Like the next Modern Warfare or FIFA title, Epic's Gears Of War 3 could always count on a rapturous reception on release. The final act in a bloody, frantic and much adored trilogy, the delayed release (from April 2011 to September) only served to add to the hype.
With a current Metacritic score of 92, based on 29 reviews, most have praised the series for all the things it has always done well - giant action scenes, blood and mess done with style and slick mechanics. The truth is when it comes to this sort of hardcore shooter series, fans and critics don't want huge sweeping changes that could threaten the very elements of the game that they love.
But there have been improvements, as noted by Nick Cowen in the Guardian who thought there was a notable progression in the game writing.
"The story is a marked improvement. Epic's design director Cliff Bleszinski has always said that 'Gears isn't Shakespeare', but it's clear he and the rest of the talented folk at Epic wanted to hit a couple of emotional notes in Gears of War 3."
"The voice acting and dialogue is also a cut above previous instalments. The way in which the COG soldiers trade quips and reflect on the apocalyptic wasteland of Sera with grim gallows humour, lightens what could have been a dour and incredibly downcast gaming experience altogether."
The final score is a full 5 out of 5, with Cowen declaring the game the "franchise's swansong."
"Epic can rest easy knowing their world-conquering series ended on something of a high note. It really is one of this year's essential titles."
Perhaps unsurprisingly Official Xbox Magazine UK also awarded the game full marks, and particularly praised the mechanics as sharpened to "flawless precision" and level design.
"It's still immensely satisfying to explode Locust heads with a sniper rifle, and much to our delight, every single firearm now has its very own gruesome execution move."
"The real joy is in the levels themselves, however. Gone are Gears 2's missteps, like the endless underground caves and the abysmal platforming section inside the belly of a giant worm. In their place are spectacular set-pieces that are as wonderful to look at as they are to fight in."
IGN meanwhile seemed weary of more of the same, but still gave the game nine out of ten.
"Yes, the game is better overall - arguably the best of the series - but it's still the same stuff we've done and seen before. This becomes especially apparent during the boss fights, and specifically the final boss encounter, which felt completely predictable."
It was also one of the reviews that mentioned the multiplayer, and again seemed disappointed in what it found there, arguing that it was actually worse than the first game.
"Tough-to-navigate menus, poor matchmaking, slower movement, wonky cover system, multi-second stuns from grenades, a bevy of weird exploits… it all added up to a giant meh, certainly not what anyone expected from the follow-up to the much-loved multiplayer of the first game."
But one of the lowest reviews comes from Johnny Minkley at Eurogamer, who clearly loved the series but felt frustrated at some of the more linear aspects of game play, and gave the game just 8 out of ten.
"Fall in line with the game's rigid rules and you'll be gleefully whisked along by the majesty of it all; step out of line and the edges begin to fray. "
He described a particular boss battle, where "the siege came unstuck when I realised my distressed heroics were actually only delaying the next scripted sequence in the battle," but still felt the game deserved a chance.
"To be clear, for every one of these annoyances, there are a number of superbly judged action sequences that present the series at its very best - sequences which should make repeated play-throughs in four-player co-op an enduring blast."