The game will utilize dedicated servers for most matches and host migration has been added for cases when a player is hosting a custom game and quits or attempts to cheat with network manipulation. Voice chat will still be handled by peer-to-peer networking.
Some housekeeping has been done to the game's modes, combining several along with some tweaks. The two most popular modes, Execution and Warzone, both return and have not been changed. Team Deathmatch (TDM) is the new "default" game type and Epic expects it to be the most popular gametype.
Epic found that many new players did not immediately appreciate the stress of Warzone or Execution, which didn't allow killed players to respawn until the following round. A newbie would likely spend more time spectating than playing until they got better or gave up.
In TDM, teams will get a set number of respawn tickets. Once all of these tickets have been depleted, it becomes a game of Warzone. This system lets players get back in the game and play more, but maintains the adrenaline rush at the end of a Warzone game.
Also, in all gametypes except for Warzone, players will be able to self-revive after some time 'down-but-not-out'. However, executions will only be needed to finish an opponent in the actual Execution game mode.
Annex is out and King of the Hill has been tweaked with some tweaks that should hopefully satisfy fans of both modes. The hill will move around the map and players do not need to stay in it to gain points. Wingman will return with the 5th two-man team dropped, becoming an 8-player mode. Epic believes that one less team will eliminate the spawn problems from the Gears of War 2 incarnation.
Capture the Leader is the combination of Guardian and Submission and is much better than the two modes it replaces. In it, one player will be the leader and cannot be killed. They can, however, be downed and held hostage as a meat shield. The objective of the game is to hold the enemy leader for 30 seconds, while protecting your own captain. Since the leader can only be downed and not killed, it encourages the leader to actually get involved in the fight. The leader can also use the Tac/Com system to spot enemies through walls and communicate positions to his or her teammates.
Any player can spot enemies for teammates, similar to how it works in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. A simple button press tags an enemy player in your crosshairs, displaying his position to all teammates for around 3 seconds. It allows for a good deal of non-verbal communication between players.
The Tac/Com system will also show the player where weapons spawn--though it will not indicate if the weapon is currently available--and a 2D map portrait with location names and weapon spawns is also shown before each match. This should go a long way in helping new players find weapons and navigate the map, while allowing experienced players to jump right in and learn the new arenas.
Finally, Gears 3 will include some "Beginner Assistance" for extremely new players. If you've hit level 5 in Gears of War 2, the achievement earned will exclude you from this assistance. If you've got no scannable history and begin dying a lot, Epic will give that player enhanced damage--equivalent to always having an active reload--and extra health. Each kill earned will reduce these bonuses, weaning the player back to normal conditions, until 10 kills are reached. At this point, the assistance will never be available to players again.
All of the weapons from Gears of War 2 will be returning in Gears of War 3, though some will be tweaked to fill different roles. New weapons also join in on the fun, expanding the game's arsenal with some fun killing tools.
Gears 3 will also offer a choice of five starting weapons--three primary and two secondary--and will let players change their loadout mid-match. All five weapons are effective at different ranges in the following order from shortest to longest:
Sawed-off Shotgun, Gnasher Shotgun, Retro Lancer, Lancer, Hammerburst.
Let's go over the guns that are returning, but are changing:
- Hammerburst - The gun retains its range and damage, but gains an ironsights aiming-mode for additional accuracy at distance.
- Gorgon Pistol - The Gorgon was the least used weapon in Gears of War 2. Now, it is a one-handed sub-machine gun, which gives players an automatic option when carrying a meat shield.
- Smoke Grenade - The smoke grenade will now stun opponents, so that they cannot fire, but they can still maneuver. If an enemy is tagged with a smoke grenade, however, it will down them when it explodes.
Other older weapons function as they have in the past, but may have had some numbers (damage, range, etc.) tweaked. The new weapons are:
- Retro Lancer - This is an old-school Lancer with a bayonet instead of a chainsaw. It has the least amount of range of the three primary weapons, but is very powerful. Players with it can charge and impale enemies for a one hit kill if they have enough room to gain speed.
- Sawed-off Shotgun - Extremely close range shotgun that fires once before having to reload. The spread allows players to kill multiple enemies in a single shot. The gun has a massive reload time so make sure you don't miss.
- Digger Launcher - This gun can fire subterranean projectiles that will travel along a straight path and pop-up out of the ground like a bouncing betty mine when it gets near an enemy. It can even travel under cover and walls, but moves slowly and loudly.
- Oneshot - A heavy weapon that must be deployed like the Mortar and Mulcher. It is a precision weapon that takes time to charge up once deployed. A hit will instantly kill any enemy and can even kill through a meat shield. Enemies will hear warning beeps and see a laser, which telegraphs its aim.
- Incendiary Grenade - A fourth grenade that explodes on impact, spreading fire in the area around its point of contact. If it hits an enemy directly, they will burn to death. Damage is done over time as an enemy stands within the affected area.
Five maps were available to be played and I will briefly describe them here:
- Mercy - Mercy takes place outside of a small church in the surrounding courtyard area. The inside of the church holds a power weapon spawn and some cover. Outside, a small overlook holds another power weapon and offers a nice vantage point.
- Thrashball - This map is set in a ruined Thrashball (the sport that Cole Train played before the wars) stadium with a giant scoreboard hanging over the center that can be shot down, crushing those underneath. The rest of the map features a section of bleachers that can be climbed and a dugout like area on the opposite side.
- Checkout - Checkout is the smallest of the five maps we played and is an outlet mall. There is a lot of cover in this plus-shaped map with two distinct sides flanking the spawn points. Power weapons are found to the right and left. Very frantic map.
- Trenches - Teams spawn on either side of a large hill, which sits across from a giant crane. The hill holds the Oneshot and can be held to lockdown most of the map. The crane holds the mortar and has multiple paths around it for flanking.
- Overpass - This map will periodically sink into the ground, changing the player's viewing angle, but not affecting gameplay in any other way. A large, L-shaped overpass sits in the middle of the map with a staircase on one side and a shortcut to the other side at the other end. There is only one path up to the top of the Overpass, which can lead to some intense standoffs.