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‘Gears’ cool except for giant rats

In “Gears of War 3,” the Earth-like planet Sera has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland, because of giant aliens going all psycho-killer on humans there.

Is there anything left of humanity for you to even save?

Well, you can try. You portray a couple of muscle-bound, beefy soldier guys. You shoot aliens on empty playgrounds, in caves, through dusty valleys, across bridges and inside buildings.

The kill-all-aliens storyline is full of crafty and macho dialogue. When you blow away aliens in a store, you quip, “Clean up on aisle five.”

If you’ve played previous “Gears,” the battlefield combat here may seem like the same-old, same-old, but that’s sort of the point of game sequels. And there’s some rodent stupidness in “Gears 3.” I’ll explain in a moment.

But overall, “Gears of War 3” is a solid, cinematic adventure. It looks really incredible, especially if you play it in the dark. At its best, it moves and feels amazing.

It’s a third-person cover shooter, so the camera angle rests behind your right shoulder, and you must duck behind walls so as not to be shot.

Serious players may be surprised at how easy it is to stay alive in any mode other than “hardcore.”

But then, many gamers will buy “Gears 3” for the online multiplayer battles, not for the offline campaign.

I don’t love the online multiplayer, but I should point out I haven’t loved previous “Gear” multiplayers either, because characters run at the speed of a lumbering asthmatic.

So to be clear, if you dug previous “Gears” multiplayers, as millions have, you should like this one, too. It’s got well-balanced battlefields, cool weaponry and nice explosions. It’s just not for me.

The only big flaw of “Gears of War 3,” in the offline campaign, is the inclusion of crawlers. Dog-size spiders attack you by the dozen. Suicidal rats strapped with explosives run at you. These things are annoying and not entertaining.

What is worse and stupider: Giant rats sneak up to you, eat your weapons and sprint away.

I spent hours accumulating guns, bullets and grenades — that’s a slog in itself, because we must collect ammo off the ground — and then one gun-hungry rat ran up and stole my stuff!

Do you know how angry this senseless punishment system makes me?

And generally speaking, I don’t respect crawly creatures in video games. Do you remember when Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” said he shot “womp rats” for target practice?

Notice George Lucas was smart enough not to put a scene in “Star Wars” where Luke actually shoots rats, because that would be insipid and tacky.

Aside from the logic problem with the rats of “Gears” (what carbon-based life form eats metal weaponry?), these crawlers hurt the game’s momentum and my incentive to collect weapons.

“Gears” is hardly the first game to go with bugs. It’s just the latest.

Dear everyone who designs video games: If you’re so enamored with crawling bug villains, leave some peanut butter on your kitchen floor and keep them to yourself. They’re dumb. Thanks.

(“Gears of War 3” by Microsoft retails for $60 for Xbox 360 — Plays fun. Looks terrific. Easy to moderately challenging. Rated “M” for blood, gore, intense violence and strong language. Four stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@ reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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