I had been watching the GameStop employee perform the frantic dance of ringing people up, answering the phone, honoring warrantees, and praying to the Lunch Break Gods his manager would return soon with the goods. Above the counter was a large banner boasting the newest Gears of War 3 art, release date, and Beta. Soon, it was my turn. When I gave him my five dollars for Gears of War 3 and requested my Beta code, the GameStop employee pinned me with a suspicious frown that bordered curiosity and skepticism.
“Is this for you or for someone you know?”
This wouldn’t be the first time I had encountered a conversation like this as a girl with nothing but love for the Gears of War series. My favorite is when a team-mate finally sees my handle. I like to think they cock their head the way my dog looks at the TV when he hears a dog bark on a show, only to utter in broken puberty: “You’re a girl?”
Believe me. I’m getting somewhere with this.
But Gears of War is my bread and butter. The first time I played that game, I was hooked, I was in, and I was not about to go quietly. It does have a way of getting lonely though. At the Gears of War 2 panel, I was one of only a few girls there who had come above the influence of some pleading boyfriend. When I play on-line, seeing a fellow sister of war go by is a fleeting, excellent moment. Also, declaring that it is one thing to keep the ladies off the battlefield, but it’s another to put them in the King Ravens, which fall apart if you so much as tickle them, was a cry that – for years – seemed to only resonated with my sad, geeky self. That is… until recently.
The Gears of War 3 beta is not just for the ladies, in the end the beta is for the fans that have been waiting to eat up the third installment of the franchise. The more you play, the more you get, from weapons to characters to un-lockable multiplayer matches; Epic does not hold back the goodies, not forever anyway. When you sign into multiplayer, you can set your default weapon and character to your specifications. These specifics switch out according to whether you play for the Horde or for the COG. As you continue through multiplayer, these options increase. So, even though I started the beta as Dom with a Lancer and Gnasher, I could end the beta joining the fight as Anya with a Longshot right off the bat. Until then, you better fear the beard.
It is no secret how much I love environment in a game. Epic has never failed me in their attention to really setting a scene. The new combat zones in Gears of War 3 are as numerous and colorful as the race tracks in Mario Kart, only without all the kiddy stuff, and with way more blood. And the Blue Shells are more like grenades. You get the point. Levels range from a cobblestone town square, accessorized with multi-colored canopies to a destroyed Thrashball court littered with grenade-craters, make-shift barricades and torn up, stained grass. There is even a thrashball that gets kicked around the level as you lunge for your opponent with the sexy and swift new Retro Lancer.
The environment designers, to me, have always been the unsung heroes of the video game industry, giving physical form to the content team’s written world, and the gamer a playground to dabble in. I cannot wait to see full level designs, because the zones in multiplayer look fantastic!
I started my bloody journey with one of my favorites: King of the Hill. The technical aspects of this fight for supremacy have not changed too much, but having the ability to launch myself over my cover to introduce an opponent to my feet before pumping his stumbling, unfortunate person full of Gnasher slug definitely does make snagging the zone just that much more satisfying. Since I mostly live in Horde from Gears of War 2, it took me a minute to get used to a PVP setting again, but headshots, grenade tagging, and protecting my turf are kind of liking riding a bike; you never really forget how to ride… and massacre.
I finally got to the point where I unlocked Anya. Seeing a female avatar out there, hair in her face, hands clenched around her weapon, letting loose her own resonating war cries was satisfying. For once, Anya was not in my ear, nagging me on like Navi or Cortana. Epic made the leap and put her on the field. Seeing a visible, female character in the combative mix showed an acknowledgement on Epic’s part. For all I know, it could all be fan service, but I’m a fan, and the addition of Anya to the testosterone pool is more than a service to me. I don’t have a problem playing male-centric cast members or games, it is the norm, but when I see a woman in there, too, I feel like my demographic, small as it might be in comparison to the boy’s club, becomes viable to the suits again. I was not the only girl out there in the Beta, either, there were several others, the most I had ever seen in a single session! We are out there, a gathering of valkyries ready to bare our teeth, and declare that yes.
Yes, it is for us.
Gears of War 3 releases on September 20. Pre-order your copy today, and check out the beta now through 05/15.