Video Game Review: Gears of War 3


Genres: Third-Person Shooter, Sci-fi

Companies: Epic Games, Microsoft Studios, Unreal Engine 3

Platform: Xbox 360

4/5

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Release date: September 20th, 2011

Modes: Single-player, Co-op, Multiplayer


 

The Gears of War franchise, over a oddly short space of time, became one of the most influential and arresting video game franchises. Inspiring many movies, TV shows, games, and fetishistic sketches, the sci-fi extravaganza breathed new life into the third-person shooter and dystopian action-thriller formats. Microsoft and Epic Games’ love child is indeed a big, badass leader in small-screen, interactive violence. Anyone who has picked up a console is aware of everything from the chainsaw machine gun to Marcus Fenix’s intimidating physique. The third installment is a creepy and scintillating franchise capper. Its sniper-like focus on story and character elevates it above the horde of familiar dystopian-action spectacles.

The narrative, initially developed by sci-fi author Karen Traviss, pulls Fenix and his merry band of comrades – Dom, Cole, and Baird – back into the filth. After the events of Gears of War and Gears of War 2, the troupe is seen as humanity’s best hope defeating the Locust hordes. Having lost Jacinto (the last human stronghold), the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) has retreated to the CNV Sovereign to plan one last mission for mankind’s survival. During their latest rendezvous, a new, shiner enemy, the Lambent, mortally wound key officials including Chairman Prescott and Captain Michaelson.

Obviously, the simplistic, hokey story was not likely to pick up any IGN trophies or major recommendations. The raw, untainted masculinity resides on the surface and underneath. With its assortment of silly one-liners, bromantic interludes, and David Ayer-style tough-guy characters, it is difficult to expect anything Shakespearean. However, these fun, frivolous elements add to its undeniable charm. gears_of_war_3_wallpaper_by_welterz-d4r68p9The man-tears come thick and fast, with Marcus discovering his father, Adam, may still be alive and key to the planet’s survival. Several sub-plots, surprisingly, help develop its supporting cast. Cole, having been a Thrashball superstar, discovers his home town’s destruction. His fight/thrashball set-pieces darts around Gears‘ familiar gameplay. In addition, Fenix and Dom’s bond is poked and prodded to tug our heartstrings.

Of course, the visual style, pacing, and gameplay attract the gaming world’s immediate attention unlike those of any other shoot-em-up. The Heads-up Display (HUD) provides a clear analysis of progress and stability in battle. Its patented cover and squad tactics, guiding almost every action sequence, make for a more exciting and adventurous gameplay format than most. Flipping between four high-powered weapons, the player is once again charged with blasting holes into each nameless, faceless adversary. Indeed, the game’s more thrilling aspects revolve around shootout, fistfights, and explosions. The sprint-between-barricades segments, held up by its single-take tracking style, never get tiresome. In addition, Steve Jablonsky’s thunderous score rumbles throughout all five chapters.

Despite little change between this and preceding instalments, this franchise is driven by its rush-of-blood spectacle. This trilogy-capper, like the others, revels in its thirst for blood and grime. The chainsaw duels, amped up by new weapons and control functions, are thrilling, gut-wrenching interludes. From its cinematic cut-scenes to expansive vistas and bold colour palette, the game is fun to play and watch. Gears of War 3, thanks to its lengthy story, thrilling gameplay, and efficient multiplayer layout, is one of the year’s more accessible actioners. Surely, Fenix and co will be back for a fourth round of bro-hugs and bloodshed.

Verdict: A brutal, ballsy, and badass action-adventure.

L.A. Noire Review – Cops, Criminals & Controllers


Genres: Third person shooter, Open world, Action-adventure

Companies: Rockstar, Team Bondi, Take-Two Interactive

Platforms: PS3, X-Box 360, PC

4½/5


Release date: May 17th, 2011

Mode: single player


 

The never-ending Grand Theft Auto series has taken the world by storm. Whether it’s the guiltless thrills of drifting through an open Pro-America universe or the weird giggle had with killing prostitutes with a muscle car, Rockstar have found their winning formula. So if something isn’t broken than why try to fix it?

Instead of tampering with already golden property, they have duplicated their delectable game development style to fit other genres. Along with the rollicking thrills already had with Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire continues their successes. A controversial premise to be sure- bringing life back to an ageing film genre while using film technology to create a cinematic interactive landscape. I am however happy to report that noir has never been this dark. It turns out gamers and cinephiles can interact every once in a while. Yipee!

Checking off the film noir tropes.

This cinematic adventure through L.A. streets is a gorgeous yet stifling way of connecting to a classier time. The story is about as comical and generic as 1950s detective thrillers come. Breaking it down; a rebellious cop named Cole Phelps, his numerous police partners and the scum of L.A. walk into a bar. Well actually…they walk in and out of several. This interchanging labyrinth of criminals and cowboys clashes whenever Phelps is on the scene. You already know this type of law-man; war veteran, smart pinstripe suit, trigger finger and a nasty scowl smudged into his face.

Speaking of faces, L.A. Noire has broken more ground than just L.A’s street scape.  Rockstar and Australian company Team Bondi have used 1950s archival footage and snapshots to create a truly authentic recreation of the City of Angels. Aerial photos capture a city kept inside many rectangular windows throughout history. The result stands alongside Rockstar’s similarly detailed universes. San Andreas and the american plains look conventional next to L.A. Noire‘s labyrinth of stark colours and outrageous panoramas. Its use of motion capture technology is also a positive. Having already stretched the bonds of film technology, L.A. Noire‘s characters deliver a startling level of immersion. Each face is rendered to perfection, with each wrinkle and facial expression adding to the already energetic experience.

One of many horrific crime scenes.

But what about the gameplay itself. Well, Rockstar’s open world formula has once again proven to be successful. Along with GTA and Read Dead‘s anti-hero lead characters, Phelps is yet another gun toting relic. Playing him is a treat, however, as this bad cop continually ignores the good cops and steals the spotlight. The aforementioned facial constructions look top-notch during the difficult interrogation sequences. CSI, eat your heart out  – the gamer is now in control! In each chat with members of L.A’s criminal circus, three choices- truth, doubt and lie- can be picked to analyse a crook’s answer. Get this right- you’re top cop. Get them wrong, however, you risk becoming the police station idiot. These difficult interrogations are still better than the car controls. Sure, the chases move well. But its hard to manoeuvre cars that handle like school-buses.

L.A. Noire is best served to a true media nut. With many references to films such as The Untouchables, Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, they can enjoy how one medium has cooperated with another to create one hell of a game. Just imagine what could come next. Goodfellas as a first person shooter, perhaps?

Verdict: The ultimate film noir experience!