I'll be entirely honest with you: my Gears of War 3 beta stats are currently far from flattering. They were worse, however. As early as yesterday morning, I'd perform six kills from every ten deaths, and apart from earning the "Cole Train," skin, my list of achievements (not literally of course) was embarrassingly stark.
That was of course, until I played a few matches with my brother. I'm talking about less than a handful.
He wasn't setting the battlefield on fire, but he did inspire me to do something. To be more than I had been for the last few days. In one particularly memorable round of Capture the Leader (which is riotous fun, by the way), I captured the enemy leader and ended the round in what felt like less than a minute; as the COG leader no less. Having one of my most trusted wingmen online made me more aware of my performance. Had I been left to my own devices, I have no doubt that I would have been languishing at the bottom of the leaderboards for the rest of the beta.
Capture the Leader was supposed to be made available from week 3 of the beta test (week commencing May 2), but for some reason I could play it as early as Friday night. One member of the Locust and COG squads are selected to be leader, with their respective teams tasked with subduing the enemy leader for a count of thirty seconds. If the leader breaks free from their captors, the count is reset. This leads to some frantic encounters, and it has by far been the most enjoyable mode found in the beta. Matches (best of three rounds) usually take about five minutes, but I've been involved in some that have lasted more than half an hour.
Leaders are empowered with the Tac/Com, which allows them to see the exact locations of enemies and teammates and weapons scattered throughout the map. They are also unable to be killed, and can even down the opposing leader and hold them captive. The obvious trade-off being that they can be captured for the better parts of most rounds (imagine a ten minute firefight where you are unable to do anything but shove someone in the guts, I've been there). Being a leader allows for me to do some brave (read: stupid) things, like wander into a mob of locust - or humans, depending on the rule of fate - to drop an incendiary grenade, and at times escape unscathed. It also allowed for me to do some stupid (read: just shy of braindead) things, like bayonet charge into a group of gnasher-equipped combatants, only to be molested for fifteen minutes straight. Engaging in reckless behaviour as head of the clan will often attract the ire of your teammates. With great power it seems, comes great responsibility.
Captures can be broken by downing or killing the captor (obviously), but they can also be interrupted by smoke and ink grenades. It is often hilarious witnessing three to five smoke grenades land at your feet, just as the round is about to reach its conclusion. What's even funnier is the utter chaos that erupts if the capture is indeed broken. The thick mist of blood, bullets and bombs: it's like being in a mosh pit. Well not exactly, but hopefully you get the idea.
Unfortunately, the rise to popularity of Capture the Leader has rendered the King of the Hill lobbies completely desolate. King of the Hill plays exactly like you would expect it to, with players needing to occupy a designated area on the map to earn points for their team. The zone shifts to a different point on the map once a specific amount of points have been earned. A typical round of KotH can last about fifteen minutes. A match can take as long as an hour. If you're wanting to come to grips with the GoW brand of combat, this would be the place to do it; primarily because of the unlimited respawns and lengthy round times. In one particularly fortuitous match, I was teamed with four bots and pitted against five other AI-controlled opponents. My kill count went past fifty for the match, and as a result my kill/death ratio has increased to 0.8 (eight kills for every ten deaths).
I am also very proud to advise that I have now unlocked both the Cole Train and gold-plated retro lancer for the retail release of Gears of War 3. I am very happy with the following screenshot:
I don't mean to hype this product, but there is little helping it. The weapons are balanced, the mechanics are solid, the improvements are noticable, and the connection quality is unmatched. This, and it's only in beta. I have ridiculously high expectations for the final release in September.
Dutch Note: Sony have announced compensation for the recent craziness affecting the Playstation Network. It's not much, but I don't care as much as I could considering that I've been more than happy to play Borderlands and the Gears of War 3 beta during the service's convalescence.
What are your thoughts on the PSN security breach? Has it allowed for you to consider an alternative system or service (Steam or the Xbox 360, for example)?
Source: EU Playstation Blog