So, I’ve been playing the Gears of War 3 Beta for about three weeks now, and boy am I happy with what I’ve seen. Brutal, tactical, deceptively quick and full of those ‘Yes! I did that… me!’ type moments that multiplayer games need if they’re to be successful.

My personal highlight so far, other than simply getting comfortable with everything – that’s active reloads, melee attacks, controlling charges, proper grenade trajectory and getting to grips with all those may unique weapons? Seizing a ring on King of Hill, taking cover before springing out on three hostiles, downing each with a solid Gnasher headshot before switching to the retro lancer and dispensing with the rest of their team; just as the score ticked to the map winning 170 mark and so cementing me as MVP for the game – nice.

If the above sentence means anything to you, you’ll be either thinking “fair enough, nice play” or else (more likely) thinking “that’s nothing, I remember when I did X, Y & Z”. That’s the magic of the game really, the addictiveness of knowing that your next game might just lead to the kind of heroics you know you’re capable of; that and the constant feedback provided by winning ribbons and medals for pulling off feats of awesome.

From the downright unwelcomed (first to die in a round), to the mundane (most assists – the bane of my life), to the great (most executions) and the nigh on impossible (a quad – meaning you killed 5 enemies in double-quick fashion), the constant influx of ribbons really keeps everything ticking over, rewarding and stroking the ago as they roll in. The trickier to get – but all the better for that – medals add even more experience, thus ranking you up all the faster and then there are the unlockables, extra skins, player characters, etc., which reward with extra content.

Thus far three game types have been unleashed Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Capture the Leader. Though each plays fine as standalone modes, I’d say there is still a certain amount of balancing to be done between them if experience levels are to be brought in line. For example, King of the Hill will commonly see players achieve over 10,000 experience points from a single game, whereas on Capture the Leader you’ll be pleased to take 3,000. It’s a disparity which will cause the XP hungry to turn to the one game type which can’t be right now can it.

Luckily Cliff Bleszinski seems committed to fine-tuning given his steady stream of Twitter updates based on user feedback so there’s a good chance that will be sorted. Thus far he’s already confirmed little things like the issue with jumping off the raised platform of Checkout will be fixed.

That brings us to the maps. Checkout (based in a super market) and Thrashball (based in a stadium) are small, claustrophobic areas where the shotgun most-often reigns supreme. Meanwhile, Old Town takes us to a weirdly non-futuristic village while my personal fave, Trenches, takes place in what could be an archaeological dig site; complete with vision-dampening sandstorm – perfect for those retro lancer charges.

For the record my preference of game types goes King of the Hill, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Leader. The reason being that the latter is a little hit and miss as being the Leader (a special command character) is pretty lame; forcing you to spend a good chunk of the game passively in the clutches of the enemy – yawn.

On the whole though, what can we say except brilliant? The heaviness of the weapons, the lag free servers, the way each shot really thunders into you (something conspicuous by its absence in Brink, another title I’ve been playing lately) and the fact most games are nicely balanced, creating some genuinely tense endings. I was always a Counter-Strike kid back in the day and that Gears of War 3 captures some of its classic sudden death encounters is good news in my book.

Roll on September; I’m just trying to work out what I’ll do with myself once the beta ends – what’s the weather been like lately?