Gun-toting soldiers kill aliens on a far-off planet. These words could be used to describe nearly every triple-A best-seller on the Xbox 360 in the last 6 years.
Gears of War 3 is my great gaming guilty pleasure. I’m well aware of how easy it is to dismiss Gears for lacking in creativity and for catering to the least-intellectual portion of the gaming public. I believe that Gears is a genre in itself, though. The third-person, cover-based shooter? Gears pretty much invented that. Co-op campaigns? Gears has had ’em all along and continues to do it better than just about any competitor. The now-obligatory Horde Mode? Gears did it first. If you take any of the staples of modern shooters and trace them back to their origins, it’s easy to see that the folks at Epic have either outright created them or taken them and made them better.
With Gears of War 3, out today, it appears that Epic is now updating their own conventions in the interest of making them….well, a lot less conventional. Gears 3 includes no less than six different multiplayer modes, including a new version of Horde that incorporates tower defense elements and a new Beast Mode that allows you to play as some of the series’ more eccentric enemy types. Co-op now allows 4 players and includes diverging objectives across a massive 12-hour campaign.
Sure, Gears isn’t exactly Shakespeare…but how many games are, really? Early reviews of Gears of War 3 seem to indicate that Epic is raising the bar here, as well, citing the game’s convincing character development and moments of surprising emotional depth. Who knew Marcus Fenix was such a softy underneath all of that armor?
And now, D.J. weighs in on the rest of this week’s games:
(XBLA, PSN) – Coincidentally, the game that practically invented the modern third-person shooter gets an HD facelift this week. Although the graphics are definitely showing their age, RE4 is still one of the finest games ever made and is worth trying if you somehow haven’t played any of its numerous iterations over the last five years. I already own two versions of it and I have to admit that I’m considering making this the third.
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 (DS) – It’s like Dragon Quest, except you command a team of the series’s iconic monsters to do the battling for you. Expect to lose a few hundred more hours as you train your monsters and watch them evolve into new species that are both terrifying and adorable. Ooh, and you can battle your friends online this time, too.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 – Innocent Sin (PSP) – In case you’re wondering why there was so much fan excitement when Atlus announced this for the U.S., it’s because this is the first time this chapter of the Persona saga has been officially released in English. (Some potentially controversial content prevented the game from being localized on the original PlayStion.) Either gaming is growing up or Atlus couldn’t bear the thought of another decade of angry fan letters and online petitions.
Kirby Mass Attack (DS) – Control up to 10 Kirbys at once in this fully stylus-controlled game. Kirby: Canvas Curse, another stylus-only Kirby game, was the first DS game that really demonstrated the handheld’s potential to me, so I can’t wait to try out this spiritual sequel. It looks like there’s even some 2D shooting mixed in.
Burnout Crash! (PSN, XBLA) – In a strange reversal of the direction they took with Burnout Paradise, Criterion Games has taken its cataclysmic racing series and thrown out the actual racing in favor of focusing on just Crash mode, which now plays out from a top-down perspective. It’s an interesting move since I know Crash mode had quite a niche of followers who were disappointed by its absence in Paradise, but I can’t thinking it loses a lot of its appeal when you aren’t witnessing the ensuing chaos down at the street level in gritty photorealism.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Rezurrection (PSN, PC) – Hey, PlayStation and PC owners: You can finally grab this final Nazi zombie map pack, including one that takes place on the moon. Of course!
Cubixx HD (PSN) – I didn’t hear about this until recently, but it’s essentially a reworking of the classic Qix, except this time the playing field is wrapped around a 3D cube, and there’s… multiplayer deathmatch? I’m a fan of the original, so they’ve got my attention. Watch the trailer here.
Altered Beast (PSN) – WISE FWOM YOUR GWAVE. POWERRR UP! You know what this is.
Correction: Child of Eden isn’t out on PS3 until next week.