Epic Games Gears of War 3 has just received its third instalment of DLC called “Fenix Rising”. To say this is a simple map pack would make you completely wrong.
Included within the pack are five new maps, which are described as “inspired by some of the most breathtaking locales found in the Gears of War 3 campaign”. All five maps are perfect in Versus, Hoard or Beast Mode. You can jump right into the action as any of the four new characters, for the COG there’s recruit Clayton or thrashball Cole and for the Locust there’s the savage Marauder or the savage Kantus.
Epic has, in a bid to add extra life to the game, created a prestige mode; which allows for gamers who have reached level 100 to “Re Up” and continue the fight. The “Re Up” levels are colour-coded as red, green and blue to make them identifiable. In addition, extra weapon skins to be unlocked exclusively by reaching these levels. Finally, the pack includes 7 new achievements; which include tasks such as gaining all three Re Up levels and for playing the maps in Beast and Hoard Modes.
In terms of gameplay, there’s no change to controls or mechanics but the new maps are stunningly beautiful with opportunity for a mixture of play styles.
Jumping straight into Versus, the first map I played on was Academy. This map set in a mountainous region of Sera with a soothing atmosphere perfect for nurturing young minds. It’s a large open and dazzlingly sunny map, which features close to mid-range combat. Although it is a big map, the short range of combat options are due to the map presenting a multitude of obstacles making sniping and long range fighting tough to pull off.
Anvil is a place which has seen much fighting with the cracked and broken environment; this is an ideal map for very close combat and ambush points. There is a magnitude of passageways to sneak around your opponents or simply escape to a safe distance.
For people who have played the Gears of War 3 campaign Depths will seem familiar, with its underwater environment encased in the seemingly fragile glass housing. Playing through this map, I couldn’t help but think of Bioshock with its stunningly vibrant water colours and with water soaking the floor from burst pipes. Depths offers the perfect environment for mid-range combat with the possiblity for a skirmishes with close range weapons.
Escalation is an old favourite of Gears of War 1 fans. Escalation is set on the steps of the Fenix mansion in the darkness with the stars to set the scene. This map is different to the rest, as it’s a simple uphill or downhill battle with little room of flanking. However, this does not stop the tension that is GoW. A problem that I had was the spawn locations, for those fighting at the top of the steps, if they move too far forward this can cause the opposite team to spawn behind them with spawn protection active. I am unsure if was on purpose or not, but it does make it strikingly hard in the latter stages.
Finally, we have the Slab. It is a dark and sinister map set within an abandoned prison. It has blood stained walls and stormy weather, setting the scene brilliantly. The environment is perfect for sneaking and ambushing your opponent as the map is littered with tight corners and choke points.
The maps within Fenix Rising seem to be more than just a re-hash of old maps but a well thought out and well tested set of locations depicting Marcus Fenix past. Although, some may complain about the inability for good long range combat, Gears of War feels like it favours the mid-range play style allowing for everyone to jump in and play.
With the ‘Re Up’ system Gears of War 3 has just had new life breathed into it and at the price of 800 msp it seems a small price to pay for a good DLC.