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Some 44 hours in, I still can't say for sure whether I love or hate Gears of War 3. Sadly, I think the answer is probably both, but the latter feeling makes the game not long for extended multiplayer play.
I suppose in some ways, I should not be overly surprised. Multiplayer Gears frustrations have been present from Marcus and Dom's first appearance on the 360. Namely, the game just appears too unreliable to feel completely fair. It's one thing to lose because of a dearth of skill, and I recognize I am never as good as I would like to be. It's an altogether different thing to feel like the game does not provide an adequate vehicle to determine whether that's actually the case.
And while most games in which the level of frustration makes it easy to put aside, I am always a little bit more disappointed to see it happen to a game that in the best of times, provides an exuberance that I don't know many ever have. Gears, from that initial curb stomp, has been a series that has reveled in its in-your-face, over-the-top, gory glory. We're not just talking teabag triumphs here but rather I am going to pummel you repeatedly until I rip off your own arm and use it to beat yourself silly. Is there a sweeter sound than the Gears of War headshot? Perhaps the in-game character's snide comment celebrating the victorious moment after.
But what happens to the fun when you think you have the drop on someone, approach from behind with the sawed-off shotgun, shoot point blank, and have your moment of conquest turn oh-so-horribly wrong with the prey accepting the hit, turning, and blasting you in the face? Why does everyone's gnasher or hammerburst or lancer seem so much more powerful than mine? Why does my right trigger pull result in non-action on-screen except to pull up an apparent respawn menu? The fun becomes frustration and the frustration leads one to wonder whether play is supposed to make you feel that heat under the collar, the sailor within become unleashed on the unsuspecting ears of your friends, the embarassment that follows.
I'm not saying I haven't been frustrated with other games. I've been upset playing Halo and Modern Warfare. But I've always felt it was because the skill disparity more than anything else. With Gears, I just don't know. I don't know if it's active reloads, weapons tweaks, host advantage. I do know that when I went to a LAN party on Tuesday, inexplicable events occurred. Largely, the same that we've all experienced since Gears 1.
I don't really relish ringing the death knell of Gears multiplayer. It's just a sad reality that's inevitably was not long delayed with the all recent mlutiplayer titles making demands on our time. A lot of people are finding their multiplayer needs met elsewhere, and I don't really blame them. Though there's more Gears 3 to be played, it may be more of the cooperative nature than anything. I feel part of the time devotion is borne more out of loyalty than enjoyment… which is sad considering how much I want to love the game.