Even if you hate Microsoft, Gears of War 3 is worth buying the 360 for

From the Michael Bay over-the-top explosion set pieces, to the near constant onslaught of juggernaut Locust soldiers, to the bro-motional, albeit predictable finale, Gears of War 3 is a symphonic bloodbath co-operative shooter that masters the Epic Games' formula constructed over the past five years.

The trilogy is a case study in precise improvements, benefitting from expert tweaks and improvements to those small holes people found annoying enough to gripe about. The linear format retains the cover system Gears of War is famous for, while action and strategy mesh brilliantly as you and your squad tangle with an even smarter AI enemy who, at the hardest  difficulty level, knows exactly when and where to push to take you apart. Four-player co-op is an absolute must to feel the most intense level of satisfaction as you and your buddies mow through the Lambent forces.

While the narrative arc of any Gears game has never been the primary focus of the title, but it has never been carelessly slapped together either. And here both story and presentation are outstanding. GoW3 provides a slightly compelling story that drives the characters forward in a believable way. A welcome balance is injected with the introduction of female characters (finally!) and Epic ensured there is plenty ass-kicking. In fact, the final 90 minutes is what you’d expect from a story about survival and brotherhood, but it never feels overdone or clichéd thanks to our long relationship with Marcus and the rest of Delta Squad. Each character has their quirks, lending more emotional impact to a heartfelt close.

Probably even more famous than the campaign is the multiplayer function, guaranteed to keep you playing for months to come.

Small frustrations exposed by their Beta invite months ago have led to improvements: Weapons and roll movement have been better balanced. The network infrastructure is rock-solid. Game modes like Wingman and Team Deathmatch make expected returns. And Beast mode is basically Horde mode 2.0 for those into the four-man survival aspect. The whole package comes streamlined and packed with goodies to unlock as you gain experience.

It’s hard to believe that when the first Gears came out I wondered if its style of play could compare to the dominant First-Person-Shooter players on the market at the time. Today I can’t think of how we had come that far without it. Gears of War 3 is milestone in co-operative gaming and a masterful ending to another solid trilogy. Bravo Epic!