This week, Zero Punctuation reviews thick necked refrigerator armor marine 3.
I'm starting to notice a bit of a recurring pattern in Shooter Season 2011, besides the usual ones like brown and characters taping their asthma inhalers to their iron sights. They all seem to have this running theme of humanity being fucked. Not just threatened with fuckery, but conveniently prefucked when the game starts. Resistance 3 opens with the human race cowering in the last few orifices the Chimera haven't gotten around to sticking their cocks into and the planet about to explode, and Gears of War 3 opens with the human government having completely collapsed, the chunk brigade all living on boats, and the planet about to explode.
You see, threatening to explode the planet is something bad writers and twats do when they can't think of any other way to raise the stakes for the concluding installment of a trilogy. If they haven't come up with a single character whose goals and struggles we can actually feel invested in, they can always play the exploding planet card, because holy shit, I live on a planet! And there are always a few stray taint hairs on the exploding planet card from having been recently pulled from an arse, because I don't remember anyone mentioning it before this.
So Marcus Fenix and his grizzled backing vocalists are back, and as always if they didn't occasionally stand next to the two token willowy hotties you could be forgiven for thinking you'd accidentally set your TV to a wider aspect ratio. Fat-necked gorillas wearing fridges with armholes to a man, and they're all living on a ship and having to deal with a new race of snarly monsters apparently different to the previous race of snarly monsters but not in any practical way. Suddenly, someone who's apparently important drops in with news that Marcus' dad is still alive, and he's also apparently important so everyone goes off to look for him in the most circuitous possible way.
If it sounds like I don't have the firmest grip on what exactly is going on in Gears of War, it's because I bloody well don't. And that's something I'll get into later. For now I'll say, in an ever so slightly spoilerly way, that this is the last installment, so major characters do die. And hilariously, Marcus Fenix attempts to act aggrieved. I honestly can't tell the difference between a Marcus Fenix who's angry because of grief and one who's angry because he woke up that morning.
Now, before any of you Gears of War fans rush off to humiliate yourselves in the comment section by posting something along the lines of "What did you expect? Gears of War is about chainsaw bayonet vasectomies, plot and character is for girls and people with sensibly proportioned necks," I'd like to preemptively tell you to fuck off, and here's why: if I had said that Gears of War 3 's plot was a spellbinding emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, none of you motherfucking fanboys would be saying the plot doesn't matter. You'd trumpet that from the fucking rooftops until someone asked you to leave.
I'll touch on specific gameplay briefly, because what more is there to say? The third installment adds nothing new on that front, except four-player co-op in case you and a couple of friends have all taken bad acid, and can only stay sane by boring yourselves as efficiently as possible. I remember being kind to Gears of War 2, but I honestly can't remember why. I think at the time I was trying to meet it halfway, on the assumption that the waist-deep pool of scummy brown water shooters had devolved into was something I was just gonna have to live with. But having played Resistance 3 and a bit of that Hard Reset thing on Steam that's like Painkiller if they'd nicked one of Philip K. Dick's least comprehensible plots, it mystified me how anyone could think Gears of War is a better shooter.
It's the original chest-high wall plodapocalypse. I hate how sprinting makes the camera headbang like it's at a Meat Loaf gig, as if to say "Moving quickly? In Gears of War? Not without a migraine, you don't!" Ever play the Gears of War drinking game? You take a shot every time Marcus Fenix says something along the lines of "Go," "Move," or "Come on." He does it like clockwork after every shooting section because the game's justifiably paranoid that you've nodded off.
But I don't think there's much more to be gained from nitpicking my specific problems with Gears of War. I think what we need to do is step outside for a moment, press our faces against the window and look at things from a broader perspective. You may remember precisely 229 words ago I said that I can't remember why I was nice to Gears of War 2. To elaborate, I can't remember much about Gears of War 2 at all, despite playing it through to the end. I remember a bit where you carry a box, and a bit where you go inside a giant worm, which probably still wins the prize for the most Freudian moment in the entire series - and that's saying a lot considering the main character's ongoing chainsaw vasectomy clinic side business - but I couldn't tell you how it fit into the ongoing alpha male tire swing cockslappalooza.
So whenever Gears of War 3 called back to the previous series, I was kind of lost. Were the Lambent introduced in the last game? I guess so, because everyone already knows them at the start. But then I'm pretty sure they pulled the planet exploding thing out of their arse between games. And what about that female character voiced by Claudia Black -because aren't they all these days - whose only character trait seems to be reminding everyone she's a girl whenever there's a gap in the conversation. Was she in the last game? Or that other female character with no personality at all? The one who I only figured out was supposed to be Marcus Fenix's love interest because she put a hand on his shoulder at the end in the manner resembling a white plastic spork leaning on a chest of drawers? Ah, now I do remember Marcus's dad being a big ongoing thing. Christ, he even looks like Sigmund Freud; at this point they might as well equip everyone with pink jizz cannons and make all the enemies charge at your bumhole first. But didn't they already establish he was still alive, or did I just conclude that logically because they wouldn't have kept harping on his beardy ass if they weren't going to pay it off at some point?
You see, you can argue specifics from both perspectives until the planet explodes. You can harp on about it being ploddy and brown or you can say it's at least competently strung together and I certainly prefer frustrated teenage boys play it rather than use their time going around setting fire to cats. But in the final analysis, a game can't be good if the moment you put it down your brain balls up everything to do with it and tosses it into your mental junk drawer, so that all I remember of it a year on is so much brown noise, a big, sweating, blurred-together lump of headscarves and steroids.
Of all the big names getting their trilogies tied this year, Gears of War I consider one of the least likely to get a last-minute death row reprieve. It's a relic of a previous age, too dull for a reboot. I'm already forgetting stuff about Gears of War 3. I remember that one major character dying in a heroic sacrifice, natch, but I couldn't tell you why it was necessary. Already my memory bank has looked at that fact and gone, "Yep, this needs to go. Need to make room for an extension on the cleavage department!"
- Will stop abusing steroids when they stop abusing me: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- If anyone were actually built like Marcus Fenix they'd probably spontaneously bleed from the armpits every time they tried to hail a cab
- And I'm pretty sure when GoW2 came out I had a steady lay