It would seem as though Epic Games aren’t familiar with the concept of breaking promises. They delivered the biggest and best game in the Gears of War trilogy in September last year and they’ve been releasing high quality DLC ever since, a promise which remains intact with the release of the Forces of Nature map pack, the final DLC pack to be offered free to season pass owners.
As the title suggests, the additional maps are the main focus here, with three brand new maps being offered alongside two re-imagined favourites from the series’ past. The original maps come in the form of Artillery, Cove and Aftermath whilst Raven Down and Jacinto return from Gears of War 1 and Gears of War 2, respectively.
There’s a great amount of variety within the new maps, with each encouraging a different style of play in unique environments. Jacinto and Artillery for example are less compact than other maps, almost forcing players to work as a team to cover the entire area. You’ll find yourself teaming up in small squads, even when you’re not instructed to, just to maximise your chances of survival.
Raven Down, an almost minuscule map, set around a helicopter crash site, encourages braver tactics. Expect to see a mass of shotguns here as players will often refuse to take cover, instead opting to run around like mad men in a kill or be killed scenario. This can be fun at times, but it can also become a pain when every player in the game is occupying a space the size of your bedroom, especially with the pack’s weather mechanics harming your visibility.
Aftermath has plenty of high points, from which you can pick off enemies one by one with a sniper rifle, but there’s also fun to be had on lower ground with assault rifles and close quarters combat is encouraged towards the centre of the map. Cove, on the other hand has less character than the other maps and seems fairly generic in comparison, but it’s not terrible and if you’re a fan of Gears, then it isn’t going to put you off the game.
Although marketed as a map pack, Forces of Nature has turned out to be so much more, with other additions providing extra content that prevents it from being your usual cash-in DLC. As well as new character and weapons skins, we see the return of the game mode Guardian.
If you’re not familiar with Guardian, it’s a game mode in which each team is given a leader at the beginning of every match. Once this team leader has been killed, everybody on his team has their power to respawn revoked and the opposition must eliminate the remaining players until they stand as the victors.
This additional game mode and the less substantial content such as character skins really highlight how much Epic Games cares for its fans. At the fairly low price of 800msp, Epic could have released 5 new maps and called it a day but instead they went above and beyond what was expected of them to release a value for money map pack, that will provide a new incentive to keep playing the game if you’d started to tire of it.
The Forces of Nature map pack is available now on Xbox Live. If you’re yet to buy a copy of Gears of War 3, you can do so here, for £19.85.
Rating: Excellent Review Policy (version tested: XBLA)