Review: Gears of War 3 Season Pass

Fenix Rising – 800 MSP ($10)
New Maps: Academy, Anvil, Depths, The Slab, Escalation (remake)
New Characters: Recruit Clayton, Savage Marauder,
Thrashball Cole (variant), Savage Kantus (variant)

Other: Introduces a multi-tiered prestige/re-up rank system

Each of the four new maps in Fenix Rising shines with polish. Whether you’re slogging it out on the brightly-lit steps of Academy or having a close-quarters gnasher duel in The Slab, these maps were made with a very clear sense of catering to versus matches and as such they tend to avoid the awful spawning and level imbalance exhibited by some prior maps (here’s looking at you, Bullet Marsh). Conversely, Escalation — the one returning map — is so infuriatingly unfair and unpredictable that it leads one to wonder why it ever got nominated for a remake in the first place.

The four characters are primarily a way for Epic to charge players for not buying their copy of Gears at specific stores, as most of them are simply slight variants of pre-order exclusives. Recruit Clayton is basically a COG Gear with Carmine’s voice and, achievement aside, there’s little reason to choose him over the more interesting and colorful version we’re familiar with. I suppose if you really, really need one more version of Cole then the Thrashball variant is popular, but from the looks of the versus landscape most people already have a Thrashball Cole and don’t need the “new” one.

The real reason you’ll buy Fenix Rising, ultimately, is if you’re ready to rise — that is, if you want to be able to level up after hitting the shipped cap of 100. Fenix Rising gives you the opportunity to “re-up” not once, not twice, but thrice, rewarding you with new colors for your rank, new skins, and a couple new achievements. While not as extensive (I’d say ridiculous) as the prestige modes of other shooters, the re-up system is certainly good enough to tide over all but the most insane over-achievers (yeah, you, Ms. Level-70 blue) for months, if not years.

In a loophole sure to be exacerbated by the recent Forces of Nature download, not having Fenix Rising also severely limits your access to dedicated multiplayer servers. “Player’s Choice” and “No DLC” notwithstanding, choosing not to buy this one also more or less guarantees you won’t be able to play in future weekend events/most gametypes. Those which you CAN still play will be player-hosted, opening the door for fantastic lag and other blemishes of online gaming.

Depths has a Bioshock vibe going on, and the funniest loudspeaker announcements since Airplane.

So, if you love versus, or even just want to keep enjoying it as is — or if you want some fantastic maps for Horde and Beast — then you’re going to want to pick up Fenix Rising even if you don’t care for leveling up. If you’re fine with playing Horde and private matches with your friends, then skip it.

Verdict: Maybe

On to DLC 4: Forces of Nature

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