Editor’s note: Ryan Smith is a longtime gamer and freelance writer who lives in Raleigh, N.C. A graduate of East Carolina University with a degree in business and marketing, he has written in the past for WRAL Tech Wire and GameArgus.com. He currently plays Xbox 360 and PC as well as Nintendo DS. He can be reached via e-mail (ryannicksmith@gmail.com)

RALEIGH, N.C. – Gears of War 1 and 2 multiplayer had many a fault. Lag issues, variable weapon damage, inconsistent hit boxes, etc. However with the “Gears of War 3” multiplayer beta, the future is looking a bit brighter for the Gears franchise.

With all new maps, tweaked and all new weapons, new playable characters and dedicated servers, Cary-based Epic Games’ Gears of War 3 will surely be the pinnacle of the series.

As far as the Beta is concerned, coming in during the first week with my “Bulletstorm” Epic Edition Code, there are some great new additions that become immediately apparent; however, some issues from the previous two Gears titles remain.

There are times where, as in the old titles, you point blank shotgun an enemy and apparently had your shotgun on reverse, because you are the one that explodes, with no visible damage to the enemy. Even with the addition of the sawed-off shotgun, which has even less range and more damage than the Gnasher shotgun of old, there have been beautiful moments where the sawed off takes out two people at once, yet other times where the shot doesn’t register and you’re left helpless. But hopefully with the addition of dedicated servers, this will be distant, albeit painful memory.

The addition of the iron sight to the Hammerburst is another great addition. It is a weapon that is perfectly suited for such a sight, with its semi auto fire rate and high damage potential. Another weapon change is the Gorgon machine pistol. It’s a full on submachine gun now, which makes it even more deadly. The Retro Lancer is a beast of a weapon at close range, but is by far the weakest at range. Its bayonet charge is icing on the cake as far as I am concerned. It looks cool, kills in a flashy manner, and takes some of the guilt away for always lancer chain-sawing people.

If the enemy has more to complain about, you can change things up and not be called a noob!

There is so much diversity now with guns (and new heavy weapons too!) that even though we are on the third title in the series, there is no stale air here, its all fresh. What’s that? The same old characters you say? Nope, they have some great new costumes for recurring characters (bearded Dom? Masterful) as well as some great new playable characters as well, even online.

The two maps we’ve got in the first week are Thrashball and Checkout. Even though its only team deathmatch so far, the new maps are loads of fun. They showcase the new weapons (such as the digger, a subterranean proximity explosive) and are balanced, entertaining maps. Thrashball has a nasty surprise for the unwary, at certain times in the round, the view screen becomes loose and if you shoot it just right, it comes crashing down on the soon to be pancakes!

The new team deathmatch rules (15 lives before 1 final group respawn) are a nice touch, it’s not that big of a change but it works well. Finally in regards to the maps, if you always felt outmatched because you were unsure where the power weapons were? No fear, the overhead map on the score screen now lays it all out plainly for you.

If you’re a die hard Gears of War fan, 3 is sure to be a fan favorite. The over-the-top gore and executions are made into science this far into the trinity. The end of each round in team deathmatch is quite reminiscent of the beginning of Robocop (look it up if you don’t know what I am talking about), and once you get enough kills with each weapon, you unlock a particularly gruesome new execution. That combined with being slightly more beginner friendly, being more balanced and overall loads more fun? You’ve got yourself a great looking sequel.

Of course they have to get through this beta first. Here’s to you, fixed dedicated servers!

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