It's now 1957, and the war against the Chimera continues. Alas the hero of the first two games Nathan Hale has finally run out of time, and is in fact dead at the hands of Joseph Potella, the hero of this game. Joseph, despite having no choice but to shoot Nathan, is given a dishonourable discharge.
This does not deter Joseph from carrying on the fight, far from it. He is now part of an underground resistance force based in Virginia. He fights to protect his wife Sarah and his infant son from the Chimeran threat. But he is forced to leave their side and reluctantly follows a scientist to New York to shut down a Chimeran device that is opening some sort of rift. Not good news at all!
As he departs the resistance group, they are attacked by a massive weapon known as a terraformer, and he vows his wife he will meet his family again. But things go wrong as after a harrowing pursuit and attack along the Mississippi river, he is parted from the scientist. Can he find him again and more importantly, survive long enough to get back to his wife and young son?
That breaks down the plot to it's bare bones and there may be more to the story but that's for you to discover for yourself. What you have here though is a desperate battle for survival, moving from one engagement to the next with just your wits, and if you have another player, a partner to rely on.
So let's pick up that Auger in the corner, and get ready to take on the hordes one more time.
The campaign mode is the meat and veg of this game as you would expect. And it's a welcome return to the cooperative gameplay that was present in the first game but reduced to a somewhat weak skirmish mode in the multiplayer options of the second. It's style has had an overhaul that's for sure. This game is the most visceral incarnation so far. Blood will spurt and spatter as the slugs hit home, and it is far more 'gears' inspired in that area.
But it also now bares a resemblance to a survival horror in some parts. One section sees you in an abandoned factory, with a gun and a torch as you walk the ruins, hunted by zombie like creatures that emerge from Invasion of the Body Snatcher type pods. The scenery has an atmosphere that reminds me of Fallout 3 mixed with a dash of Metro 2033. Don't get me wrong, this is not a criticism at all. Far from it, this gives it a style that's different from the first two and gives you the impression that it's not just the story that has evolved and moved on.
You'll soon find yourself fighting on the streets, in abandoned buildings and even the rooftops of towns and cities as you fight to stay alive. Indeed, Joe can now use a zipline to get from one building to another and drop in on the enemy to deliver retribution and mayhem to those monstrous aliens.
And it's not only the graphics that have echoes of other games. A siege in a pub reminds me of Call of Duty where the besieged soldiers are trying to stop the German soldiers from breaking into a tank factory. Soon the enemy is (quite literally) knocking at the doors seeking their way inside.
You'll need a mix of stealth and brute force for sure. It's up to you how you approach the situation and although the battlefields are not exactly sandbox in size, they do allow you to explore the field and adjust tactics accordingly. And you'll need to do that a lot! It requires you to use your braincells as well as ammunition, and that's no bad thing at all. Coop play is as smooth as solo and having back up is useful indeed, but even flying solo, you'll find that the NPC characters generally act intelligently and have your back in tight situations. Time to move on.
Basically once you have played most other shooters, then you'll feel right at home with this one. Left stick moves the characters, right stick aids the aiming, and R1 fires the weapon and R2 fires the secondary fire mode, such as the Magnum where the bullets can be detonated after they have struck the scenery or indeed the enemy directly for extra damage. Pressing left or right on the D-pad, selects different types of grenade ranging from shrapnel grenades, to EMP grenades which are useful to take down the shields of some stronger alien troops. But more tricks can be added to the players repertoire. As you fight, you'll amass XP points, but these are not for you. They are earned for your weaponry and these points can be exchanged for extra firepower but I'll let you find out about the upgrades for yourself.
In multiplayer the same happens but this unlocks new skins for your online avatar and abilities. These range from a forcefield and the ability to unleash crawlers when you get blown away by your opponent! You will get XP in multiplayer for shooting crawlers as well as fellow players. More on multiplayer later.
The square button is used to open doors, X is used to collect weapons and ammo. Pressing the right stick engages a melee attack, and the triangle button calls up a radial menu displaying your weapons or a quick press will cycle through the weapons that you are carrying in your arsenal. Circle makes the character crouch down behind walls etc. for cover.
L1 enables you to aim down the barrel for extra accuracy and L2 throws grenades. A quick press throws the grenade and holding it down will cook it, but do not hold onto it for too long! Whilst moving forward, pressing in the left stick will make the character sprint. That about covers that so now let's move on. It's also playable through the PlayStation Move but this is a little fiddly so I'll stick to the pad thanks, although the accuracy of the aiming and shooting can not be faulted.
Textures are very nicely rendered indeed. Undergrowth, buildings all have a textured feel and this may be the most impressive game in the series so far. It is also compatible with 3D TV's but I have not seen the game on a 3D TV. Fire and smoke, as well as explosions are very very impressive.
Lighting effects are very nice indeed, with shadows of both moving and stationary objects are well handled. The movement of characters are as smooth as silk, and I really cannot find fault with those at all. There is no pop up or drop out and no sign of lag when things get hectic in either single player or in multiplayer and when you have over 16 people engaged in combat there's no visual 'stutters'.
The combat is intense and so to are the sound effects associated with it. Guns and explosions have a decent amount of wallop behind them and I think if you ran this through a home cinema set up, unless you adjust the volume I think the neighbours may well be banging the walls asking you to turn the volume down!
Monsters sound menacing, and the yells of your companions asking for medic's or backup certainly add to the ambience.
Stirring, thrilling and dramatic. This game has a great score behind it and would be a great background for a tabletop RPG session with a suitably themed game. Good stuff all round.
Smoke and explosions look great and the enemies react to being shot in a realistic fashion or indeed as they sail gracefully through the air after a grenade has done it's work. Dirt flies as bombs detonate and chips of stone and bricks fly as the slugs ricochet. A lot of thought has clearly gone into this side of the game.
There is a call of duty style award system here. Medals are awarded for different feats performed on the battlefield, i.e. head shots. These I'll leave for you to find yourself.
But the one thing you'll notice is the list of options available to you for multiplayer. The usual death match and team death match options are supplemented by capture the flag etc. etc. But the one that caught my attention is the War Games option. Different modes are tucked away here, explore away my friends, I don't want to spoil things for you. As said there is no lag in multiplayer, frame rate is constant and there is no drop out or pop in. Fast and furious fun to be had here.
Performances are fine, nothing Oscar winning it has to be said but it's more than adequate. Dialogue isn't clichéd, and it lacks the woodenness of some game acting. Facial expressions are fine and the lip syncing is nigh on perfect.
What we have here then is a game that is a worthy addition to the series. It's mix of visual styles works well, and it's changes in pace and game style makes it stand out from some of it's rivals. I can't say it's ground breaking, but it sure as heck stands head and shoulders over other shooters I have played recently. But it's not absolutely perfect.
I sadly experienced the game crashing a couple of times. I do not know why. This I hope can be addressed with a patch. I experienced this when it was loading up from one area to another. There were also some loading delays that were irksome.
An engaging storyline that moves at a decent pace. Intense and visceral combat will satisfy the most hardened gaming fan and yeah, this may be overshadowed by Gears of War 3, but this game can and should hold it's head up high. It builds on the success of the previous two games and adds to the storyline very nicely indeed.
Multiplayer maps will take you to various locations around the war torn world and all of those nice multiplayer options to explore. The standard weapons and enemies are there but there are some new toys and beasts to encounter. Oh and watch out for the FERAL beasts out there in single player mode. These may well treat you even more viciously than the so called disciplined Chimera forces! This game will keep you on your toes for sure. I was lucky enough to have the original game bundled with our PS3 when we bought it, and it had me hoping for a sequel as I played it. They delivered the sequel and that was a bit of a let down in some areas, but it was clear that this was at least going to be a trilogy. Now we have that third part, and it steps up to the plate and delivers a home run.
It will have stiff opposition. I sincerely hope it does not get neglected in the euphoria attached to Gears 3 or indeed, other shooters that are out there like Bulletstorm or the Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine. This is a very good game, no correction, it's a GREAT game. I personally think that if it wasn't for some other titles out there that are due, this could well be a late contender for game of the year 2011.
If you disagree with me that's fine, that's your right, but I know what I like and I like this, a hell of a lot. For those of you who have a PlayStation 3, and have the other two games or have played them, then this is a must have. I fully intend to play the trilogy again from start to finish to see the story again in all of it's glory. It's a testament to the first game that the multiplayer lobbies are still very active, as they are for the second. Like they say, quality sells and this is a quality title. I highly recommend this.
Right I have to go. There are some Chimerans that need kicking off our planet.