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Sept 22 , 2011
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‘Gears of War 3'

By Matthew Scott Hunter

Saving the best for last

(M) *****

Microsoft Game Studios

Xbox 360

It's been 16 years since "Emergence Day," when the Locust Horde erupted from the ground to destroy humanity, and the last survivors have been pushed into tiny, isolated settlements. Things never seem to get any better for Marcus Fenix and his burly squad of "gears." Fortunately, things never stop getting better for "Gears of War" fans. The closing chapter in the "Gears" trilogy (at least until the developers decide to swap the word "trilogy" for the number "4") is even more bleak, gritty and brutal than anything that came before it. But while the environments are grimy, the gameplay is polished to an immaculate shine. The controls almost seem to anticipate your commands. You can roll into cover, pop up for a couple quick headshots, vault over the embankment and kick the crooked teeth out of a Locust on the other side in the process, all with a few intuitive button presses. Our heroes may still look like bulky tanks, but in this installment, they handle like sleek sports cars.

The campaign manages to tie off all the story's loose ends satisfyingly in about twenty hours (or longer if you go straight for the toughest difficulty settings), then it's on to multiplayer. "Gears 2" brought us Horde Mode, in which you and friends could team up against increasingly nasty waves of enemies. Now that mode's been embellished with a reward system, allowing you to earn money with each kill, which can be used between rounds to purchase advanced weapons, defenses to fortify your position, or even cardboard cut-outs of your squad that are apparently convincing enough to draw fire from the Locust Horde. Add to that the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the territory modes, and you've got a game that'll keep you busy long after other games have tried and failed to imitate it. CV

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