The Average Gamer

Hands-on with the Gears of War 3 Multiplayer Beta

The Gears of War 3 beta will be out in just over a month. If you had the foresight to order the Epic Edition of Bulletstorm or are a jammy bugger like me who got a free upgrade then you get to join the early Team Deathmatch preview that runs from 18th to 24th April. Hoorah!

This beta will cover four multiplayer maps:

  • Thrashball: A dilapidated sports arena. For those who don’t know, Thrashball is the sport that Augustus “Cole Train” Cole was famous for playing before the war.
  • Trenches: A rocky outdoor environment where the Locust have been tunnelling and building fortifications. Lots of great places to cluster and defend but if your enemies get hold the mortar then be ready to scatter.
  • Checkout: A former department store with mysteriously indestructible sofas and shelves providing cover.
  • Old Town: Another outdoor environment in the style of a French village. Well, okay, the kind of village you’d see in a French beer ad. I’ve never seen a French village. This map has a fuck-off big gun turret mounted on a wall which – rather unfortunately – covers a very limited section of the map.

You’ll also be able to unlock a special weapon by completing any match before Sunday 24th April – the Flaming Hammerburst.

Old Town. Would be idyllic but for the body parts. Don't forget to kick the chickens.

Those who missed out on Epic Bulletstorm can join the main beta from 25th April to 15th May but only if you preorder Gears of War 3 from GAME or Gamestation. This larger beta will include 2 more modes; Capture The Leader (and keep him as your live meat shield for 30 seconds) and King of The Hill.

Complete a match during every week of the beta to unlock the three remaining bonus weapons:

  • Flaming Lancer: 25th April – 1st May
  • Flaming Sawed-off Shotgun: 2nd May – 8th May
  • Flaming Gnasher Shotgun: 9th May – 15th May

Let’s not forget that even though betas are basically early demo sessions these days, the developers would very much like your feedback on bugs, matchmaking issues, map designs and game modes.

So what’s it like, then?

I spent a morning on the multiplayer, System-Linked around the room to 9 other writers. Unusually for me, I was not terrible. This is largely due to the awesomeness of the new Retro Lancer; a less-inaccurate assault rifle with a bloody great traditional bayonet affixed to the end. Indeed, you might ask why one needs a poxy little knife when you could have a CHAINSAW! Does a chainsaw let you charge full-speed across the map, impale a Locust through the chest and throw him backwards over your shoulder? NO! No, it does not. I saved many a team-mate’s ass by doing just that and it looks extremely impressive to the relieved survivor.

The new sawed-off shotgun is a fun weapon for those who are good at sneaking up on the opposition. As you would expect, it fires with an extremely wide cone; given that the reload time is about 3 seconds, it’s utterly useless unless you’re within touching distance of your opponent. If you miss, run the hell away.

The digger launcher is an interesting beast. Aim it at a target and it fires into the ground, burrowing like a mole until it erupts at your target location, spewing shrapnel and flames. I couldn’t get the hang of aiming it and definitely felt the business end a few too many times. It’s effective, if you know how.

Grenades have been expanded. In addition to the ink and smoke grenades from Gears 2 you now have an incendiary grenade. Rather predictably, it explodes and spews flames all over the target area. Be wary of this – it’s one of the few ways you can cause friendly fire.

Finally, we tried out the heavy sniper rifle. This is a one-shot sniper rifle but the snag is that it takes a long time to aim and shows up as a massive laser aimed right at your opponent. Good if they’re facing away but IMO, not much use if you’re up against a team that communicates with each other. That bright red beam can be seen all across the map.

Team Deathmatch is a familiar mode for everyone. The slight twist that Epic have added to Gears 3 is similar to that of Red River co-op; limited respawns, this time in round-based combat. Your entire team has 15 respawns, giving recklessness a much higher team penalty than in the usual “first-to-x-frags” match.

Thrashball. You can drop the scoreboard on your team if you're feeling particularly bad.

King of The Hill is a combination of the Gears 2 King of the Hill and Annex modes, or so I’ve been told. Where KotH previously had static control points and prevented respawns for the conquering team, the Gears 3 version spawns the control point in a different place after a certain amount of points have been won. You get to respawn, you don’t have to stay in the circle and you score points for execution kills.

Capture The Leader is much as it sounds. Each team must capture the other team’s leader and hold him or her as a meat shield for 30 consecutive seconds. Given that teams are quite small at 5 vs 5, you very quickly learn to work together; keep a bodyguard next to your leader, find choke points and defend all entrances.

For me, Capture The Leader and King of the Hill are definitely the highlights of Gears multiplayer but it very much depends on the map. Old Town is filled with choke points that make it ideal for Capture The Leader. Mercy, unfortunately, won’t be available in the beta but is absolutely brilliant for King of the Hill with a nice combination of exposed and more restricted control points.

Don’t forget, preorder Gears of War 3 from GAME or Gamestation to get access to the beta. Check back this weekend when we’ll publish our interview with executive producer Rod Fergusson.