Gears of War 3, the most anticipated console game of the year, was released yesterday with a midnight launch at Carrefour in Deira City Centre.
Crowds of gamers were able to pick up their copies and pose for pictures with game character Marcus Fenix, the leader of Delta Squad.
Microsoft, well aware of the cult success of the Gears series, has pitched three different editions of the game, from Dh249 for the game on its own, to limited and epic editions which come with increasing levels of merchandising and goodies.
The global release, five months after its initial release date, comes in plenty of time for the gift-giving season, but Gears 3 has a lot to live up to. The first Gears not only rewrote the book on third-person shooters, it was such good fun that it did more to boost sales of the XBOX 360 than anything else. It was the killer app. Gears 2 improved the gameplay, added more of a storyline and hit us with one Crowning Moment of Awesome after another. Hijacking a Bromak, aerial battles, and, of course, the worm. That last one still gives me tingles.
tabloid! got a preview copy of the game on Monday to find out exactly what's new, and after 10 hours solid co-op play, ending at dawn, I can tell you that Gears 3 is a worthy successor. There are new weapons, new characters and a new enemy, but the gameplay is as good as it ever was. In fact, it may be a little better — the AI seems to have been tweaked, and NPCs seem to be a little more responsive.
This instalment takes place two years after the fall of Jacinto, the last human stronghold. The Locusts are defeated, but the Lument are on the rise. Humanity is scattered, living as scavengers. Even the Cogs have no real organisation.
A nice touch is that there are none of the tanks or armoured fighting vehicles of the previous instalments. Scavenged flatbed trucks and the occasional hijacked enemy transport help boost the post-apocalyptic feel. You do, however, get to drive a combat walker and an aliens-style powerloader.
An optional sequence explains a little of the background to Adam Fenix's disappearance in a flashback. I liked it; my co-op buddy found it confused matters as much as explained them.
As the final part of the trilogy, Gears 3 has an awful lot of wrapping up to do. The fate of Marcus Fenix's dad is the primary plot element, but you do get to explore the backstory of other members of Delta Squad as well.
At times you'll even get to play Cole Train and Baird for the first time.
Anya Stroud, formerly our mission controller, is now a full-fledged Cog, suited and booted and armed to the teeth. There's another female member of the team as well, new character Samantha Byrne.
And there's a new Carmine brother to replace the ones killed on the last outings. Even if I knew his fate, I wouldn't tell you — some things we should find out for ourselves.
I haven't had time to test the new multiplayer modes yet, but the co-operative campaign play is as good as ever. It's now capable of handling four players at once, though I think you'll want a huge TV for this. That'll open up some of the secondary characters.
If you've been looking forward to this one, I don't think you'll be disappointed. It has all the hallmarks that made the first two Gears games legends, with refinements that tweak and improve the experience.
And Gears 3 adds even more story in the main campaign than Gears 2 had.
If you haven't got into the Gears series yet, do so now. It's one of the great computer game series. Trust me, you'll have a blast.
Genre: Third-person shooter
Platform: XBOX 360 exclusively
Prices: Standard edition Dh249