The four weeks of controller throwing, noob splattering, flame weapon unlocking mayhem is almost over. By Monday next week, all of us Gearheads will be filling in the long summer months with speculations, wish lists, and reasons to dust off Gears 2.
But one big problem about assessing the four week long beta is trying to stay objective without pissing off one of two camps who are now in full blown flame wars on forums over what is good and what is bad on Gears 3 multiplayer. Judging by the Epic Games posts, there is a definite battle between the Old School Eliminator mode fans and the Annex type "Respawner" fans.
To help everyone who doesn't grasp the differences, here's a rundown of the warring sides.
Eliminators - These players are Gears 1 hard core players. They most likely play Ranked modes, think chainsaws are for noobs, and special weapons are good only for bait and ambush places - except for sniper rifles, of course. They (in general) feel that the Gnasher is the only weapon that takes "True Skill" to use. The modes they play the most are Warzone and Execution because you get only one life - no respawns. Their preferred fighting style is sportsmanship, where they prefer to come face to face with their foe and try to out-dodge until they get finally down their foe.
Respawners - These are the tactical team players, mostly from the Gears 2 era with some Gears 1 fans who played Annex mode expansion since its introduction in the latter days of Gears 1. These are the players that get bored with the one-spawn-only games and prefer the frantic, faster paced action. They are a more varied crew, mixed with team players, a few Gnasher "leets," special weapons freaks, and chainsaw noobs (along with Boomshot campers, Grenade hogs, and my favorite - the Sniper "Cowards," players that use the sniper so much, they would rather run away and continue sniping from a distance instead of switching weapons and get nasty.)
Needless to say, the Gears 3 Beta heavily favors the Respawners, and the Eliminators are fit to be tied.
The beta offered 3 "new" modes. Team Deathmatch, where 5 man teams share 15 respawns per team, and win by depleting the other team's respawns. King of the Hill is simply Annex with the new Warzone/Execution blended downing rules. Capture the Leader blends Guardian and Submission modes by replacing the AI "Meat-Flag" with a Leader class, boosted with new tactical powers to see everyone on the map. All three modes offer respawning except for the last few moments of Team Deathmatch. Thus no Execution/Warzone classic elimination, and score one for the Respawners.
In repeated comments on Twitter, Facebook, Epic Games forums, and interviews on G4, Xbox Live, and so on, Cliffy B and Rod Fergusson wanted to keep the Gears multiplayer fresh and worried about each game being nothing but endless "Shotty/Gnasher duels." Thus, their solutions were to improve and tweak the Chainsaw/Lancer, and add new weapons to change how people battled. They wanted to create more long range weapons and mix in more reasons for close quarter combat. They made the Retro-Lancer to counter the Gnasher in range and power, they made the Sawed-Off for a close-quarter multi-kill weapon, and they created the Digger to flush out the "Cover-Campers." Asides from a few other neat changes and additional weapons, these three weapons have created a firestorm.
Heavy Gnasher users are getting owned like never before. Between point-blank Digger fires, Sawed-off corner campers and Roadie Runners, and close-range Retro-Lancer battles - the typical Gears shotty-fest is all but over.The new chaotic mass kill-fest favors the new weapons and people who play with battle tactics - another score for the Respawners.
But everything is not all roses for the Respawners. Apparently, the Eliminators are winning the "whine-fest" on making the sawed-off harder to use. Gnasher-fans have also figured out how to beat the Retro-Charge, making it all but impossible to use. Five man parties are also on the increase - most of them favoring "group Gnasher-fests" and harassing anyone who doesn't use a Gnasher. And as for the classic "Noob Chainsaw," since Chainsaw kills are harder in the beta, chainsaw kills have been left on the curb as players experiment with the Retro-Lancer, the Hammerburst, and the Sawed-Off.
As for problems that both Eliminators and Respawners agree upon, two glaring problems that are being addressed - Kill Stealing and picking up teammates. The Epic Forum is still abuzz with with turning the final kill by a teammate into an assist (think Call of Duty:Black Ops patch on who gets credit for killing an enemy in Last Stand.) There is also a priority issue being discussed on what happens when you press and hold X. The X button allows you to:
a. Pick up or swap a weapon on the ground with one in your hard.
and b.. pick up a meat-shield or downed teammate.
Now, trying picking up a teammate, a downed Leader, or a meat-shield when there are also dropped weapons under whomever you are trying to pick up. Personally, I've swapped weapons constantly trying to pick up a downed teammate only to give an enemy an easy double-kill.
As for other fixes arising from the beta, on the drawing board according to the Epic Games forums - a "Mercenary" playlist similar to Call of Duty's "Mercenary" playlist for players not wanting to be 1 man verse a 5 man MLG Uber Elite "let's spawn-kill all the noobs out of existence" team while his buddies go play dingle-berry in the corners. In other words - No Parties allowed team play. Also, a Classic Playlist that include all the old Warzone/Execution, Annex, etc., modes.
But, with all the whining, griping, and general sour grapes on what weapons are cheap noob jobs, there is a lot to praise on this beta. The regional servers still cause some "host Advantage issues," but those issues seem dominant on Team Deathmatch and vanish in the other modes. The gameplay is smooth, clean, and surprising lag-free. The new weapons like the Digger and One-Shot are messy and highly entertaining. The mantle-kick is the best tool to counter the corner campers, regardless of what weapon you favor, and the maps are perfectly balanced. But that' pretty much rehashes what I've posted earlier.
Sigh, one more week to play, then the long wait for September is on.