Fenix Rising is the third major game add-on for the highly popular Gears of War 3 machine. The new maps feature five new multiplayer maps inspired, in part, by the life and experiences of grizzled veteran COG Soldier Marcus Fenix. Fenix Rising also includes four character skins and a new addition to the experience system that allows players to rank up through level 100 a total of four times. It also allows players to unlock exclusive emblems and weapon skins.
Available on Xbox LIVE for 800 MS points, Fenix Rising expands the multiplayer battlefield with five maps called Academy, Slab, Depths, Escalation, and Anvil. The four new character skins are Recruit Clayton, Thrashball Cole – Limited Edition, Savage Marauder and Savage Kantus – Limited Edition. The character skins are for use in Versus Multiplayer and Horde Mode.
With the purchase of this new DLC, players who attain level 100 will have the choice to re-up for another tour of duty. It is very similar to the Prestige system found in the Call of Duty games. In Gears of War this feature serves very little in terms of gameplay and has more to do with gamers wishing to showcase their dedication as elite Gears of War players. Players can re-up a total of three more times after their first, earning a new wing color each time (Red, Green, and Gold). Rank number will also be coloured Red, Green, or Blue. Each time you re-up you are rewarded with an exclusive custom weapon skin as well which cannot be obtained by any other means.
Although the player skins and ability to re-up is cool, the map locales are the real star of this round of DLC, and really cannot be compared to the fantastic story driven Ramms Shadow, as it is all about the new multiplayer levels. I’ve briefly outlined the new maps below with some high and low points.
The infamous Oracle Academy stands in front of players with such magnificence as to leave you breathless for a moment. Large marble columns and magnificent bronze statues beckon young people come here to train and become future COG. The high walls that surround the playing field are adorned with thick ivy mixed in with the solid marble foundations. At the center of the courtyard is a beautiful circular fountain; this gives little in the way of cover. Academy is quite open and has ample space to move including a narrow side corridor that serves as one link in a straight line between the two main parts of the map. I thought it could offer few ideas for long-range shots effectively marginalizing the role of a sniper. I found that the battles can be frantic on this map thanks to the multitude of cover areas closer in toward the buildings. You must pay close attention to every corner created by the architecture of the buildings as smart players will utilized the shadows. Blind fire is good here. The strong lighting and textures make the map an instant beauty, I also love the destructible environments that the Gears games are so well known for.
It is hard to forget the place where our Gears adventure began. The prison is perhaps the most complex map of the entire DLC, with many narrow corridors and enough dead ends to confuse even the most experienced player. The walls are white tiled taking on an almost clinical and confusing environment. It will take at the very least a few games before you become familiar with the morphology of the environments. At the center of the map is a laundry room with an open space full of washing machines and dryers that occasionally serve as a makeshift cover spot. To the north is what looks like a basketball court and this is the only open-air part of the prison. Overall Slab is a bit cramped for full on multiplayer, but for only a few gamers it can be fun. The exciting area of the map is deeper inside, where the frenzy of conflict will reach a very high level. Most players will end up using the shotgun or the Gnasher as they are perfect for the tight spots all over the map. Granted, there are a few spots for maybe some sniper action, but you will be hard pressed to remain there for any length of time.
This map is really my favourite of the bunch. It is an underwater setting below Azura. The fascinating underwater structures match the above ground hotel/retreat where Adam Fenix conducted his studies for years. Depths has a fairly large floor plan too. On one side is an impressive train stop with comfy seats all around the entire perimeter. I found that most of the battles will take place around the center kiosk which is a few steps higher than the surrounding floor. It can be a nice position to take over, although it can be overrun from the back side. The domed ceilings and glass work are cracked in spots allowing an impressive water effect as water pours in. The entire map is bathed in a refractory light as it diffuses through the water and the result is incredible. Players will hear voice prompts of the train station through the speakers around the entire map, giving it a somewhat realistic train station feel, although you may not hear it when full-fledged fighting ensues.
This level is from the first Gears of War, and it was a favourite of mine back then. Located in front of the villa of the Fenix family estate, the map is basically on the stairs leading up to the home. It is quite a climb; you will pass numerous fountains along with sitting areas and gardens galore. I find this map perfect for snipers from the top looking down. The floor plan is not complicated but it can be a grind if the opposing team, or any players, has established themselves up high. The attention to detail is again very impressive. The map is rendered at night this time around, with the garden lamps lit brightly and numerous insects buzzing by, not to mention the beautiful night time city in the background. At the base of the stairs there is a small courtyard, where some benches and trees provide shelter from the persistent and dangerous snipers, as well as boomers, from up top. Each of the two steps of Escalation has four floors respectively, one of which has a very large and imposing fountain. This usually has a supply of weapons and grenades. This map is a great chess match if played properly.
This map is another perfect example of environmental wholeness and perfection. The partially destroyed stronghold of the COG is now the scene of most atrocious duels that humanity has ever experienced. There are extensive underground lanes connecting the two ends of the map, while overhead bridges protrude treacherously over the wide spaces below. The side corridors are overgrown with lush vegetation which can allow large flanking manoeuvres in order to displace the enemy. Have your wits about you though as they can come around and find you as well. The ideal weapons for the map are long to medium range, thanks to wide-open spaces and heights that allow for some lively attacks on the enemy. Boom kills are particularly satisfying. Along with the Academy, Anvil is the largest map of this package, and can handle some frenetic full room multiplayer mayhem. Graphically Anvil is somewhat muted in color, and a little drab looking form the inside. The light sourcing is once again incredible as you pass from indoors to out, along with impressive texturing throughout. The dilapidated buildings, roads, and bridges that are demolished completely manage to convey a fascinating overview of steel, as the perfect representation of humanity pale, crippled, but still able to fight…and win.
At the end of the day Gears fans should have no problem shelling out the money for Fenix Rising DLC as it offers a great amount of content for a reasonable price. The maps are all well constructed and are really quite pleasing to the eye in regards to the to the visual look and overall design. I’m not really sold on the whole Marcus Fenix tie-in, but who cares as the maps are tons of fun. The extra characters add a breath of fresh air too, but nothing in terms of gameplay; and don’t forget the ability to re-up your level, which is a great device to extend the games online life as much as possible and to continue Epic’s masterpiece. Overall I highly recommend this DLC package.