Marcus], we actually then go back two hours prior. Then you are actually Cole and Baird in a chopper. Player one is Cole, Player two is Baird, Player three is Carmine, four is Sam. They are actually going on a mission, and they get radio’d to come and help on the bridge. So it plays out in a linear fashion, but it all kind of burns together Pulp Fiction-style.”

Overall, I was definitely impressed with Gears of War 3. It looks way better, has cool new weapons and promises to mix up the storytelling.

Gears of War 3 hits September 20, 2011 exclusively for the Xbox 360.

Gears of War 3 Campaign Trailer

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