Gears of War 3: Fenix Rising Map Pack Review

One of the biggest selling points of Gears of War 3 for me was its multiplayer modes, and specifically how greatly it felt as though Epic Games had improved upon the Gears experience from its first two outings. Gears 1 and Gears 2 both had compelling maps, but all of them always broke down to the same Quake-style scenario: sprint for nearest power weapon, proceed to dominate unfortunate losers who didn’t get there first.

Gears 3, on the other hand, felt as though it managed to mitigate the power of the game’s map-based heavy weapons, like the Mulcher, Boom Shot and Longshot sniper rifle, through clever design. Sure, you might snag the Oneshot, a mounted instant-kill cannon, at the top of the map on trenches, but your firing angles were severely limited. You might snag the Torque Bow in Hotel, but only about 30 or 40 percent of the map is the interior portion, which has lots of cover and objects to obstruct your shots.

In judging the latest Gears of War 3 map pack, Fenix Rising, I’ve tried to determine if the new maps match that level of design quality that I felt the on-disc map offering met. And for the most part, while Fenix Rising’s five maps — four new ones and one rehash from Gears 1 — meet that criteria, they don’t seem quite as clever as earlier offerings. That doesn’t make them a bad deal, and Epic has thrown in a few other things to encourage big fans to buy this map pack. If you like Gears multiplayer, this is just more good stuff for you.

Gears of War 3: Fenix Rising Map Pack: Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Developer: Epic Games
Released: Jan. 17, 2012
MSRP: 800 MS Points ($10)

The Fenix Rising pack, which is the third of four content drops available to Gears 3 Season Pass holders, brings five maps that are accessible on all three multiplayer modes — that’s the standard competitive multiplayer, the cooperative Horde mode and the cooperative Beast mode. The bulk of content alone makes the asking price of $10 a pretty good deal, given that $2 is fairly reasonable. Each map has its strengths, and all of them are supposed to be themed after protagonist Marcus Fenix’s life and his family. To that end, they all have a sort of “facility” feel — one’s the academy where Marcus went to school, one’s a fortress where he was stationed, one is the prison where he was incarcerated.

The downfall of each map is that they tend to be twisting, labyrinthine experiences; usually there are indoor and outdoor portions, and usually to get anywhere, you’ll be passing around blind corners and through lots of cover. These are good setups for maps — they all play well and are fun — but they also have a lot of similarities to one another.

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