Anticipation is rising and on Monday, April 18, the first wave of fans will finally get their chance to sink their teeth into a taster of what promises to be an impressively meaty Gears of War 3 online experience.
Epic's beta test weighs in at a chunky 2GB including patches and will take a while to set up, but it didn't take long once it was finally loaded to leave us impressed.
The notable amount of content and modes up for grabs in the trial is striking; The beta includes King of the Hill and new modes Team Deathmatch and Capture the Leader, as well as a whole four maps available to try out each mode on.
Epic has been hard at work tweaking the mechanics of online multiplayer and numerous things will hit Gears veterans the first time they load up a game. The biggest and most significant change is the introduction of a new 'tactical button' Mapped to LB, which shows players the positions of weapons, team mates and enemies in view and is a vital tool to take account of the battlefield around you.
In an attempt to streamline actions and weapon changing, Epic has included a 'hold' and 'tap' system. Tapping buttons will perform faster actions such as grabbing ammo and reviving team mates, whereas you have to hold the button for slower actions such picking up weapons. It's a subtle change, but very noticeable once you're in the heat of battle.
You'll also notice the introduction of a whole new COD-style levelling system which sees players gain exp for varying kills or achieving impressive feats during combat which Epic will undoubtedly want to build upon in the final version.
Not just stopping there, familiar modes such as King of the Hill have been tinkered with also. King of the Hill now incorporates aspects of Annex with the capture point changing once it has been occupied for a certain amount of time, meaning action is no longer just drawn to one area.
Team Deathmatch will likely be the choice of many in the multiplayer beta and thankfully isn't just a carbon copy of Warzone from Gears of War 2.
Teams have 15 lives shared between them - use them up and your team runs out of respawns. This results in tense face-offs when there are only a couple of members left standing on each team trying to strategically pick off each other off without dying. Prepare to be torn to shreds if you're the last man standing against a full strength team...
Capture the Leader is the most frantic mode included in the multiplayer beta and sees teams attempting to grab and meatshield the opposing team's leader for 30 seconds whilst protecting their own leader from being caught. It's a dynamic mode to play as you are immediately required to charge in and grab the opposition's top dog and drag him to safety, whilst praying that your team mates are supporting you.
Carnage inevitably ensues and a pile up of bodies can happen if both leaders are found in the same place. This means lots of action, but conversely it can be difficult for both teams to seize each other's leaders at times in those situations.
The armoury from Gears 2 you've become familiar with largely returns here, but there are a few significant additions that could well become your new favourites. Our picks of the bunch have to be the Digger Launcher and the One Shot for the devastation they can wreak.
The Digger is a mortar gun that fires underground and is immensely satisfying to kill with, as it will likely catch many an unassuming player off-guard because they won't see it coming. It takes a little while to get used to but is great fun to use once you know how.