It was hard to imagine how Epic might have topped Gears of War 2. If Gears of War was the action game that set the benchmark for HD era action games, Gears of War 2 was the game that realised how bold and cinematic this style of game could be. Say what you like about the heavily-scripted gameplay or the muscle-headed melodrama, there was just no arguing with the magnificent of its big set-pieces. Well, top it Epic has. While Gears of War 3 is not consistently as awe-inspiring as Epic clearly thinks it is, most of the time it comes awfully close. So close, that it’s amongst the most incredible action games we've ever seen.
This is to the Gears of War trilogy what Return of the King was to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. It's a dazzling spectacle punctuated by a series of extraordinary sequences, and while not everything works perfectly, it's hard not to come away feeling exhilarated. If everything in Gears 2 was bigger and, in Epic's terminology, more badass, then Gears 3 takes this approach to it’s limits, at least on current console technology. The game's biggest set-piece battles are larger, louder and even more bombastic than before. The turret sequences – you didn't really think you'd see a Gears of War without them? – are so breathless and massively-staged that any rival shooters in production that plan to put them in might as well just give up now. Much as we love Killzone 2 and the mighty Resistance 3, Gears of War 3 sets a new benchmark for large-scale set-pieces in a sci-fi action game.
The graphics certainly help. Gears 3 pushes the Unreal 3 engine further than anyone has ever done before. Even if you have your doubts about the game's obsession with muscle-bound figures and chunky military gear, you can't help but be impressed by the level of detail in its characters, its monsters and its rubble-strewn scenery, or the sheer loveliness of its lighting. Gears has cinematography that would make any real-world director of photography feel proud. Meanwhile, there's even more colour and variety in its world, with a range of landscapes and architecture that makes it no less starkly beautiful than the original Gears, but a little more engaging over the long
You can also see the close links between the engine technology, the art and the level design in the efficiency with which it all works together. There's little – if any – texture pop-in, and even with dozens of allies and enemies on-screen and multiple explosions rocking the view, the frame rate never seems to slow. It's hard to say whether Gears 3 is the best-looking console game in existence, but if not it's right up there with Uncharted 2, Killzone 3 and Crysis 2 and trying to punch its way into the prime position.