Basic Intro to Gears of War 3 Default Weapons

[002557]There are many weapons in Gears of War 3, and each requires a unique approach to use effectively. Guns are varied so that a certain balance is achieved where there is a gun for virtually any situation and range, but not too many that apply to any one situation. This mechanic makes it so no single gun stands too far above the others of comparable power and makes game play more based on the player’s individual skill with the gun they’ve chosen. Someone who’s bad with a Hammerburst rifle can get gunned down at range by someone who’s an expert with the Retro Lancer. Since the game has so many weapons, I’m going to focus on the primary weapons you start with as they are the guns most heavily relied upon. I’ll deal with map-placed weaponry next issue.


The Lancer:


This is the staple gun of the Gears of War franchise that gave us all a little taste of the Gears shock-and-awe by shoving an impossibly awesome chainsaw bayonet in our faces. It’s been there since day one and has gone through a few changes. As far as aesthetics go, nothing has really been changed except for the sound it makes when firing. The first Gears gave the lancer and the Hammerburst rifles low, heavy sounds that made it sound like the gun weighed fifty pounds and fired .50 cal bullets. Now it sounds like just a normal rifle most of the time, but I must admit I’ve come to enjoy how the active rounds make the gun sound like a jackhammer from Hell.

Aesthetics aside, the Lancer is the easiest of all the rifles to use and is generally considered to have the most powerful active rounds. Of the two rifles that can be fired full-auto, the Lancer has the tightest spread, and it has the greatest stopping power (the ability for sustained fire on a target to halt the target’s forward motion.) of any rifle, making it easy to take down anyone stupid enough to charge you. That being said, its effectiveness with normal ammunition drops off significantly beyond medium range. The active rounds, however, gain a special property of being unusually accurate. Though the ammo is much brighter and thusly more visible to enemies, it actually helps in terms of accuracy because it allows the user to follow their ammunition downrange much easier. This makes it possible to be fairly accurate at long range with the Lancer at almost full-auto firing speed. The Lancer also has the largest ammo clip out of any gun, making it perfect for suppressing fire. Sometimes entire teams will all use Lancer rifles because of how effective the overlapping, fully automatic fire is. Assaulting a position held down by two coordinated enemies with Lancers is almost impossible, let alone 3 or more!

Now onto the fun part, the infamous chainsaw bayonet! In previous Gears games, the chainsaw was more of a Hail-Mary or humiliation move. It was usually frowned upon when someone chainsawed an enemy in the middle of a fight because you were almost guaranteed to be killed yourself before the chainsaw animation can end. In Gears 3, however, it has developed a couple interesting properties/glitches for the chainsaw that has actually made it a viable option in certain situations. Firstly, the chainsaw exhibits a weird, vacuum effect whenever people get too close. Most often this is seen when an enemy revs up a chainsaw and a person thinks he can take him in one shot with his Gnasher shotgun. But just as the person with the shotgun is about to fire, the enemy seems to suddenly slide across the short gap still separating them, or he himself slides forward, and the shotgun-wielder suddenly finds himself being bisected. This also can result in situations where someone revs a chainsaw up so close to an enemy that the enemy cannot get away before being sucked into the chainsaw killbox. They have to be pretty close though, and the second curious property is actually a part of the weapon’s weakness.

Chainsaws, once revved up, can be interrupted with gunfire. This has been constant in all the games until a little semi-glitch has appeared in Gears3. All bullets will make a chainsaw stall in place except for glancing blows from a shotgun. While solid hits from a shotgun will still make the chainsaw stall, glancing blows have no effect. This gives the Lancer chainsaw a new Hail-Mary situation where the user hopes for a shotgun-wielding enemy misses the first shot and gets chainsawed before the gun allows them to fire a second time. It’s a slim chance but can make for a very hilarious final kill.



This is by far the most accurate of the rifles. And by accurate, I mean pinpoint-accurate. This is the gun you use to take someone down from clear across the map. The gun is a rather advanced weapon with a few downsides that become rather exploitable if the wielder slacks off. First off, the gun’s clip is very small, so every shot needs to count. The Hammerburst has the potential to down someone faster than any other rifle, but the wielder must be pulling the trigger fast enough while making sure almost every bullet in the clip hits its target. Secondly, the Hammerburst is almost useless at close-range due to its low stopping power and very tight bullet spread. The accuracy that makes the gun deadly at long-range causes it to be ineffective at close-range.

The Hammerburst is still a formidable weapon in the right hands. While a wall of people with Lancers is formidable in the immediate area, a team equipped with Hammerbursts can lock down an entire map no matter the size. It’s also unmatched in one-on-one combat with another rifle because of its takedown speed. Exposing yourself for even a second can give a skilled Hammerburst-wielder all the time he needs to get a down, or to just do enough damage so movement is impossible and the opponent gets locked into his position until he is overrun. Hammerburst active reloads give only the standard damage boost, but because of how much more effective it still makes the gun, the reload minigame is slightly different than other guns. Usually, as the bar on the ammo-reload HUD display slides down towards the grey reload area and the white active reload area, the white zone is always much smaller than the gray zone but usually comes before the gray. On the Hammerburst, however, the white active zone is at the very end of the gray reload zone, making the timing for an active rather awkward and making the player wait longer than other guns for active ammunition.

retro kill

Retro Lancer:

My personal favorite, the Retro Lancer is a new addition to the Gears universe that premiered with Gears3 alongside the Sawed-off shotgun. Like the Hammerburst, the Retro is a rather advanced rifle, but like most guns in Gears, it has certain advantages over the other rifles when used properly (again, an element that makes the game very successful by making battles more about skill than the gun itself). The Retro has the greatest power-per-bullet of any rifle, but it has monstrous recoil. Full-auto fire causes the gun to ride up on the wielder like crazy and the bullet spread to widen so much the effective range shrinks to nearly point-blank. Though the Retro technically has the second-greatest stopping-power of the rifles, I believe some may think it has more due to how the large amount of damage it can deal in such a short time at close range can make it appear that the opponent was slowed down more significantly when he may have just been brought down faster. While it is very difficult to use the Retro at long range, it is possible by firing one bullet at a time and leading the target a little because, while the bullets are large enough to be tracked downrange effectively, especially with active ammo, they are still rather slow compared to the instantaneous Hammerburst. The final weakness of the Retro is in it’s reload minigame. Another element of the minigame is that, after a player successfully active reloads, the next active is made harder to achieve by making the white area players need to make their slider land on smaller and smaller after each successful active reload. Out of all the guns in the game, the Retro has the smallest area of white at normal, non-successive reload levels. This makes it have one of the hardest actives to successfully get repeatedly in the game, though it is not without benefit.

Retro active ammo may not be the best in the game, but it sure adds to the gun’s rage-inducing ability. The Retro is already known as the anti-rush-down gun, making it the ultimate counter-strategy for Sawed-off users. The active ammo only accentuates this by giving the gun a damage and stopping-power boost in addition to making the bullets slightly larger and therefore more accurate.

The Retro has another, more coveted advantage over the other rifles. Due to the large bayonet at the end, the Retro has a stronger-than-normal melee in addition to its patented “Retro charge”. Even a slight increase in damage could mean the difference between downing someone or getting blown away by a shotgun. The Retro Charge, in its most straightforward use, is a flashy way to kill someone similar to the Chainsaw on the Lancer. There is one weakness to the Charge, it takes a second of running for the lethal animation to be possible. This weakness, however, does result in a very annoying strategy that some call “Retro Poking”. Because the Retro Charge isn’t lethal during the first few steps of the run, impacting someone during this short time will result in a melee-like hit that is significantly stronger than a normal melee. The player can then quickly melee and get a quick down before the opponent has time to react with more than one shot of a Gnasher. It’s a rather risky strategy, but also a fun scrub-killing technique since close-quarters combat takes some getting used to.


"Look Ma, no face."
“Look Ma, no face.”


Now to get to the nitty-gritty of it all, close-quarters combat. This is probably the most crucial part of Gears multiplayer. Although rifles do contribute to damaging the enemies and are good assist weapons, most of the actual kills are gotten with either a power weapon or a shotgun. Of the two available, the Gnasher is considered the better of the two overall and the mark of a true Gears player. Time to nut the hell up.

The Gnasher’s obvious advantages over the Sawed-off are its range and eight-round magazine. Ironically, neither of these make it superior in a direct, close-range fight. The Sawed-off has a much wider spread and a much longer gib(giblets aka someone getting blown to bits) range, so a Gnasher wielder’s only option is to space his shots to down the opponent before he gets too close. This requires the player to aim down the sight with the gun, which alters its shot spread slightly. It’s generally understood that one should only aim down the sight if the target is at medium range. Firing from the hip is more accurate at close range because of the wider camera angle and the spread is slightly less-focused and comes from the midsection of the character rather than the shoulder area.

The Gnasher’s active rounds seem to have been augmented over time seemingly in response to the power boosts given to the Sawed-off. Active rounds for the Gnasher obviously give the bullets more power, but also greatly increases the range to almost medium range rifle distance. This allows the wielder to surprise the opponent by firing from what seems to be too great of a distance for the Gnasher to be lethal. The opponent thinks he’s getting an easy rifle kill when he suddenly finds himself down on the floor after two shotgun rounds, which gamers have dubbed the “2-shot down”. Usually shotgun battles end either in one shot where one player is blown to giblets, or a slightly more distanced, aim-down-the-sight fight takes place. Usually at least 3 shots are exchanged in these situations before someone goes down, but proficient Gnasher wielders can be accurate enough to down someone in just two shots, ending the dual rather quickly and frustrating the other player. Very few things in Gears of War are more annoying than getting red-ringed(hurt to the point that a full Gears symbol appears on your screen) in one shot and knowing that all it takes to bring you down now is one stray bullet.

Strategy with the Gnasher is varied, but most of it involves either distraction, stealth, or baiting people into rushing you. Gnashers are the perfect weapon for a cluster-fuck situation where several people from both teams create a virtual mosh pit on the map. Keeping a calm head and a steady thumb is crucial in these situations, but a skilled player can weave in and around the other players and claim the kills while the opponents are either focused on another target or are confused by the general melee.

The stealth approach takes the most effort out of the three strategies beyond direct confrontation. It generally involves either waiting on the sidelines for one of the enemies to become distracted and then approaching them either quickly enough with a roadie run so they can’t react to the assault or to normally and silently walk, or “granny walk”, up to the enemy and ambush them. Another stealth approach involves running around the map so as to come up from behind the enemy in a way they wouldn’t expect, either because the bulk of your forces are in another, more frontal location or to run from a direction where the enemy thinks their own troops should be coming from. This strategy should be used sparingly, however, as it is dangerous to run at the enemy alone from any direction and it becomes predictable and easily defensible after the first successful assault.

Baiting the enemy is the strategy that I find myself using the most as the opportunities for such present themselves rather often. The situation is usually as such: I’m holding some sort of position on the map with my teammates when I notice an enemy is nearby down the range hiding behind some cover, looking for a weak point to charge forward. To get him to come out, I’ll pretend like he’s not there and start firing at some, farther away enemy I have no real intention of killing. As soon as the closer enemy pops out and commits to a charge, I quickly switch weapons and gib him before he gets a chance to come out of his roadie run.



A gun that was designed for beginners to the Gears of War universe, the Sawed-off is easy to use but doesn’t offer the range of use and room to grow in skill like the Gnasher. The gun was designed to be an almost guaranteed kill at close range, making it superior to the Gnasher in single-shot, close-quarters battles, but that’s all you’ll get. The Sawed-off only has one shot before the wielder has to reload, and the gun boasts the longest reload delay of any gun in the game. The basic strategy, if it can be called that, is to rush in, get the easy one-shot kill, then run away to reload the next shot. The only other recourse one has if they cannot get away or if the shot misses is to either switch guns, which takes a fair amount of time, or to try and melee the opponent into submission. One unique property that the Sawed-off shotgun has is a much wider spread than the Gnasher, allowing it the potential to kill multiple enemies in a single blast if they are clustered close enough together, earning the player a “Kaboom” ribbon. As far as the active rounds for the gun go, I have little experience with the gun as I rarely use it and there is little information online about the exact effects of the perfect active reload. This says to me that the Sawed-off active reload effects are either non-existent or inconsequential relative to its already impressive strength.

The Sawed-off was designed to be a clunky beginner’s weapon, but it wasn’t long before skilled players started abusing its momentary advantage over the Gnasher. Although the Gnasher is more skilled and has more potential and use, the Sawed-off is much more easily abused to just get a quick kill and dip out under the covering fire of your team. It got so annoying that the community started to complain online about its overpowered nature versus the Gnasher. The in-game description of the Sawed-off’s powers is inaccurate as the kill range of the gun almost equaled the Gnasher. People called for Epic to either nerf the gun in some way or to possibly turn it into a map-placed power weapon. Instead, Epic gave the Sawed-off a power boost, making it even more overpowered and impossible to challenge with the Gnasher. This misunderstanding of how their own game works was reinforced with how they treated the Sawed-off and other weapons in Gears of War: Judgment. Not only does Epic, sans Cliff Blezinksy, increase the Sawed-off’s power further by giving it a second shot before reloading, but they also allow players to spawn with two frag grenades instead of smoke grenades. Anyone who’s played any of the past Gears games knows that frags are very strong power weapons that are usually placed at a neutral spot on the maps. Having them spawn with every player is game-breaking. Overall, the Sawed-off is a noob weapon that got handled in all the wrong ways.