We reckon there's a little bit of Epic Games that regrets inventing that chainsaw gun.
Since the series' comparatively humble beginnings pandering to the macho shooter crowd (even more so than now), the boys and girls behind the carnage have grown. They've matured beyond Schwarzenegger-calibre dialogue and mindless set-pieces and developed some genuinely interesting characters, wrapped in a low key yet personal and compelling plot.
But still the Heavy Rain snobs will be put off by that big, blood-soaked gun on the front of the box. And they're missing out.
Gears of War 3 is the best campaign story Epic Games has ever made. It's got everything you'd want; laughs, tragedy - and there's even a bit of Tears for Fears hidden in there at the back. It's a stellar compilation of everything the developer's learnt from five years of hugely acclaimed instalments, and polished to perfection thanks to an extra year in construction.
Yet after 20 hours nailing our active reloads and effortlessly murdering boss characters with three online wingmen, a niggling question remains. Has Gears of War 3's 'wow' factor been killed off by its own impressive predecessors?
FRIENDS TILL THE END
Gears 3's campaign is the same, spectacular stuff you've come to expect from the studio whose engine has become synonymous with triple-A games throughout the generation. The battles are big, the environments gorgeous and every now and then somebody says "f***" as a nasty looking baddy smashes through the nearside wall.
The difference is, this time, Epic's had an extra year to ferment its engine juices, which means more polish and less filler - even if it does insist on (briefly) revisiting the vehicle sections we've begged it to stop making since the original.
Gear's most notable maturity is its disregard for the mindless set-pieces that once plagued the series. Gears of War 2, while unquestionably upping the ante over Number One with armies of Locust foot soldiers and skyscraper-sized critters, loved a good turret section or aforementioned vehicle atrocity. Gears of War 3 has grown up and ditched the obsession.
Instead it maintains the entertainment factor via a constant stream of variety; in one mission you might be fighting off Locust goons on a boat, the next you're down to base weapons in the jungle and fending off a pack of Tickers attempting to run off with ammo and pick-ups between their fangs.
And you'll do it all in some of the series' most interesting locations to date, ranging from sun-kissed beaches to an (American) football stadium and the mass grave of a fire-bombed human city.
Following a refreshingly outlandish introduction sequence (with far less testosterone that you'd expect from a Gears opener), the story - penned by acclaimed British sci-fi author Karen Traviss - picks up two years after the last game's apocalyptic conclusion, with Marcus, Dom and co held up on an old warship, sailing the ocean and growing crops in a desperate attempt to simply carry on living.
As you'll remember from the closing scenes of their last adventure however, the planet Sera has been far from cleansed of underground nasties. In fact there's a new enemy faction in town; the glowing, mutated Lambent that enjoy nothing more than appearing out of the ground via gigantic enemy-spewing stalks - and they're about to rock the boat (literally in this case).
Epic's made no secret that Gears of War 3 is the end of a trilogy. There are no cliff-hangers when you scroll to the bottom of the credits, no setups for the cash-raking fourth instalment or franchise-flipping revelations (although there are plenty of plot twists).