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Plugged In

Polished ‘Gears of War 3′ is a critical smash

Plugged In

Gears of War 3 has a lot resting on its broad shoulders.

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Gears of War 3 (Microsoft)

It's the final act in the five-year-old Gears of War trilogy, the biggest gun in Microsoft's video game arsenal behind only Halo. It's the most heavily pre-ordered game in Xbox history, with well over a million copies already destined for disc drives. It's Microsoft's top product going into the 2011 holiday season and the company's best hope to outduel fellow blockbusters-to-be like Sony's Uncharted 3 and Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. And it releases next week amid the insane fanfare of over 400 midnight launch parties around the country.

Pressure? Just a little. But like its grizzled star Marcus Fenix, the more you pressure Gears of War 3, the sturdier it gets. Reviews are trickling in, and they're nothing short of stellar.

It's "the most confident release this year," gushes Joystiq's Arthus Gies in a 5/5 review. "The word polish is bestowed often, but Gears of War 3 is embarrassingly well assembled."

He isn't joking about the "bestowed often" part.

Game Informer's Adam Biessener (9.5/10) calls it "a fantastic idea polished to near perfection," while IGN's Casey Lynch (9/10) notes that "everything about Gears 3 exudes polish." To Gamepro's Patrick Shaw (4.5/5), it's "the most polished and satisfying entry in the series."  You could even say that "the degree of refinement and technical polish across every facet of Gears 3 is enough to make most other games look tatty," although Edge Magazine already says so in a 9/10 piece.

We get it. Gears of War 3 is shiny.

But it's also loaded, delivering a potent one-two punch of a solid single-player campaign and the kind of deep multiplayer experience that keeps gamers playing it well after they're through with the story.

"Gears of War 3 delivers some truly poignant moments and boasts some of the best storytelling ever seen in a shooter, complemented by great facial animation, an expressive soundtrack, and excellent pacing," says Gamespot, who give the 9.5/10 game an Editor's Choice award.

Check out the greatest Gears of War trailers

They're also fans of the game's bewildering assortment of multiplayer options, which include co-operative campaign play, cool deathmatch variants, a revamped take on the last game's vaunted Horde mode and a compelling new 'Beast' mode that lets you play as the game's alien enemies.

It's "a fast, frantic mode that feels nicely different from anything else on the disc," says Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann in another perfect 5/5 review.

So do the gears ever stop turning? That depends on how you feel about its impossibly macho, bro-tastic characters, says The Escapist.

"My only real problem with Gears of War 3 is that it doesn't offer much contrast in terms of the overall mood," gripes reviewer Steve Butts, who bemoans not only the "lack of variety or depth among the characters," but  also "the monotonous tone." Still, a 4/5 review is pretty nice.

But it's about as low a score as you'll find out there. With a current 91 rating at Metacritic, most everyone agrees that Gears of War 3 is an absolute barnburner, a fitting end to a fantastic series, and a must-have for Xbox 360 owners. No pressure, indeed.

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