The Gears of War 3 Multiplayer Beta is almost upon us. Epic opens the Beta this Monday to those who purchased the Epic edition of Bulletstorm and on April 25 for those who pre-ordered Gears of War 3. However, thanks to our fellow Gears at Microsoft, we were able to sit down with the Beta last week, which gave us a chance to bloody our chainsaw and traditional) bayonets and to experience all the new gameplay features first-hand. For those of you eager to curb stomp some Locust heads, here’s what to expect once the Beta goes live:
The Mantle Kick
How many times have you taken cover at a conveniently-located chest-high wall only to discover that, rather inconveniently, your opponent has chosen the same wall to take cover behind? You each switch to your trusty Gnasher Shotgun and fire off some rounds of blind fire to break the ice, then dance back and forth, surreptitiously popping up to take a proper shot at your opponent. It plays out like a game of Whack-A-Mole, except the hammers are shotguns, and the mole in question is trying to kill you. To do away with such antics, Epic has introduced the Mantle Kick. Executed by pressing the ‘A’ button, the Mantle Kick will send your character vaulting over the wall, delivering a solid kick to anyone foolish enough to be sitting on the other side. Successful execution of the Mantle Kick will leave a victim momentarily stunned, and horribly vulnerable to all manner of blades and bullets. Take that, you stupid mole!
The Gears of War games are all about teamwork, and while a single player can sometimes run the table and massacre an entire team, it usually takes a co-operative effort in order to secure victory. One of the best ways to co-operate is through communication, but with the advent of Party Chat and the sometimes volatile environment found in online games, communicating with the entirety of your team may prove difficult or painful. Thankfully, Gears of War 3 features a new Spotting mechanic that allows players to pinpoint the location of enemies in a non-verbal manner. Clicking the left stick while your crosshair is trained on an enemy will place a marker over their head for a few seconds that can be seen by all teammates, even through walls and obstructions. The best part? If a teammate kills an enemy that you have spotted, you get an XP award. High five!
The Tac/Com, short for Tactical Communication, isn’t anything new to Gears players. However, having practical applications for it in multiplayer matches is! Activated by pressing the Left Bumper, the new and improved Tac/Com will give players much more information during matches than its predecessor, including the ability to see the location of teammates, where weapons spawn on the map, and it will even identify wall-tagged grenades as being friendly or not. Additionally, we learned that Leaders in the new Capture the Leader mode can use the Tac/Com to see the location of their enemies, allowing them to issue more helpful orders to their subordinates. I’m going to miss sneaking up on leaders to steal a victory, but I’ll settle for them quaking in their boots as they see me coming.
Knowing where to find the best weapons on any given level offers a huge strategic advantage, so Epic has included a new Map Preview feature that gives players the skinny on where to find the good stuff. Before each match begins, an illustrated overhead view of the map is shown, complete with designated names for each area of the map, such as ‘The Crane’ and ‘Concession Stands’, to aid players in describing the maps. Furthermore, if players view the map during the game, it will be updated with the location of weapon spawns. This is immensely helpful to new players, and helps me plan my strategy from the moment the match starts, which typically amounts to “I’m heading to the Torque Bow!”
Using an enemy as a meatshield to protect yourself from his or her understandably upset teammates is a hobby of mine. Sometimes I even perform a ventriloquism act, saying things like “if you kill me, you’ll never get that money I owed you,” or, “you wouldn’t shoot a Locust with glasses, would you?” Okay, so I don’t actually do that – not out loud anyways. However, for those looking to add a little more fun to their meatshield experience, Epic has included an awesome new feature: Meatshield Tagging! If you’re carrying a meatshield and have grenades in your possession (any will do), you can press up on the d-pad to attach your grenade to the meatshield, then send the bundle of joy hurtling toward your enemies for an explosive reunion. Even better, if you’re fresh out of grenades, but your meatshield was carrying them, you can use theirs instead! “Get ready for a surprise!”
Here’s the situation: Don and I are about to secure the Torque Bow when a Locust Grunt rushes around the corner, frothing at the mouth, and downs Don with a single shot of his active-charged Gnasher Shotgun. Not wanting to face the rabid brute on my own, I quickly press the ‘X’ button to revive my fallen teammate. However, instead of reviving him, I unexpectedly pick up the Torque Bow and get gibbed during the ensuing pick-up animation. While I typically value the Torque Bow higher than Don’s life, things probably would have played out differently had I actually revived him. Unfortunately, such accidents were common in the first two Gears of War titles, but it has finally been addressed. Epic has made a distinction between actions that use the same buttons by changing some of them to a hold function. To revive a teammate, you tap ‘X’, and to pick up a nearby weapon, you now hold ‘X’ for a second. The same is true for executions; you tap ‘Y’ to quickly curbstomp an enemy, and hold ‘Y’ for the more bloody and satisfying, weapon-specific executions. This should help us avoid situations like the one described above, but I guess it means that I can no longer lie to Don about whether or not I actually intended to revive him instead.
In our brief time with the beta, we fell in love all over again. It has all of the makings of what made the first two Gears of War titles great, but polished to perfection. Veteran Gears will feel right at home, and thanks to many of the new features, players new to the franchise will find it easier to pick up and play than previous instalments. Join us on Monday when we review each of the four maps found in the Beta, as well as post a Q&A with Epic’s crazy canuck, Rod Fergusson.