Gears of War 3 review

The COG are on their last legs as the battle for Sera comes to a close in Gears of War 3. Shacknews reviews the final game in the Marcus Fenix and Co. trilogy.

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Gears of War 3 does something that few video game franchises have the confidence to do: it provides total closure, without teasing something for the future. There is little doubt that the Gears of War franchise will continue beyond the stories of Marcus Fenix and Co., but developer Epic Games isn't relying on cheap narrative tricks to continue the franchise. There's a level of confidence evident throughout the entire Gears of War 3 package that I wish more developers would employ. It feels like Epic Games poured everything they could into one package, making sure each element was as high in quality as the last. There is no filler. Gears 3 is a product that is built to last, and it's the best action title on Xbox 360. In order to defeat the Locust, the COG army used Hammer of Dawn strikes to incinerate entire cities. In Gears of War 2, players help sink the city of Jacinto, one of Sera's last human colonies, in order to squash the Locust threat. These strategies were short-sighted and childish. The "if I can't have it, no one can" attitude proved that humanity had no other choice for survival. Gears of War 3 doesn't fall back on that idea. More than any other war-based game I've ever played, the characters appear tired and worn out. Emotionally, they're done fighting. They're damaged goods. You get an honest and sincere sense of how the war against the Locust and Lambent horde has changed the lives of these characters. When Gears of War 3 tries to get emotional, it works. Some of the core ideas are still silly, but it's a surprisingly touching story that's less about war as it is about finding a place to call home. There are five acts in Gears of War 3 that can be played solo or cooperatively with three players. Unlike previous games in the series, the game doesn't fall back on shuffling players into dark caves (or inside giant worms). Utilizing enhancements to the Unreal 3 Engine, Gears 3 showcases new and colorful environments, the majority of which are outdoors. Simply put, the game looks brilliant throughout. The only oddity is that, as in previous games, areas don't look like organic locations on a real planet; they look crafted for encounters. It's easy to spot where someone on the design team said, "put a box there so someone can use it as cover!" Still, action is paced so well that it's more of an observation than a complaint. There are also a handful of bosses throughout the experience that, honestly, I thought all worked extremely well. More than that, they were fun and reminded me of strategic combat found in something like a Metroid rather than the typical and lazy "just keep shooting" idea we've seen so often. Gears of War 3 includes the ability to play the game in "Arcade" mode, which scores players for kills, assists, and so on. Earning points fills a multiplier which quickly drains if any of your team goes down. Mutators can also be activated to change the game, in a manner not unlike Halo's Skulls. A lot of the ideas are great here, but I took issue with the amount of time it takes to unlock some of the coolest mutators. It would be nice if there was an ability to just have everything accessible so friends could worry more about playing the actual mode, rather than thinking about what's next on their tree of unlocks.

Gears of War 3

Horde has evolved, adding Tower Defense-inspired elements to the mode. Now, you earn money for kills and use this cash to purchase fortifications throughout the game's multiplayer maps. As you purchase and repair these fortifications between rounds, new items and upgrades are made available. It's punishingly harder than I remember the original Horde mode being, which I'm totally cool with. Each tenth wave is a "boss" wave, sending a swarm of random boss-types in your direction. In one instance, two Berserkers and a group of mixed Locust attacked us and we were quickly decimated by the group. When the wave restarted, a Brumak was our major boss enemy, picking us apart once again. In the beginning my group was silent and we couldn't beat the boss wave, but once we started to talk and make tactical decisions about where we needed to hole up and what fortifications we needed, we were much more successful in our endeavor to survive the Locust surprise party. Beast mode is surprisingly well crafted as well. Here, players are given the chance to play as the various forms of Locust enemies. This is unlike anything in the series' past. Gears is about "stop and pop" whereas Beast is about constant rush and attack against the AI opponent. It also forces you to pay attention to progression. It's cool to play as a Armored Kantus who can roll into enemies, slicing them with his razor-sharp body. All of this, by the way, is happening on a 60 second timer that gains a few extra seconds for doing thing like getting kills. It's a great change of pace. Multiplayer is back and, theoretically, it will perform better than Gears of War 2. Epic has decided to use dedicated servers this time around, but it's difficult to gauge that success until the game's release. Multiplayer has seen some changes since the beta. The Retro Lancer, for example, has a high kickback when fired from the hip. The actual gameplay strategy, I found, is essentially the same as it always has been. People rush toward you and fire active-reload-powered shotgun rounds in your direction while rolling around like a circus performer. It's not a knock against the game, but it's basically what every match turns into because it's successful. Hell, I do it too! I would like to see at least one playlist where people were unable to use the shotgun only if to force players into using any of the game's other, very awesome weaponry. Gears of War 3 manages to offer players closure in a story that is more sincere and mature than what the series has attempted in the past. It's a great send off for Delta Squad, a clan of characters that we manage to like hanging out with despite themselves. Not only is the game longer than any title in the franchise's past--clocking in around 12 hours--it's also the best game in the series. Beyond that, the entire package is so well produced and exudes a level of confidence in storytelling and overall polish that Gears of War 3 is the best action game available on the Xbox 360.
[The Gears of War 3 review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360, provided by Microsoft. Microsoft also held a review event in San Francisco last week focusing on the game's multiplayer modes, which Shacknews attended. Shacknews paid for transportation to and from the event and accommodation.]
From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 15, 2011 9:00 AM

    Xav de Matos posted a new article, Gears of War 3 review.

    The COG are on their last legs as the battle for Sera comes to a close in Gears of War 3. Shacknews reviews the final game in the Marcus Fenix and Co. trilogy.

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      September 15, 2011 9:12 AM

      great review. This has gotten me a bit more hyped up for the game. The only thing that confused me is Three player coop? I had heard Four player from a few different places before and didnt see anything about it being downgraded to three.

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        September 15, 2011 9:13 AM

        Cooperatively with three players as in you and three others.

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        September 15, 2011 9:13 AM

        Reading it again, did you mean 'three other players'? Not trying to nit pick, just something that confused me at first.

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          September 15, 2011 9:15 AM

          I added something so people don't get confused.

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      September 15, 2011 9:17 AM

      I may actually have to dust off my 360 one of these months to play through this. I am not a huge fan of the GOW series, but having played through the first two, it just doesn't feel right skipping the final, and apparently the best, iteration in the series.

      Some of the horde changes that you mentioned in the review sound fantastic.

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      September 15, 2011 9:17 AM

      Nice, lucky you already played it :), shit this thing comes out next week DAMNNNNN I totally forgot thought it was Nov.

      Big fan of Gears this will be rad, too bad they have not announced a Gears 1,2,3 pack for the PC, I still play 1 on the PC every now and then.

      Xav you should go tell Epic there are 2 billion PC gamers that want to buy Gears 2 and 3 for the PC :) we can dream right [shakes head in disappointment of no PC love]

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        September 15, 2011 9:19 AM

        Epic is the game maker. Microsoft is the publisher. It's Microsoft's call. And really... why would Microsoft want PC games? waitaminute

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          September 15, 2011 9:24 AM

          LOL :) yeah I bet your right EPIC would do it for sure if asked, its MS fault and their monopoly on the 360 titles even though I don't understand the thinking of excluding your other platform, then again they would of made a gaming OS variant of windows by now if they cared.

          Shit ever freaking first party title MS should be making sure goes to the PC platform, why would you not want to have two strong platforms? Xbox 360 sales are the only thing I can think of but if you delay the releases on the PC you can not loose you would be tugging on that teet twice, who doesn't like a double shot of milk and cheader CHA CHING?

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            September 15, 2011 10:21 AM

            If they doi release a bundle, it will only be compatible with Windows 8.

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            September 15, 2011 8:39 PM

            In the past I think they've made it a strategy to not release Xbox exclusives on the PC at least until very old so as to drive up demand for Xbox and not to cannibalize sales. Mostly for Europe where many might opt for the PC version if one was available.

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      September 15, 2011 9:24 AM

      Thanks for the review XAVdeMATOS. Quick question. How did the dedicated servers differ from peer2peer matchmaking? See a huge difference in multiplayer gameplay? Gears games have always seemed sluggish and laggy to me and I've kept on the single player side, but i'm eager to see how dedicated servers work this time around. Thanks!

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        September 15, 2011 9:30 AM

        Like I said, it's hard to tell how well they will perform at the moment because only a few dozen people have the game. My online experiences were smooth, though.

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          September 15, 2011 9:46 AM

          I'm assuming you didn't try the beta ?

          Having dedicated servers makes a huge different. Mostly in removing the host advantage that was plaguing the previous titles

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            September 15, 2011 9:58 AM

            I did play the beta, but I can't use that as a reference point for the final game. Maybe something happened and it's all screwed up in the retail. Unlikely, but I couldn't just assume it all works.

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              September 15, 2011 10:08 AM

              True that it's always possible the servers won't handle the load and everyone will be forced to play on peer hosted games like at the start of the Beta.

              But I think its a minor point overall.

              Anyways I'm not complaining since having MP reviews is always asinine.

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      September 15, 2011 9:26 AM

      I hope the PC port will be good. Can't wait.

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      September 15, 2011 9:34 AM

      Will the 4 player coop help provide more replay value? Like how in the gameplay showoff from E3 Marcus and Dom fought a boss off from the boat, while Baird and Cole went up top to knock down a crate of tickers to finish the boss.
      Will there be multiple objectives/paths like this throughout the campaign?

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        September 15, 2011 9:35 AM

        Yeah, the series continues to do that.

        Also, Arcade Mode is cool because you play the campaign while being scored. That adds replay-ability.

    • gmd legacy 10 years mercury mega
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      September 15, 2011 9:38 AM

      did you cry?

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      September 15, 2011 9:42 AM

      I just finished Gears 2 in a single sitting last weekend, so I'll have to get a hold of this relatively soon while everything is still fresh. Gears 2 ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be.

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      September 15, 2011 10:20 AM

      Is there split-screen coop?

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        September 15, 2011 11:04 AM

        Yes. I played the first chapter two player split-screen with a friend in the biz.

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      September 15, 2011 10:24 AM

      One of their big things about Gears of War 2 was the addition of Gears Comic series writer Joshua Ortega stepping on to ensure the writing for the campaign was bigger and better than the first. The idea of that absolutely thrilled me, I loved the comics and couldn't wait for an emotional, yet action packed story. Unfortunately I was very let down by what I received. But then I heard that Karen Traviss, the author of the gears novels(which I also loved), would be coming onto this game to ensure the narrative was bigger and better than the second. I instantly got excited then remembered being burned in the past.

      So I was wary, but after reading tons of reviews about the game I'm not excited again. My question is this: You said the character are very much exhausted, but do we get any deeper insight into their characterizations? Is it shown just how much of Cole's actions are actually just him acting to keep others morale up? Is Baird that jackoff that is a dick to pretty much everyone, but clearly loves his brothers in Delta(and mother figure in Bernie)?

      Great Review by the way Xav, I'm definitely interested in hearing the discussion surrounding this game during the next weekend confirmed. Keep up the good work.

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      September 15, 2011 10:33 AM

      Xav, you say "best action game," what exactly do you mean by that? I don't know about you, but I don't really view FPSs as "action games," which I reserve fogames which have more varied gameplay. The Uncharted series, Batman, Assassin's Creed, or Bioshock would be more of what I associate with that term.

      I guess my question boils down to, are you comparing this to Reach in that comment? Because that would be a reason for me to go check this out sooner rather than later.

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        September 15, 2011 10:34 AM

        this isn't an fps? Where do you people come from? Honestly?

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          September 15, 2011 10:38 AM

          What? Gears is and always has been a third-person cover-based shooter. Did you forget that? Where do YOU people come from? Honestly?

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            September 15, 2011 10:39 AM

            You called Gears an FPS and now are calling it a third person shooter.........

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            September 15, 2011 10:40 AM

            Xav, you say "best action game," what exactly do you mean by that? I don't know about you, but I don't really view FPSs as "action games

            ...

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            September 15, 2011 10:41 AM

            FPS = first-person shooter. I don't see where FPS translates into third person cover based shooter.

            "Where do ...." you can fill in the rest

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            September 15, 2011 10:44 AM

            In addition, a "3rd person cover-based shooter" is....yep, you guessed it! AN ACTION GAME.

            FPS's are also considered action games. Just FYI.

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            September 15, 2011 10:47 AM

            I think Fenring has schizophrenia :(

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              September 15, 2011 10:49 AM

              And it would be fine if it was just a brain fart, but he goes on to say: I guess my question boils down to, are you comparing this to Reach in that comment?



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                September 15, 2011 10:57 AM

                He also says: The Uncharted series, Batman, Assassin's Creed, or Bioshock would be more of what I associate with that term.


                WTF????

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                  September 15, 2011 8:53 PM

                  Haha jesus. So in fenring land GoW is an fps and Bioshock isnt, and the latter is more of an action game?

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              September 15, 2011 11:20 AM

              No I have sleep deprevation. :(

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            September 15, 2011 10:52 AM

            The way you keep using that word, I don't think it means what you think it means.

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            September 15, 2011 12:06 PM

            FENRING'D

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        September 15, 2011 10:37 AM

        Good thing this game isn't a FPS.

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        September 15, 2011 3:42 PM

        It's an ACCH-shun game.

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        September 15, 2011 8:57 PM

        Sure it's technically a TPS but it plays just like an FPS...

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          September 15, 2011 8:58 PM

          No it doesn't.

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            September 15, 2011 9:00 PM

            Well you shoot were you are looking at just like an fps... The only difference is that you see your big ass character and you can take cover.

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              September 15, 2011 11:47 PM

              Except it's not first person. It is freaking third person. What the hell is the point of any sort of nomenclature if you're just gonna be all "herpa derp same thing brah", just because the thing you're describing bears a similarity to the thing it is not. I mean jesus.

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                September 16, 2011 5:31 AM

                Drama much get over it... It's a fucking shooter. That's what it is. It's a Third person shooter that plays just like a First person shooter. It could be in first person and it would be pretty much the same game.

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      September 15, 2011 10:37 AM

      Great review Xav. I can't wait to play it! For those of you who haven't pre-ordered, Amazon still has a $20 off your next video game purchase as of this posting:

      http://www.amazon.com/Gears-War-3-Xbox-360/dp/B002I0H79C/ref=amb_link_357473522_2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=right-csm-1&pf_rd_r=0FCD521KTBHWZQ07271K&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1317492402&pf_rd_i=507846

      That makes it an amazing deal, it sounds like the improved Horde mode and new Beast mode will keep people playing longer. I plan on using the $20 towards Diablo3 if it comes out before the code expires :)

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        September 15, 2011 10:42 AM

        They need to start doing this at Amazon.ca

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          September 15, 2011 10:53 AM

          Yeah that sucks :( It's such a good deal.

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        September 16, 2011 8:43 AM

        Amazon does this for a lot of games, and everyone loves freebies.

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      September 15, 2011 10:51 AM

      Best action game on 360, eh? Vanquish currently holds that title for me.

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        September 15, 2011 12:04 PM

        That is an awesome game

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      September 15, 2011 10:52 AM

      I can't wait to have a good cry with Marcus Space Marine.

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        September 15, 2011 11:03 AM

        Not to nitpick your trolling but Sera is the only planet in this series. There is no space. Also, they are COGs and not Marines.

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          September 15, 2011 11:13 AM

          Get him, Xav! Don't let him trash talk our beloved COGs!

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          September 15, 2011 11:40 AM

          Don't be so sensitive! I'm actually kind of excited about the game and look forward to playing it (I avoided 2 completely), I'm just not really interested in the supposed emotional subtext of this Space Marine murderkill simulator.

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            September 15, 2011 11:42 AM

            Re: Space Marine, see previous comment.

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              September 15, 2011 4:03 PM

              Cogs are on Sera, Sera is in space, therefore BOOM UR whole world just got rocked, son.

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                September 15, 2011 10:09 PM

                you're on earth. earth is in space. therefore you're a space spaeckow

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                  September 16, 2011 12:06 AM

                  JOKES ON YOU BITCH I'M POSTING FROM ORBIT

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                    September 18, 2011 7:28 AM

                    Kind of like that random guy in space in the MW2 single player campaign. Watch out for those EMPs bro.

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            September 15, 2011 11:45 AM

            Also, watch the writer for Gears 3 explain that she should just reads comic books and nothing else: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dgH2PRK-Ks

            Illuminating.



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              September 15, 2011 4:01 PM

              Think about what the character would do, as opposed to I guess her - wow it just makes sense when you think about it!!

              This is like how the Dragon Age team see Joss Whedon as Shakespeare and Tarantino all rolled into one. No wonder videogame stories are shit.

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              September 15, 2011 5:54 PM

              Karen Traviss is a fucking moron. She started writing Star Wars books while knowing zero about any of the backstory and that is why we ended up with all of her Mandalorian/Clone Wars bullshit.

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              September 15, 2011 10:03 PM

              "I don't like reading"

              ...

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          September 15, 2011 12:09 PM

          But it isn't Earth and is sci-fi so that makes them space-things.

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      September 15, 2011 12:07 PM

      Good review... wait, there's a story?

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      September 15, 2011 12:13 PM

      I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it!

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        September 15, 2011 1:30 PM

        And I don't want to lose my controller 'cause I won't like it.

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      September 15, 2011 1:10 PM

      I would have loved to continue this series but Epic left PC like a step child, fucktards

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        September 15, 2011 2:47 PM

        yeah, turns out they wanted to make some money.

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          September 15, 2011 3:39 PM

          Yes because there isn't money to be made on the PC. Stupid comment that leads to a nowhere conversation.

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            September 15, 2011 4:36 PM

            True, Epic could make a Gears MMO to launch their own digital distribution platform.

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              September 15, 2011 5:46 PM

              It doesn't have to be an MMO, it's called mutliplatform and not this exclusive crap

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              September 15, 2011 5:50 PM

              I wouldn't be so sour about it if they had never released the first one for PC, contrary to what other people have said I thought GoW1 was awesome for the PC. Ran great and the KB/M was so much better then a shitty controller

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          September 15, 2011 8:59 PM

          Is that why it's only on one console?

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      September 15, 2011 3:44 PM

      Great review, Xav. Sent it around the office today.

      Totally forgot about this but I might have to pick it up now.

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      September 16, 2011 3:32 PM

      Great review Xav. Honestly, I'm more interested in the single player campaign, than multiplayer. I can't wait to see...I mean..."play" how the story for Delta ends.

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