For: Xbox 360
Developer: Epic
Publisher: Microsoft
When? 20 September 2011

What’s it all about? The third act in Microsoft’s second most important platform exclusive, and Epic’s marquee title for showing off the Unreal Engine. Gears of War 3 resumes the war betwixt human and locust (underground dwellers of planet Sera) and throws a new enemy into the mix, the freshly mutated Lambent.

While little concrete is yet known of the solo-player campaign don’t expect too much different from previous games, after all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Dashing to cover will remain the order of the day as munitions rain down, while Gears’ third-person vantage point remains untouched, so too will the all-American heroes of the franchise, but hey, that fist-punching, in your face dialogue is all part of the fun.

What you can expect to be added however is a four-player co-op campaing, much more balanced weaponry including the addition of iron sights to all guns for much improved aiming and the addition of a couple of new weapons to boot.

Having recently played the multiplayer aspect of Gears 3 we came away suitably impressed. Newly mapped buttons make accidentally picking up a gun, rather than assisting a stricken comrade, a thing of the past. Basically, a quick button tap might heal a team mate and holding that same button trigger a gun pick up. This tightness of control lessening those frustrating, fiddly control related deaths.

Gears’ multiplayer has always been slower than the usual, a cagey affair of cover and flanking, peppered with the occasional burst of acceleration as you sprint toward your prey with chainsaw at the ready. Gears 3 continues that theme but seems even more claustrophobic and tactical, largely thanks to even better weapons balancing and some well crafted maps which concentrate encounters.

Brutally effective, the multiplayer is further enhanced by plenty of unlockables, from character skins to golden lancer rifles, while the team deathmatch mode features a respawn countdown, get through them and that’s it, die and you’ll be a frustrated spectator for the rest of the match – a respectful nod to Counter-Strike. You’ll be able to see all this for yourselves of course in April when the public beta hits.

Worth the wait? Cliff Bleszinski’s stamp is all over Gears of War 3, from the uncompromising, non-stop action through to the highly tuned production values of art and interface. Add to that equal measures of tactical play and brute violence in multiplayer skirmishes, and we should be looking at a special title when September rolls around – now where did I put my chainsaw?