My only real problem with Gears of War 3 is that it doesn't offer much contrast in terms of the overall mood. Early in the game, one character complains that another character's constant sarcasm is monotonous. It's a shame that line wasn't noticed by whoever decided that every person around the player should act as frustrated as possible all the time.
Because Marcus is basically angry through the whole game, he has nowhere to go during moments when he really should be getting angry. His showdown with Ice-T is supposed to be dramatic, I guess, but he doesn't sound any different there than anywhere else in the game. Even at the end when he has the opportunity to show some relief or basic humanity, he just keeps scowling and shouting at everyone. It's almost as if the developers just wanted to make the least possible effort to ratchet up the intensity of the game, so they just made everyone frown and shout obscenities as often as possible. Don't get me wrong; this is not an objection based on impropriety. It's an objection based on the cheap attempt to create a grim tone and then fail to give it anything to play off of.
You see how effective it could have been in the game's two moments of genuine human emotion. Cole Train seems to be one of the few soldiers whose lines aren't completely interchangeable with every other soldier in the game. Even better, his light-hearted attitude comes through not just through his dialogue, but through a nice bit of in-game storytelling and encounter design. It's a breath of fresh air that makes you wish the developers had taken the time to let the other characters express anything other than irritation. Dom's the other character who has genuinely comprehensible reactions and seems to have lived a life before the series began. I can't reveal the specifics of his story without seriously spoiling the moment, but I can say that who he is and what he does matters because the game's writers were willing to give him some real emotions.
Bottom Line: Whether critics like it or not, Gears of War 3 will be a success for Epic, and a well-deserved one. Despite some lingering flaws, the gameplay is fantastic in both single and multiplayer. A big part of the game's audience won't care about the lack of variety or depth among the characters, but the monotonous tone still holds the game back from being as great as it otherwise might have been.
Recommendation: If you want to know how the story turns out, or just like excellent third-person shooters, and don't mind being able to tell a character is frowning just by the back of his or her neck, this is the game for you.
Steve Butts only frowns so people will notice it when he smiles.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.