Gears of War 3 Multiplayer Preview

Two days ago, I played a few hours of Gears of War 3's multiplayer at Epic's studio in Cary, North Carolina. For the record, I was a huge fan of the multiplayer in the original Gears of War, but stopped playing Gears of War 2 due to netcode problems and buggy gameplay.

If you haven't already, you should read our coverage of the upcoming beta test and rundown of the features, modes, weapons, and maps of Gears of War 3.

nope Gears 3 should solve most of the problems I had with GoW2 and is already extremely fun. The beta test should also help alleviate any unforeseen problems with the game as discovered by the community, which should hopefully lead to a smooth launch in fall 2011.

It was tough to judge how effective the move to dedicated servers was because all of us were playing in the same room on the same network, but it was a lag-free experience. At the very least, there was no host-advantage to be found. I was never left questioning why I was dying with no lag or host to place the blame upon. It was an incredibly smooth experience with no crashing or issues over the entire day.

The new starting weapons are all useful and should be carefully considered depending on the map, mode, and your personal gameplay style. It's a good sign when I started wishing I had all five of them at once. The Sawed-off Shotgun is a beast and is incredibly gratifying to use, but it has its risks. The range is comically short and if you miss, have fun reloading while you attempt to escape the enemy you just failed to gib.

The Retro Lancer allows you to roadie run with your bayonet out. It's a one-hit kill if you hit someone with it, but has a long animation which renders you vulnerable. It's most useful for flanking or surprising an enemy around a corner. Impaling someone on the bayonet is just as awesome as it sounds. Great way to end a round, too.

The Oneshot is really fun, but will require some skill to use. Controlling it, however, will force smart opponents to change up their play. This gives your team the upper hand as the enemy is forced to stick to cover. The Digger Launcher is great, especially if your team is working to spot enemies. Firing it, cross-map, under cover and walls, only to pop-up and double kill two dudes will definitely make you shout and taunt your enemy.

nope The new Team Deathmatch mode is incredibly fun, especially for my first experiences on the five new maps we were able to play. It allows for a good number of respawns, but maintains the extreme adrenaline rush of being the last man left, up against a team of three or four enemies. It will definitely be popular online. I didn't get to play a lot of King of the Hill or Capture the Leader, but both modes worked well enough and were better than the modes they replaced. They will, no doubt, be far less played than TDM, Warzone, and Execution, but should offer something for those players that prefer a bit of an objective-spin on their multiplayer.

If I had to pick a low-point of my playtime, it would be the maps. Truthfully, a few hours isn't enough time to put a single map through its paces, let alone five, but none of them really grabbed me the way some classic Gears maps have. Weapon placement was also a bit tricky as the expanded set of weapons made some guns extremely rare on the maps. I only got to pick up the Longshot sniper rifle--my favorite gun to use--once during my entire time playing. I can foresee many disappointed players if preferred weapons aren't well represented in the game's maps.

Everything else, though, was crisp and enjoyable. The gameplay is definitely there and if Epic truly delivers on its solutions to fix the technical issues from Gears of War 2, they could have a heavyweight multiplayer hit on their hands.

Check back tomorrow for more coverage on Gears of War 3, including details on how the game's experience and unlock system will function.