Bizarrely, despite the fact that it's probably now my most played console, the Xbox 360 was the last 'this generation' console I bought. I picked up a Wii at launch, imported a PS3 from the US when it was delayed in Australia and didn't buy a 360 for quite some time.
I had played other games in the various offices I had worked at, or at friends houses, but the original Gears of War was the first game I actually personally played on my own Xbox 360, and I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the franchise.
Love? Well, the obvious - you'd struggle to find a game that's as polished as Gears of War, that's paced as well, that feels as good to simply play. Gears of War 3 has that strange secret ingredient, that extra layer of pizzaz that means every single action you perform in the game somehow feels good - it's enough to simply exist in the Gears of War universe. Very few games have that feeling - Mario, Halo, Assassin's Creed. It has that genuine weight of control that I love in games.
Also, bizarrely, in ways you might not expect, Gears of War is quite innovative. It borrows from other games, sure, but the active reload, the way the weapons fire, it has a feeling that's difficult to replicate.
And that takes me to the hate part - a part that is completely outside of Gears' control, but must be mentioned regardless...
The imitators. The success of Gears of War is arguably its greatest issue - a market plagued with wannabe shooters, with plagiarised control schemes, with a look borrowed both from the art style of Gears and the engine it was built on. The tragedy of Gears of War's success is that the attempt of lesser developers to borrow the elements of Gears that work has arguably reduced the potency of future Gears of War games.
Halo had the same problem before it, as did Grand Theft Auto III. That's the price of success I suppose.
Regardless, I can't wait to see what Epic has done with the threequel, what elements have change, what has improved, etc.
Look for a preview soon folks!