Gears of War 3 Multiplayer Beta Guide (UPDATED AGAIN)

The release of a new Gears of War game is always an important juncture on the gaming calendar, and 2011 has delivered the third and final installment of the storied series. Though its singleplayer bona fides are well-cataloged, Gears really shines in online multiplayer, and it is with this popularity in mind that Epic are staging a multiplayer beta test to iron out their baby’s new kinks.

Our resident Gears-head Phil Hornshaw will be delving deep into the beta, and interested readers should check back continually for all the latest information about new maps, weapons, and gameplay innovations. We also have the tentative list of Gears of War 3 Achievements. And check out the video below for another take on the beta from Mitchell Saltzman of the Game Front video walkthrough crew.

Table of Contents

General Strategy

You’ve got a Lancer back in your hands and are ready to take on Locust, COGs, and any 12-year-old Xbox Live rats that happen to get in your way. You’re ready.

But wait — Gears 3 includes all kinds of new crap, not the least of which are new weapons and a new load-out system. Trust us, you’re not ready at all until you test drive your new options in slaying.

Weapons
The new complement of weapons in Gears of War 3 is just different enough that it will sink your old-school strategies if you’re not ready to face what other players have been messing with for the last week — namely, the sawed-off shotgun. This thing is a game-changer in many ways to Gears 3′s close quarters combat, and it’s going to encourage a lot of players to deal with many situations differently.

Before we start talking about individual weapons, it’s important to note that you can now choose your weapons load-out at any point during a match, any time you respawn — just tap A when waiting to respawn and you can toggle through your choices. You can also set your default load-out from the main menu under your Multiplayer setup.

Your load-out options now include three rifles (the Lancer and Hammerburst of Gears past and the new Retro Lancer) and three two shotguns (the traditional Gnasher and the new Sawed-off). Mastering each of these weapons for different situations will be key to taking on all comers in Gears 3.

New Weapons
Digger Launcher
If you’ve played Gears of War before, you’re familiar with its heavy weapon, the Boomshot, which is basically an arcing bazooka shot that explodes and takes out enemies in the nearby vicinity. The Digger Launcher is a lot like that, but underground.

The Digger Launcher gets three shots, and when you fire it, it burrows under the ground in a straight line until it encounters an enemy player. After a slight delay, it explodes like a torpedo, taking out whoever’s close to it. It can travel beneath cover, taking out enemies who are hiding from your Lancer fire, but the slow speed gives them plenty of time to get clear.

The trick, therefore, is hitting enemies who are distracted. It’s a little cruel, but using a downed teammate in the distance as bait and firing the Digger at it can result in blowing up the enemy who goes to finish him off. It’s also a great weapon for supporting teammates who are already in a battle when you can approach from a side where you’re unseen. Try to catch enemies distracted and the Digger Launcher can be pretty effective.

Flame Grenades
These napalm explosives spread fire around an area and are a mess for a few seconds, acting a bit like the poison gas of the Ink grenades, but with a single caveat — a direct hit means death, and getting “tagged,” or melee’d with a grenade so that it sticks with you, is even worse.

Stick flame grenades to walls to create an effective proximity weapon that will create a barrier of fire against enemy intruders, and stick it to enemies to make them basically burst into flames and melt, as well as spreading fire around. Getting caught in a flame grenade not only does serious damage, it also leaves you pretty vulnerable if you burn, allowing enemies to shoot you as you struggle.

Basically, as with all grenades, your best bet is just to try to stay away as much as possible in order to stay alive. Conversely, if you’re using flame grenades, they’re great for herding enemies and sealing areas, or stopping your opponents from pursuing you. Use flame grenades to seal areas off or catch tightly packed enemies unawares.

Up Close: Know Your Shotguns
The biggest new change to Gears 3 is the sawed-off shotgun, bar none. This thing will likely change how you play early and often, because you’ll find yourself getting absolutely shredded in up-close fights if you’re not careful. The Sawed-Off is basically a two-barrel blast of death that has a really, really short range, but is highly effective up close. If you thought Gnasher fights were rough in earlier Gears games, get ready to get your mind blown (out the back of your skull).

The Sawed-Off gets one shot, with a really, really slow reload afterward. However, if you can nail the active reload, you’ll get the gun back a whole lot quicker than your opponent, and that will basically mean winning a battle. While the Sawed-off only gives away one shot at a time, that shot is so effective that if you’re close enough, you’re going to decimate just about anyone so long as you hit them pretty squarely.

You’ll also find yourself rounding a lot of corners and getting cut in half by an enemy’s Sawed-off, so in addition to changing your shotgun game to get closer when you have the advantage, you’re going to need to stay further back when fighting against players with Sawed-offs. Forget about the melee-shotgun combo unless you get the drop on your enemy or you’re sure he’s using a Gnasher — a Sawed-off will squash you long before you have the chance to kill him traditionally.

Needing to stay back also will get you used to relying on rifles more, which is going to be key to a successful Gears 3 experience.

Stand Back: Know Your Rifles
In addition to the automatic fire of the Lancer and the semi-automatic but more accurate Hammerburst, you now have access to a third rifle — the Retro Lancer. This thing is less accurate than its later iteration, but it does have one cool new feature: a bayonet you can use in melee and while roadie-running.

The downfall of the Retro Lancer is that it’s fairly inaccurate, and in that regard it almost leaves you without a ranged weapon for fights further than just out of shotgun range. But if you prefer to get in close anyway, roadie running toward an opponent with the Retro lets you stab them for an instant kill, and if you miss, you can immediately switch to the shotgun and bring the fight to his or her front door.

But as Cliff Bleszinski of Epic Games has mentioned on his Twitter account, you’re going to need to use rifles in this Gears outing, more so than ever before. The game has been balanced to amp up the power of rifles and make them a viable weapon in more situations than in the past. Especially in groups or concentrating fire, a Lancer can drop enemies on the run with almost no trouble, and finishing them off from a distance before they’re revived can change the flow of combat altogether.

Intelligence
Finally, Gears 3 has an upgraded TAC-COM interface you can access by holding down LB, and you should use it all the time. It’ll show you where weapons load out and where your teammates are in relationship to you, as well as who’s down and where they are. It’s a ton of information, and more than ever before this Gears is a game you need to play as a team — so use this info to stick with your buddies and move as a unit.

In addition to the TAC-COM, players also have the ability to tag and designate enemies with a marker that other players can see. By aiming at an enemy and clicking the Left Analog Stick, you’ll briefly tag an enemy and give everyone else a heads-up as to their location. This is great for helping a buddy who’s about to be flanked out, or when you need help finishing a kill as an opponent tries to make an escape. More than anything, though, location data on the opposing team will help you win by setting ambushes and flanking their positions.

Team Deathmatch
There’s not much new to Team Deathmatch that seasoned Gears players (or anyone who’s picked up a multiplayer game in the past decade) won’t be familiar with. Epic has put through a few tweaks, however, that are worth mentioning as it pertains to potential strategy.

Specifically, this is the “Life Pool” system. Instead of a team trying to kill the other team until they hit an arbitrary points goal, Team Deathmatch in Gears 3 unites standard deathmatch games with the former Elimination mode from earlier games. Each team gets a pool of 15 lives that it shares among all its members: every time a player dies, a life is depleted from the pool. The goal is to be the last team standing in a “best of three rounds” match.

That basically means that you should stick with your teammates — always. Every death incurred in a Team Deathmatch game doesn’t just count in favor of the opposing team, it counts against your team. When the life pool depletes, teammates stop spawning, and that can leave one team with a numerical disadvantage against the other in the closing moments of the match. An extra gun by your side can be the difference between winning and losing a match.

Do your best to support your team and try not to go anywhere alone. Flanking enemy teams sounds like a good idea until you round a corner into a Sawed-off and wind up costing your team the match 10 minutes later. You’re much better off sticking together, mixing your Lancers with shotguns and nabbing revives when you have the opportunity, since players will often be “downed” without being dead and can be revived by a teammate up to twice before they die and stay dead. It’s less glamorous than playing Rambo and taking down an entire enemy team, but it’ll mean more wins and better rankings.

King of the Hill
Ah, finally, a multiplayer mode in which the team isn’t depending on you to be smart about throwing yourself at the barrels of enemy weapons. King of the Hill features infinite respawns and is scored by time spent controlling a periodically moving circular position called “the hill.” The difference in scoring means that tactics for King of the Hill are very different from Team Deathmatch — in short, you don’t have to be careful or stick with your team. In fact, it’s better to be different.

That’s not to say you should disregard your team altogether, but King of the Hill players will find themselves more successful if they look to support their team as much or more than they physically back them up. By that I mean, in King of the Hill, it’s okay to go running roughshod over the beta’s maps, trying to flank enemies or take them out unawares, or even just using your body as a meat blanket in order to slow enemies on their way to reinforce teammates. Deaths don’t matter here, except that they take you out of the rotation briefly. You can do a lot more things than you might in Team Deathmatch.

Here’s an example of “support,” a highly successful King strategy. Playing King of the Hill in Thrashball, for example, has the hill always starting around the middle of the field at the outset of the match. Both sets of players stream straight for it, and one will usually get hold of the Digger Launcher or Torque Bow positioned in the middle of the field. Often the two teams will square off there for quite some time, picking off one or two seconds from the hill at a time as respawning troops just continue to hurl themselves at each other.

You can do a great deal of damage in a situation like that by running up to the Concessions Stands on one side of the map, or down in to the tunnel on the other. There, if you’re free of opponents thinking the same way, you snag the Mulcher or mortar (or grenades) and start laying waste to distracted enemies trying to capture the hill — and actually help clear out the opposition so your teammates can capture the position and start racking up time.

Flanking enemies as a lone soldier also works really well in King of the Hill, especially when playing defense with the hill captured. Once you have a position and are scoring points, your goal is no longer to eliminate the enemy team, but rather, to stall them. Even by forcing one or two soldiers to stop and fight you in some remote corner of the map away from the hill, you’re buying valuable time during which the opposing force isn’t attacking the rest of your team at full strength — which means your buddies get the numerical advantage (presumably) and can hold the hill longer. The best way to play King of the Hill is to think about how best you can serve any given situation, be it by running around using the Retro Lancer bayonet on unsuspecting enemies, gathering power weapons for a stand, distracting enemies or diving into an enemy controlled hill just to break their scoring hold before getting slaughtered.

Capture the Leader

Gears of War 2 players will remember the “meatflag,” a concept in which two teams play a Capture the Flag match in which the flag was a mean, shotgun-wielding non-player character. It wouldn’t really move around the map, but it would definitely defend itself, and it would try to writhe out of your grip once you picked it up (the meatflag was treated like a regular meat shield, which is when you take an enemy player hostage and use him to absorb incoming fire).

Capture the Leader, Gears 3′s last multiplayer mode for the beta, is a riff on this concept and the previous “Leader” mode from Gears 2. In the latter mode, two teams went at it with one person on each designated the leader. You could respond infinitely — until your leader was killed. Once that happened, the game went to elimination for the leaderless team, and anyone dropped after that stayed dead.

With Capture the Leader, those two modes are combined. One player at random is designated the team’s leader (after the first round, it’s the player with the best score), and the other team has to capture and hold him or her for a set period of time. The capture doesn’t have to take place in any particular location, and leaders are afforded special perks, like being able to revive themselves quicker and a TAC-COM that reveals both friendly players and enemy players.

The downfall of being the leader is that you’re revealed to both teams at all times, and if you’re captured or downed, everybody knows it. So when playing as the leader, it’s important to either stake out a position with a complement of defenders (although I wouldn’t recommend it) or keep moving with your team and help them in battle. Either way, defense is a very important part of the game.

Actually, though, the most effective leaders are the hands-on kind. Traveling with a team and remaining in the open adds your guns to the combined might of your team, and staying in the open, rather than trying to barricade yourself into a small room, guarantees that your teammates will have an easier time rescuing you than if a team is able to barricade themselves with you as captive. It only takes 30 seconds or less of capture time to win a match, so it’s important that a rescue squad be able to save their leader without too much difficulty.

When you’re not playing as the leader, situational awareness about your leader’s whereabouts are key, and staying within sight and roadie-run distance is very important. When an enemy takes down your leader and grabs him, his movement speed is highly reduced and he can only use a pistol. He’s still dangerous, but he loses a lot of his ability to see around him, fight effectively, and escape. Two teammates approaching a captured leader from two different angles will have a pretty easy freeing him.

You can bounce a leader clear of his captives with a grenade (including smoke) or by downing the opponent carrying him. The Sawed-Off and Gnasher are particularly effective for this, especially up close, but attacks from the back with melee strikes or just about anything else will also do the job. In a pinch, a smoke grenade can save the match for you, so use them effectively and always keep grenades handy for emergencies.

When attacking an enemy leader, eliminate his defenders first, if you can. With no support, a leader is much easier to take down, plus respawn and travel time for your enemies mean a free run of the clock for you. When you have a leader, you want to barricade — find a corner, a place that can’t be hit from a distance, and hole up with a few teammates (you still want your leader defended, so you want either the whole group together or to break into smaller units).

The trick in Capture is to effectively use your team. You get unlimited respawns, so winning comes down to tactically defeating the other team by breaking up their group. You always want to be with teammates if you can be, and as the leader, you never want to back yourself into a corner with no one to help you.

Playing on Checkout
The first of the beta’s new maps, Checkout, is one you’re going to get familiar with in a hurry. It’s a destroyed big-box store that’s filled with corners and close combat. Expect shotguns to play a primary role here.

That doesn’t mean there’s no chances for distance shooting, however, and in fact, you’re likely to face a sniper during every other match. Power weapons, the special guns that spawn on the map, spawn on the far left and far right on the map, in little alcoves. In odd-number matches, you’ll see a Digger Launcher on one side, the Mulcher (that mounted machine gun you can carry around) on the other. Even-numbered matches have the Longshot sniper rifle showing up, which is especially deadly going straight across the middle of the map toward the other power weapon spawn.

Letting a decent sniper go will result in a quick loss, so controlling that sniper rifle is more important than holding down any other position on the map. The Digger Launcher, for example, is much less of a threat; the sniper rifle, on the other hand, is specifically positioned to prey on players actively engaged in fighting in the wings of the level, which is where the majority of combat takes place.

In heading into Checkout, sticking together is always important, but so is having strong shotgun skills, so bone up and practice. Get used to logging active reloads with the Gnasher and Sawed-off so you can defend yourself in a pinch, and try to keep your distance from enemies whenever possible until you can gain an advantage. Always be careful about corners — players love to wait and one-shot opponents who are in a hurry to get some place and not paying strict attention their surroundings.

Playing on Thrashball
Thrashball is a lot like Checkout in many ways. Set on what is essentially a football field, the map mixes open areas with lots of cover with tighter sections on its left and right side. Sticking together is important here, but much, much more important is watching your back — flankers, especially those running around with the Retro Lancer, are pandemic. If you’re not watching, they will sneak up on you.

In the center of the level, if you’re quick with a Lancer and have teammates handy, you can generally take out one or two enemies if they’re slow or you catch them away from cover. It’s important to be careful of the VIP box on one side, however — it alternatively houses a Mortar and a Mulcher, both of which are devastating over the field. And the big Jumbotron scoreboard will eventually fall onto the field, squashing anyone beneath it, so be careful.

The VIP booth usually sees a lot of fighting. It’s tight-enough quarters that it draws players to try to take out lots of enemies at once, and once you have it, it’s not a bad position to try to hold down, despite two entrances and a lot of open air. The high ground gives you an effective place to use Lancers, and the entrances create a decent bottleneck for fighting off invaders.

On the other side of the level is a dugout tunnel that houses grenades, and this is always a spot for heavy close-quarters and bottleneck combat. It’s actually a rough place to make a real stand — three entrances and a long hallway leaves you open to Lancer fire from afar and flanking from behind. The best strategies have you approaching from the outside with a full team complement and taking out whoever’s inside by controlling the points of entry, confusing your enemies by approaching fro several positions. Trying to hold the inside isn’t advisable, however, unless you have a lot of fighters on hand to cover all angles.

Playing on Old Town
The first of the new maps unlocked the week of April 25 is Old Town, a flanking player’s dream. The map is filled with corridors, alcoves and allies that are perfect for sneaking around the backs of enemies or setting up ambushes. As such, you can do well to move carefully and study enemy positions and movements when you can see them — knowing your opponents’ habits can mean a win if you use that information to catch them napping.

Old Town carries the Torque Bow and Sniper Rifle, and the Boomshot and Digger Launcher. These are located in the allies on either side of the map, with grenades spawning in the middle, and though the Power Weapons are handy, they’re nonessential to winning on Old Town. The map is pocked with tons of cover and debris, so getting a straight shot for a sniper rifle or a Boomshot is often difficult. Control these weapons if you can and bring them to bear in fights when enemies are distracted by your teammates, picking your shots for the greatest opportunity. The Power Weapons here seem to be best when kept for support roles, rather than trying to take on the whole enemy force.

More than anything, Old Town requires that players watch their backs. The whole map is filled with quick ways of getting behind players, so expect to get flanked often. But if you can see flanking enemies coming, you can turn their plans against them by setting traps and ambushing the ambushers, so stay with your teammates and keep vocal about enemies approaching from the rear.

Playing on Trenches
Trenches is broken up by elevation, with upper and lower areas. Primary fighting will take place on the raised section near the mortar spawn — it’s high ground that gives the best vantage of most of the level, so players tend to congregate there. There are also many, many ways to access that high ground, so keeping your head on a swivel in order to avoid flanking is extremely important.

Trenches offers a lot of opportunities to take high ground and other advantages to get the drop on enemy players fighting teammates. This is especially true of the head of the level, a trench at the top of a hill where players will find a new weapon, the Oneshot. This thing is basically a mounted machine gun that fires a rail gun round, taking out an opponent in a single blast (or more if bad guys line up). It takes a long time to fire and makes a lot of noise (and the intense zoom makes it difficult to re-acquire targets quickly), but in the right hands, the One Shot is a great tool for giving your fellow fighters in the distance a distinct advantage, and it helps lock down enemies and keep them from moving around as much out of fear.

In King of the Hill games, taking and holding the One Shot can be a serious advantage over the other team because the gun is as psychologically frightening as it is actually deadly. It keeps opponents on their toes as they dodge out of its laser sights, and can be a handy distraction.

Unlike Old Town, Trenches is a tougher level to move around with clandestine tactics because there are tons of lines of sight through which enemies can pick you off. It’s best to move as a team and watch each other’s backs instead — but this can be a really highly effective strategy, especially on the high ground near the Mortar spawn. Controlling the crane area is a lot of real estate with a lot of upward-bound ramps, but it also affords lots of areas in which one team can shoot down on another team as it approaches. By breaking into groups and having one or two players marauding around on the ground level with more shooters helping out on the upper deck, a team can take a serious advantage quickly, before the enemy has time to react or recover. On the whole, though, stay together as much as possible, or at least stick with a buddy.

We’ll have more tips, tricks and strategies for the Gears of War 3 Multiplayer Beta as more modes are unlocked. Keep checking back for updates!

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