The Best Hangover Cure

As should be obvious from the date of my last post, my blog has been on a bit of a break while I finish up my Ph.D. degree. However, I hit a major milestone this past weekend when I turned in a nearly final draft of my thesis to my committee. After doing a bit too much celebrating on Sunday night, I nursed a brutal hangover on Monday using an old family remedy: fluids, aspirin, and the Gears of War 3 beta.
My initial reactions are pretty positive. As one might expect, not much of the game is fundamentally different from its predecessors. I was able to jump in and play as though I’d never left, like these months of pretending to love Black Ops were just a bad dream. It seems like they refined the button overloading a little bit; for example, you now have to hold buttons down to do certain things, which reduces the chances of your character absently rifling through an ammo crate when you want him to be assisting a dying teammate instead.
Also, there appear to be two new default weapons. The first was a “Retro Lancer” which has a bayonet instead of a chainsaw. I think the balance here is a faster instant-kill melee, at the cost of a lower shooting accuracy. Instead of your standard Gnasher, there is now the alternative of a sawed-off shotgun, which can instantly turn anything into a pile of bloody chum, but can only do so one shell at a time.
You must get a tax break if you include a mall as one of your multiplayer maps, because it seems to be all the rage these days.
A few other new weapons I found scattered about were an incendiary grenade and a “Digger Launcher”. The latter adds a nice twist to the cover-based combat, as it can burrow under walls to explode an enemy hiding on the other side.  If you have a terrible sense of direction like me, then you’ll be pleased to see that the loading screen includes a map of the current multiplayer level, complete with locations of where to find these precious toys. Just don’t expect to be the only one making a beeline for the nearest Mulcher.
Although not much has changed on the surface, that doesn’t mean that a lot of new work hasn’t gone into the game. I get the impression that designing a good multiplayer experience is kind of a thankless job, as people only notice when something is unbalanced, such as when a map is poorly designed or a particular weapon is too powerful. Though things look good right now, it will take some time to see whether Gears of War 3 gets it just right.  Of course, that’s why they have these beta tests… and if it means I don’t have to wait until the fall to get my Gears on, then I’m certainly happy to help.

What Do You Think?