"Gears of War 3" completes the story arc that started seven years ago and introduced cover-based shooting to video games.

Story highlights

"Gears of Wars" described as "the most influential game of this generation"

Third installment wraps up the story arc for the Gears team, answers lingering questions

Game starts a couple years after the conclusion of "Gears 2" and finds Marcus in jail

CNN  — 

With an awesome story and continuation of the gameplay that has made the franchise great, “Gears of War 3” ties a brilliant and bloody bow atop a video-game trilogy that’s been seven years in the making.

The latest third-person shooter game from Epic Games and Microsoft wraps up the “Gears” story arc and answers all the lingering questions that have arisen in the battle against the reptilian Locust and their mutant cousins, the Lambent.

Players will control Coalition soldier Marcus Fenix for most of the game. But certain levels require the player to switch off to another member of his Delta Squad.

The game starts a couple years after the conclusion of “Gears 2” and finds Marcus in jail. Characters familiar to players of the franchise are re-introduced in the opening scenes, and the action kicks off quickly at an unrestrained pace.

Combat typically offers four options for weapons: a primary weapon, secondary weapon, pistol and grenade. Three other players are with the team, and they can be controlled by the computer or by others for co-op play, which is fun if you want to get a real feel for the campaign while enjoying the game with your friends.

The weapons have weight to them and feel powerful. Shooting from behind cover, one of the hallmarks of the franchise, is required as enemies appear from nearly every angle. You’ll want to keep your head down.

Teamwork is key. Not only will a mate come to your rescue when you are down, they can also set up opportunities to flank your opponents and end battles quicker. It all flows naturally (much like the copious amounts of blood spilled in the battles) and is well-paced, with plenty of ammo and weapons to be scavenged and used.

The game helps new players along with a casual mode that highlights enemies and objectives for easier play. There is an “aim-assist” mode that will line up enemies if you have trouble getting those pesky Locusts in your crosshairs.

Six modes of multiplayer action offer all kinds of mission objectives beyond just killing the other team. Whether it’s capturing and holding an enemy leader (while defending your own) or playing as one of the monsters against human opponents, variety will keep players entertained.

Dedicated servers around the world, which will host the multiplayer games, also will be available, fulfilling a common player desire from previous “Gears of War” games. Developers said this should eliminate the perception that players hosting multiplayer matches had an advantage over other players.

The real victory for “Gears of War 3” is the immersive and gripping story. Lingering questions and mysteries finally get answers, and there is a sense of finality that runs through the entire campaign.

The interaction between characters never feels forced or fake. Their emotions are believable, and their concern for one another is genuine. I described it to a friend as a “soap opera for guys,” but it is more like a TV mini-series.

The action blends well with the dialogue and creates a flow that helps pull the player along from scene to scene.

It all comes off seamlessly and leaves the player emotionally invested in all of the characters. But be prepared for the unexpected as people will die and loyalties will be tested.

Overall, “Gears of War 3” is exciting, emotional and blends competitiveness with teamwork. Whether playing the campaign alone or with friends, the story mixes with the action fluidly and provides a satisfying feeling even if the ending may not be to your liking. In multiplayer mode, the different modes offer challenges for any type of player and put a premium on strategy to achieve victory.

As this trilogy ends, don’t be surprised if there is more “Gears” action down the road. Plans for books, comics and film projects are out there, so it may not take much to enlist Delta Squad for another mission.

“Gears of War 3” is available now in North America and Europe and will be available Thursday in Japan. It is an Xbox 360 exclusive title and rated M for mature due to blood and gore, intense violence and strong language. This review was done playing the single-player campaign and trying out the multiplayer modes on the Xbox 360.