The test, announced at a press event two days ago, will run sometime in early 2011, but no specifics were discussed. Up until this point, Epic had been using Gears of War 2 as an informal beta for Gears of War 3. The company has adjusted weapons to be closer to their Gears 3 counterparts and has even been running small-scale tests with dedicated servers.
Gears of War 3 will utilize dedicated servers for its ranked and social matchmaking games, which should finally eliminate the dreaded "host advantage" that has become synonymous with the franchise's multiplayer.
Executive producer Rod Fergusson acknowledges the fact that betas on consoles are often thought of as demos by the public. Epic's normal development schedule made it difficult to schedule a beta that allows enough time to react to player feedback for the previous games. The five month extension of the Gears of War 3 release makes this beta possible, even though the game was on track for an April release.
The build of the game I played, barring a few temporarily UI elements and non-final art, felt like a retail-quality release already. Epic won't be adding a ton of new features, but will take the time to conduct the beta and to polish the game.
Gears of War 3 will be released in fall 2011 exclusively for the Xbox 360.