Monday, April 25

This is how we do it (now, apparently)

For most of  the time I spent playing the original Gears of War, I was embroiled in the Warzone multiplayer mode. Its mechanics were almost Draconian: no respawns, no perks, and the same load out of weapons every single round. To make things even more brutal, the game was not played over dedicated servers, leading to severe host advantage in almost every exchange. You could tell who was hosting too. They seemed to move that little bit faster than you and what's worse, every single bullet they fired was so much more lethal than the blanks loaded in your rifle. The best players (read: not me) knew how to combat this logistical advantage: getting close to their opponents, strafing in tight circles and emptying clip after active reloaded-clip of hot death.

I dubbed such behaviour, shotgun dancing. Reason being that if enough people were involved, it sort of looked like a barn dance with participants switching partners every few seconds. The only difference being of course, that in this case some swung their partner too hard, with their torso thrown across the proverbial dance floor after a few coarse spins. The swirling blacks, browns, greys and reds were sometimes beautiful, if not visceral.

Shotgun dancing still occurs in the Gears of War 3 beta, but not nearly as much as it has in previous instalments. I can attribute this to two factors:
  • Playing on dedicated servers eliminates host advantage, with normally-affected players now attempting to engage in other, more elaborate strategies
  • The sawed-off shotgun is proving to be quite popular, and as it only has a one (extremely freaking powerful) bullet capacity and a long reload time, the chances of success are limited without an active reload
For those unfamiliar with the series, an active reload is a perfectly-timed reload. In the Gears of War games, pressing the reload button brings up a sliding gauge underneath your currently-equipped weapon; pressing the reload button again in a small space on the gauge increases the speed of the reload animation and imbues a damage boost on however many bullets you've fired out of the previous clip. An active reloaded sawed-off shotgun WILL kill you at close range. Usually in spectacular fashion, with at least half of your character model flying away from your current position.

The team deathmatch format which has been introduced in the beta has also affected the way people play. With each team having twenty lives, players have been a little bit more casual in their approach to war. What I mean by that of course is that it is not uncommon for a team to throw away a large portion of their respawns with casual play, only to then intensify their performance across their last few lives. On Thursday night I saw a team come from eight spawns down to then completely shut out my team and destroy our resolve for the next round as a result. I have to admit that I much prefer the ability to have a second, third, sometimes eleventh chance in a match. Sure I may be a drain on a team at times, but I'm a lot less frustrated and having a lot more fun.

I'm not always a dead weight by the way. I'm desperately hoping that the stats for the beta will carry over to the full retail product because I have already attained some ribbons which I thought I had no chance of grabbing. My most prized possession is currently the Vigilant ribbon, awarded for ten or more kills and no deaths in a match. The three MVP awards are also sources of pride. Sure I have plenty more FIFO (first to die in a round) and Carmine's Star (awarded for the most headshot-related deaths in a match) awards than I would care to disclose, but there are some highlights amongst my many indictments.

The only notable addition to the formula introduced in the beta which has caused me grief so far is that of bots when players disconnect mid-match. Their abilities fluctuate wildly. Sometimes they're at the top of the scoreboard (that's no exaggeration, by the way), while at other times they fire their lancers into the air, waiting for their heads to be taken by whomever is holding the longshot. Ultimately I much prefer to have some assistance from AI when an opponent or teammate rage-quits; I just wish they were a little more consistent, that's all.

I'm well on my way to unlocking the Cole Train for the full retail release, which in turn has me somewhat hopeful that I can also acquire the gold retro lancer. This would of course mean that I would have to abandon my new preferred rifle, the hammerburst at some point; the sacrifices we make for gold-plated instruments of death. The promise of new maps and modes also has me salivating more than usual, as Checkout and Thrasball are starting to tire me.

Is anybody joining the fray this week on account of pre-ordering Gears of War 3? What did you guys play over the weekend?


  1. I cannot wait for GoW 3 later this year and what you've written is exciting me to no end. Didn't get up to much this weekend but I did finally get a chance to play donkey kong country returns and it's the balls.

  2. I've got to sit down with my Wii one day and play something on it. So far it is has been nothing but a $300 paperweight.

    GoW3 will be the end of times, my friend. I can see any chance I had at a social life being whittled away by lancers and gnashers.