Gears of War 3: Act One Preview

With Gears of War 3 just over a month away, Microsoft invited us to get hands on with the entire first act of the campaign to give you a taste of what to expect on September 20th. Follow on for a spoiler free preview! 

This preview is spoiler free, minus some minor pieces of information, to ensure you can get in the know about what to expect this September without spoiling any of the campaign itself. Certain parts of the campaign that have already been talked about or touched on publically may be mentioned, but no story details or major gameplay moments will be discussed.

Expectations are a funny thing. After just under a three year wait since those final harrowing words from Adam Fenix at the end of Gears 2, I was finally about to get a taste of the first act of this final story for the characters I’d been following for almost five years. Sitting down in a dimly lit blood red room in the middle of London, that feeling of expectation for something incredible was more apparent than ever before. The question is, would Act One deliver on those high expectations?

First, let’s get the surprise out of the way – Gears of War 3 will have a 3D mode for those of you with 3D televisions, which adds yet ANOTHER feature onto a seemingly gargantuan sized game releasing this fall. I didn’t get “eyes on” with the 3D mode due to some unfortunate flight issues cutting the event short, but expect more information to be available in the near future.

Before getting our own hands on with the campaign mode, Rod Fergusson (Executive Producer, Gears of War) introduced the session with a “Previously on Gears of War…” cutscene that recaps the story up until the start of Gears of War 3. If you’ve read the books, it’s going to be a startling wakeup call as to how simply you can explain away the entire trilogy of books to the audience that didn’t read them, and how well-crafted the transition from Gears of War 2 to Gears of War 3 has actually been to accommodate that time gap.

One of the most notable changes to the core of Gears experience from the second the game begins is the heavy investment into story. Even from an extremely unique opening sequence, the story has a much heftier, confident tone thanks to Karen Traviss’ writing standing up to the transition to gaming. Whilst I can’t talk about anything for the sake of avoiding spoilers, just know that fans of the fiction are in for a massive treat come this September.

The meat of this campaign though, and the key to its replayability, is going to lie in the core combat design. This is far and away the best combat design in Gears so far and, judging by the opening act of the campaign, some of the best seen in gaming so far. Gears had ditched the more linear fashion adopted by Gears 2’s campaign in favour of combat bowls, giving you multiple approaches, hidden weapons and different enemies to tackle in almost every single firefight. Diversity is simply everywhere, from the deck of Raven’s Nest with its wide open spaces and multiple levels of combat to below deck with its small cramped nature and its closed corridor flanks. Later in the game, I found myself fighting transforming Lambent Drudges, Lambent Wretches, Lambent Drones and stalks all at once – the combat is simply breathtaking and constantly requires every ounce of your attention, blending that perfect mix of variety, strategy and shooting to create a gripping blend of third person shooter action that was actually pretty exhausting to play.

The enemy variety plays a big part in this – the transformed Lambent provide a much tougher challenge compared to their Locust counterparts, with the transforming drudges coming in various forms depending on the situation – one form sprouts a large tentacle head that fires beams of imulsion that can hit you over cover, whereas another sprouts three tentacles that can allow it to deal with three of you at once. This constant shifting nature of the Lambent adds an element of unpredictability, resulting in a fun new type of enemy to tackle. Later into the act, the Savage Locust make their appearance as a brute force aggressor compared to the adaptive nature of the Lambent. Savage Locust are very much like fighting your usual Locust except they are far deadlier, piling the pressure on with Butcher Cleavers, Retro Lancers, Gnashers and Longshots to force you to keep your head down and find those flanks. They are surprisingly different to fight, and a testament to yet another way Epic finds to constantly keep the variety in gameplay there as much as possible.

Speaking of enemies, the new enemy reveal (if you didn’t catch glimpses of it from our E3 Horde Coverage) is the Gunker – a Lambent Boomer that is going to make you die inside every time you see one on the battlefield. By throwing large balls of imulsion that will hit you THROUGH cover, you’re going to be forced to move from cover to cover constantly as you shoot its glowing lambent shoulder. Be prepared to be shooting that shoulder for a long time though – it takes a full three direct Boomshot hits to take one down on Hardcore, and a lot more Lancer ammo than you’d ever expect without one. Forcing you to move makes it incredibly fun though, and fighting Gunkers alongside transformed Drudges and Lambent Drones proved to make for some thrilling gameplay – just don’t expect to have it easy.

Thankfully, the friendly AI is good enough to make your experience in solo play feel somewhat supported by your teammates. The AI will pick you up fairly quickly after you go down, only committing one character to come and revive you whilst the other two continue to fight off enemies – and yes, that does mean you don’t have to reload the checkpoint anymore if you go “down but not out” in solo play. They’ll also do a fair amount of damage too, and I actually found myself getting surprised when one of my AI teammates finished an enemy off that I hadn’t even fired at yet.

If you’ve been expecting Call of Duty style set pieces for this next iteration of the franchise however, you’re not in luck in Act One. The impression made on me in Act One is that rather than showing incredible stuff happening around you, Epic wants to involve the player in those big situations instead. It’s a refreshing move to see a blockbuster video game actually keeping itself as close to a video game as possible in a market full of “movie wannabes”, but it also means there is a big reliance for those moments to deliver. Some of the unique situations you are given really mix up the gameplay and provide refreshing memorable moments throughout the experience to change up the pace fairly regularly. The problem is that Act One never brought anything incredibly special to the table until nearer to the end, with a moment that I’m sure fans are going to talking about for weeks after the release.

All of this is bookended into one seriously good looking game thanks to the latest iteration of Unreal Engine 3, with some monumental technical gains instantly apparent over Gears of War 2. The lighting system is a simply astounding step up in graphical fidelity, providing realistic light and shadows compared to Gears 2’s relatively flat lighting. The animations in Gears 3, especially when it comes to facial animation, have also had another big step up in creating a sense of fluidity – I was especially impressed at smaller animations that play in certain situations that lend another touch of realism to the game. One good example below deck on Raven’s Nest, where walking through a doorway will have Marcus hold on to the side and step through with a custom animation. I’m also happy to report that I didn’t experience (or notice) any texture pop in during my entire playtime.

But it’s not just the power of Unreal Engine that makes this game so pretty – it’s also the strong art direction and attention to detail that is absolutely everywhere. From the abundance of NPCs with custom animations and routines in non-combat areas to small little items that just give a feeling of belonging in the universe, the entire act felt like no area had to be skipped over and rushed. The sheer variety of areas you visit, and how much they differ from one to the other, kept things extremely fresh, and it was always exciting to reach the next area just to see something new.

All in all, it took me around two and a half hours to complete the entire first Act on my own with the difficulty set to Hardcore. Whilst Rod made clear that every act length is different, it’s a staggeringly impressive length to open the campaign with, and could be a telling indication on a lengthy campaign mode at a time when other campaign experiences are becoming shorter and shorter. The entire game is designed around this seemingly “variety first” approach, and throughout the whole first act no two combat situations felt the same, whether due to the variety of enemies thrown at you, a gameplay twist, or even just down to being in a brand new environment. The only question remains is whether this very strong opening can continue over the remaining 26 chapters of the campaign, but all indications point to an extremely refined and perfectly paced rollercoaster ride this September that will live up to expectations – and then some.

Gearhead Facts

• Easter eggs are everywhere, and they are awesome. You’ll have a lot of fun finding them.
• The Retro Lancer blindfire recoil is insane now – your reticule shakes all over the place.
• The sensitivity options have now been increased even further, up to a maximum of 20. Your old beta settings won’t feel the same so prepare to find your sweet spots again.
• Seeing a Crimson Omen on the wall to alert you that COG tags are nearby is so awesome. You won’t realise how much you missed it until you feel that urge to hunt for it surge through you again.
• I got to play roughly 10 minutes of Arcade Mode in solo play using two mutators – Headless Chicken (Headshots don’t kill enemies, they run around still shooting for a while before dying) and Scavenger (No ammo boxes).
• The Sawed-Off didn’t appear once for me during the entirety of Act One
• Trishka from Bulletstorm voices a character in the game

Check out the cut up spoiler free gameplay footage from Act One of the campaign below! Let us know what you think in the comments!

  • Felipe L.

    Great article Hooligunn! My anticipation level has been increased passed 100% now! September 20th won’t come any faster…

  • TAO Devil

    Absolutely incredible.

  • Becca

    This article has gotten me even MORE excited for the campaign (which I didn’t think was possibly possible)!! Extremely good coverage of the gameplay. I’m super, super excited for all the never ending and quick moving battle. That makes it so much more fun in my opinion. And for some reason, I’ve always loved lambent creatures. The fact that they just explode is so epic. CAN’T WAIT! :)

  • Looks Amazing!

    WOW! I can’t wait! September is gonna be amazing!

  • AFX Acid

    Really nice review. Pretty much answered all my questions and left me wanting more, 9/20 can’t come soon enough!

  • Rimzee

    A big thanks to GCON for this incredible review. I never knew my hype levels could go up one more gear than they are now

  • RTI_22

    Can’t wait! this is awesome, good stuff Liam.

  • Sab

    Amazing Article, I’m so excited for this game I can’t wait. PTO for the day after released!

  • Madfish

    Great job Hooligunn. You have been busy since I was on the scene in Gears 1!

  • Andrew

    I…. am thoroughly astonished…

  • Stacie

    Thank you for a spoiler-free preview of Gears 3! This has only added to the excitement and I truly cannot wait for Sept 20!

  • http://hosnap.wordpress.com Paulo Gomes

    Can’t W8 to play

  • http://www.p3l-clan.co.uk Ravenhill

    Been a fan from the first, been there all the way and after reading/watching that im even more impressed than before, you can just see how much effort has been put into this game, there last game of the trillogy will not be a let down, cannot wait to get my hands on it 20th sept.

  • TwisTed Balance

    Since you’re showing campaign gameplay, does that mean that we can expect singleplayer demo (like a bot-match thing or campaign mission) ?

  • Hitman PeTeY

    Great article Hooligunn, This game is going to be so good. The Gears universe is so awesome and I agree that having Karen Traviss writing the campaign can only make things better. Gears 3 us going to be worth every penny. How much goodness is crammed into this game??? I can’t wait!!

  • Hooligunn

    Thanks for all the kind comments everyone. Glad you enjoyed it :)

  • Gunblade

    this looks fabulous!!

  • Pingback: Epic Games’ Rod Fergusson Goes On a Gears 3 Tweet-spree « The Gamers Pulse

  • Fisherr

    This is so awesome Hooligunn, i just can’t wait to experience everything for myself. The game is gonna rock and it looks like it’s even longer than we thought.
    2 and half hours for the first Act? and we have 26 chapters for the entire game? This is an epic scale of one of the most epic games in the history of Xbox.
    I simply can’t wait to play.

  • Pingback: Gears of War 3 Act 1 Preview | The Indy Source

  • Pingback: Gears of War 3 Act 1 preview (spoiler free) | KingRaven.com

  • Pingback: Gears Of War 3 Campaign Is Trickier Than Its Predecessors | Kotaku Australia

  • Pingback: Gears of War 3 - Confimed Facts from GCON | GearsBlog

  • http://www.pixelitis.net Ranyos

    OMG SEXY-TASTIC!!!

  • Pingback: Gears of War 3: Act 1 Footage [SPOILER-FREE] | GearsBlog

  • weazel14ls

    thank you for the spoiler free info. Sep. 20th can’t come fast enough.

  • Popogeejoe

    Goosebumps……cant wait, little over 30 days and it still feels like its years away.

  • Joe

    nice like all the other comments im really hyped about this game and cant wait to try the campaign along with all the other modes

  • http://twitter.com/k3ithbibat K3ITH

    *I’ve noticed a difference between the youtube-leaked and the interviewed version of act 1, the prologue.

    In the youtube-leaked version, after Marcus wake up and find Dom n’ Jace.. they reunite with Anya, who is seen to be talking to a another COG without a helmet who has orange/brown facial hair (almost like Dom)

    In the GameFront interview (9min), it shows the same scene but with Anya talking to normal (helmet-wearing) COG soldier..

    why is this? I tried to to a print-screen pic of the youtube-leaked version but it was fortunately removed.. lol

  • JAYBEE

    nice article boiiiii… sooo pumped for this :P

  • Alexander

    holy shit man counting down the days till gears 3 eh its to long to wait

  • Sean

    Best part about gears 3 is that it comes out on my birthday September 20 baby the Cole train is in my house!!wwwwooooooo

    • asswipe killer

      who the fuck gives a shit about your god dam shity ass birthday?
      because I don’t.
      so shut the fuck up u little white boy and go give me a bj if u know what I mean.
      ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1003766504 David

    WOW!!! it’s amazing

  • VolkodlakM

    i have only one word for this: epic

  • Yoda

    Looks lame!

  • asswipe killer

    shit i love this game

  • Lucky Luke

    So hyped for this now. All aboard the hype train baby! WOO!

  • AyRoks

    I so cannot wait for this game! Anticipation has been building & building, & the more trailers & videos I watch the worse it gets. Of course I can’t stay away from them though lol, quite the opposite actually, I keep looking for more & more new screens & footage to tease myself with. Gears3 = EPIC Awesomeness!!

  • connor

    epic this is the one to beat no other game can compare new weapons,enimies and charecters cant wait for september 20th :)

  • CSV0107

    As many of you, I can’t wait for this game to come out!!!!!!
    Are we on September 20th now???????? =P

  • Blazman83

    I cant remember the last time i was so excited, seriously like a kid at Christmas and im 28! Great article mate !!

    • Alex

      I feel the same way & im 24 :)

  • Alex

    Hey Hooligun.. Amazing Article.. play w. u a few times on GOW2 & looking forward to playning on GOW3.. Gamertag -Ism0kedatdr0x see ya around

  • Pingback: small jobs

Comments

Felipe L. 15-08-2011, 09:12

Great article Hooligunn! My anticipation level has been increased passed 100% now! September 20th won’t come any faster…

TAO Devil 15-08-2011, 09:19

Absolutely incredible.

Becca 15-08-2011, 09:22

This article has gotten me even MORE excited for the campaign (which I didn’t think was possibly possible)!! Extremely good coverage of the gameplay. I’m super, super excited for all the never ending and quick moving battle. That makes it so much more fun in my opinion. And for some reason, I’ve always loved lambent creatures. The fact that they just explode is so epic. CAN’T WAIT! :)

Looks Amazing! 15-08-2011, 09:25

WOW! I can’t wait! September is gonna be amazing!

AFX Acid 15-08-2011, 09:58

Really nice review. Pretty much answered all my questions and left me wanting more, 9/20 can’t come soon enough!

Rimzee 15-08-2011, 10:00

A big thanks to GCON for this incredible review. I never knew my hype levels could go up one more gear than they are now

RTI_22 15-08-2011, 10:08

Can’t wait! this is awesome, good stuff Liam.

Sab 15-08-2011, 10:24

Amazing Article, I’m so excited for this game I can’t wait. PTO for the day after released!

Madfish 15-08-2011, 11:07

Great job Hooligunn. You have been busy since I was on the scene in Gears 1!

Andrew 15-08-2011, 11:30

I…. am thoroughly astonished…

Stacie 15-08-2011, 11:48

Thank you for a spoiler-free preview of Gears 3! This has only added to the excitement and I truly cannot wait for Sept 20!

Paulo Gomes 15-08-2011, 12:39

Can’t W8 to play

Ravenhill 15-08-2011, 13:03

Been a fan from the first, been there all the way and after reading/watching that im even more impressed than before, you can just see how much effort has been put into this game, there last game of the trillogy will not be a let down, cannot wait to get my hands on it 20th sept.

TwisTed Balance 15-08-2011, 13:06

Since you’re showing campaign gameplay, does that mean that we can expect singleplayer demo (like a bot-match thing or campaign mission) ?

Hitman PeTeY 15-08-2011, 13:33

Great article Hooligunn, This game is going to be so good. The Gears universe is so awesome and I agree that having Karen Traviss writing the campaign can only make things better. Gears 3 us going to be worth every penny. How much goodness is crammed into this game??? I can’t wait!!

Hooligunn 15-08-2011, 14:38

Thanks for all the kind comments everyone. Glad you enjoyed it :)

Gunblade 15-08-2011, 14:40

this looks fabulous!!

Epic Games’ Rod Fergusson Goes On a Gears 3 Tweet-spree « The Gamers Pulse 15-08-2011, 15:45

[...] promoted the “spoiler-free” (not his words) Gears act one preview at Gearscon. They may not have included plot spoilers but they do a great job explaining how the Gears 3 [...]

Fisherr 15-08-2011, 16:14

This is so awesome Hooligunn, i just can’t wait to experience everything for myself. The game is gonna rock and it looks like it’s even longer than we thought.
2 and half hours for the first Act? and we have 26 chapters for the entire game? This is an epic scale of one of the most epic games in the history of Xbox.
I simply can’t wait to play.

Gears of War 3 Act 1 Preview | The Indy Source 15-08-2011, 16:17

[...] special treat.Below we have multiple videos showcasing some of Act 1 in the campaign mode. Shall we?Source — Gearscon(function(){var [...]

Gears of War 3 Act 1 preview (spoiler free) | KingRaven.com 15-08-2011, 16:26

[...] of War 3 and *gasp!* they include a video! I’ll simply leave you with this snippet but you must read the whole article: Speaking of enemies, the new enemy reveal is the Gunker – a Lambent Boomer that is going to make [...]

Gears Of War 3 Campaign Is Trickier Than Its Predecessors | Kotaku Australia 15-08-2011, 17:06

[...] promoted the “spoiler-free” (not his words) Gears act one preview at Gearscon. They may not have included plot spoilers but they do a great job explaining how the Gears 3 [...]

Gears of War 3 - Confimed Facts from GCON | GearsBlog 15-08-2011, 18:17

[...] Source: GCON [...]

Ranyos 15-08-2011, 19:55

OMG SEXY-TASTIC!!!

Gears of War 3: Act 1 Footage [SPOILER-FREE] | GearsBlog 15-08-2011, 21:33

[...] Source: GCON [...]

weazel14ls 15-08-2011, 21:46

thank you for the spoiler free info. Sep. 20th can’t come fast enough.

Popogeejoe 15-08-2011, 22:22

Goosebumps……cant wait, little over 30 days and it still feels like its years away.

Joe 16-08-2011, 00:00

nice like all the other comments im really hyped about this game and cant wait to try the campaign along with all the other modes

K3ITH 16-08-2011, 03:52

*I’ve noticed a difference between the youtube-leaked and the interviewed version of act 1, the prologue.

In the youtube-leaked version, after Marcus wake up and find Dom n’ Jace.. they reunite with Anya, who is seen to be talking to a another COG without a helmet who has orange/brown facial hair (almost like Dom)

In the GameFront interview (9min), it shows the same scene but with Anya talking to normal (helmet-wearing) COG soldier..

why is this? I tried to to a print-screen pic of the youtube-leaked version but it was fortunately removed.. lol

JAYBEE 16-08-2011, 04:25

nice article boiiiii… sooo pumped for this :P

Alexander 16-08-2011, 04:30

holy shit man counting down the days till gears 3 eh its to long to wait

Sean 17-08-2011, 00:12

Best part about gears 3 is that it comes out on my birthday September 20 baby the Cole train is in my house!!wwwwooooooo

asswipe killer 17-08-2011, 22:13

who the fuck gives a shit about your god dam shity ass birthday?
because I don’t.
so shut the fuck up u little white boy and go give me a bj if u know what I mean.
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

David 17-08-2011, 11:23

WOW!!! it’s amazing

VolkodlakM 17-08-2011, 12:38

i have only one word for this: epic

Yoda 17-08-2011, 12:58

Looks lame!

asswipe killer 17-08-2011, 22:07

shit i love this game

Lucky Luke 18-08-2011, 12:32

So hyped for this now. All aboard the hype train baby! WOO!

AyRoks 19-08-2011, 14:49

I so cannot wait for this game! Anticipation has been building & building, & the more trailers & videos I watch the worse it gets. Of course I can’t stay away from them though lol, quite the opposite actually, I keep looking for more & more new screens & footage to tease myself with. Gears3 = EPIC Awesomeness!!

connor 24-08-2011, 06:31

epic this is the one to beat no other game can compare new weapons,enimies and charecters cant wait for september 20th :)

CSV0107 01-09-2011, 13:09

As many of you, I can’t wait for this game to come out!!!!!!
Are we on September 20th now???????? =P

Blazman83 02-09-2011, 11:05

I cant remember the last time i was so excited, seriously like a kid at Christmas and im 28! Great article mate !!

Alex 09-09-2011, 14:10

I feel the same way & im 24 :)

Alex 09-09-2011, 14:09

Hey Hooligun.. Amazing Article.. play w. u a few times on GOW2 & looking forward to playning on GOW3.. Gamertag -Ism0kedatdr0x see ya around

small jobs 15-11-2011, 15:06

small jobs…

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