Gears of waaaah

I’ve been gaming long enough to know what I will and won’t like. Generally speaking, if it involves shooting space aliens in the face I’ll like it; if it doesn’t, I probably won’t.

I’m being a bit facetious – my favourite games list includes the obvious Half-Life 2s, Mass Effects and Deus Exes, along with interesting failures such as Alan Wake – but generally speaking I enjoy fairly dumb first-person shooters and can’t be arsed with epics such as Fallout 3. The Gears of War series, then, should be right up my street: I enjoyed the first one, and kinda enjoyed the second one.

Gears of War 3, though, is one of the dullest games I’ve played for a long time.

I’m pretty sure the problem is with the game rather than me.

Games are all about suspension of disbelief, and Gears 3 keeps buggering that up. It’s got far too many cutscenes for a game whose entire plot can be summarised as “you must shoot space aliens in the face”, and those cutscenes keep grabbing control from you: instead of big action scene/short cinematic/big action scene, the rhythm is more short action scene/overlong cinematic/short action scene. In one section, having sat through a cinematic, you get to shoot two things twice before – yes! – another cinematic.

The risible dialogue, cliched banter and general tedium of the cutscenes wouldn’t be so bad if the combat rocked, but it doesn’t. The weapons don’t have any heft to them – I’m fresh to this from playing Deus Ex:HR, where shotguns kicked, machine guns rattled and rocket launchers boomed. Even through a decent amp and fairly loud speakers, the guns feel and sound like peashooters.

Then there are the bosses, something that also marred DX:HR. The “giant boss with a single vulnerable point who charges at you and crushes you if you don’t move fast enough” boss-fight is a pain in the arse in any game, but it’s particularly annoying in Gears. The boss bits just go on forever, requiring no skill beyond the ability to keep playing past the point of utter tedium.

Last but not least, there’s the problem of your squad. If like me you’re crap at games, Gears 3 feels as if it’s playing itself: by the time you’ve got your sorry arse down to the main field of battle, your artificially intelligent squadmates have already turned the space monsters to mince.

Taken together, the feeling I get playing the game is of disconnection: no matter what buttons I press or triggers I pull, the game is happening entirely without my involvement, and nothing I do is of any consequence.

I get enough of that in the real world.