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Gears of War 3: Multiplayer Beta • Page 2

Meat and murder.

During rounds, when heads are banging all over the map and there's a bloodbath on every corner, there'll be a point where one team notices the number getting a bit low. They'll start sticking together, reviving each other, and trying to pick off stragglers rather than engage head-on.

To say it happens like this in every game would be an exagerration, but it definitely happens, and makes the final minutes of every match much more tense than a simple numbers race. The addition of spotting enemies, a la Battlefield, comes into its own in these siege wars.

The beta has four maps, all dotted with small destructible elements – pillars, boxes and the odd massive one-off. The smaller destructible bits aren't exactly going to give Dice sleepless nights, but in the frantic pace of a Gears match losing cover under heavy fire is a jolt.

The showpiece moments are gimmicks, but they're good gimmicks. On the Thrashball level, a wrecked stadium, a gigantic scoreboard hovers right over the middle of the level. Halfway through the match its cable can be shot through, bringing the lot crashing down.

Even more unusual is the sandstorm that occasionally whips up on Trenches, reducing visibility on a cramped map to near-zero. Instantly, everyone gets the shotgun out. You can't knock it.

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The beta highlight is definitely Cole Train's American Football outfit. All together now: WOOOOOOO!

Capture the leader is a neat variant on the more usual assassin gametypes. Iinstead of killing the enemy team's leader you're trying to hold them hostage while protecting your own. Each team's leader is assigned at the start of the round, their location flagged for everyone at all times, and to win you've got to hold them for 30 seconds.

This leads to massive face-offs, with both teams dragging leaders back-and-forth across no-man's land while an army's worth of munitions gets emptied into same. It's not quite as punchy as team deathmatch but thanks to equal teams the battles can be absolute carnage, with both leaders permanently incapacitated and dragged all over the place as gibs and mortars fly everywhere.

King of the Hill doesn't seem to have the same charms as these two – although to be fair, during our time with the beta the teams have had more bots than players. Sure that won't happen at launch. This is bread-and-butter stuff – a ring appears somewhere, the team standing in it racks up points, the ring moves occasionally.

It all works, and the killing's as fun as ever, but in this mode one team seemed to get on top and dominate: perhaps because Gears' cover system is very suited for defending a fixed position.

King of the Hill gameplay.

There's one thing you do noticeably less of in every mode: watch. Gears has previously had a penchant for main playlist modes where one hasty death saw you watching others play for long stretches of time – here it's 15-second respawns and the end of the round showdown.

Gears 3's more subtle changes correct previous flaws: a new move sees you automatically whack an opponent when you're jumping over cover in proximity, stunning them and letting you get the first shot in. In combination with a sawed-off shotgun, it can serve up the messiest multikills.

It's not a game-changing ability, but it keeps the flow of the combat going – the clunkiest bit of Gears has always been those close-up cover battles, messy combinations of hip-firing, prancing and dodgy camerawork.

The sawed-off is a welcome addition to Gears 3's basic loadouts: the choice isn't huge, but these are Man Guns. There's yer basic chainsaw lancer, same as ever, or a retro-styled alternative which is better over short distances and has a more stab-based melee (which can be executed while running).

The classic shotgun is twinned against the sawed-off, which needs to be very close to work (and only has one shot) but turns things into mist. The most radical of the lot, though, and especially as a loadout option, is the Hammerburst – which can be fired in first-person with iron sights.

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