One of the first things I came across in the game while having a rummage through the menus was a short video recapping the events of the previous two games in the trilogy. Kind of like the "Previously On..." clips you get at the start of many TV show (although this especially reminded me of the intros from Lost). As this is the first time I have played a game from the Gears series, this was a really nice feature, although it may not be so useful for the hardcore fan of the series.
Starting out in the game in the first level it was nice to see animations other than just walk cycles. One example was when Marcus steps through a doorway, but stopped to step over the higher block in the center, rather than straight through or over it. Further into the game this type of animation was continued, but was used sparsely and during the slower parts of the game where you are just getting to the next story advancement. This was effective because they don't get in the way by slowing you down, but keep the flow of the game interesting.
The level environments are continuously rich in detail (although I did spot some low resolution textures along the way). A nice touch I came across was some destructible props which made it easier to shoot enemies, and it is also possible to interact with certain elements of the environment. An example I found was a button which when pressed dropped some creates into the floor which enemies were taking cover behind. However, these can also sometimes get in the way, but in a positive way when looking at the design of levels. I was trying to shoot an enemy higher up than me but a crane hook was in the middle of my field of view so a few of my shots were blocked.
The active reload system where hitting the reload button, then quickly hitting it again in the given range makes it quicker to reload your weapon which can save time at critical time, such as when multiple enemies are trying to shoot you down. Imagine the number of times you reload in an shooter? It just makes sense to have this! Although on the flip side this can have a downside. If you suddenly realise the you need to reload, but the reload sequence has just started, you hit the reload button and as you do the active reload hits early causing a longer reload.
Collectibles in games are commonplace now, but in Gears it actually feels like there is purpose to collecting them (other than for the achievement). For example, the 5th collectible of the game. It's a journal entry speaking of how Lambents "go down quick, but there's so many of them that we're burning through ammo like toilet paper at a chili festival". I really enjoyed this. Not only does it add to the game by progressing the story a little, but shows that the game also has a fun side, and there can still be some humor found in all the shit going on around.
A great guide I used for finding all of the collecatables:
Given that the game is so strongly based around a quite complex story line, the facial animations are a bit of a letdown. The lip sync is really not convincing and words don't seem to match up to what is said. During cut scenes between the continuation of the main story line you keep getting little bits to the back stories of the characters which is nice and keeps you interesting in what is going on outside of the main story.
After finally completing the main story campaign in a little under 10 hours on Normal, I would defiantly recommend this game to somebody that has not played it yet and enjoys a good shooter. The final battle was a great conclusion to the story, although at one point I thought I was going to be massively disappointed with the way you take her down. I really enjoyed fighting system (especially taking a chainsaw to an enemies face), the slightly slower pace of movement giving the characters a feeling of the weight that they are carrying in armor and the whole game in general.