Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Review

By Jerry Minnich, 2 years ago
Geometry Wars, a retro-themed twin stick shooter, is one of the most celebrated series available on the Xbox platform and has had no small part in making Xbox LIVE what it is today. While it may have started out as a mini game in the Project Gotham racing series, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved exploded into the mainstream as a day one release of the Xbox LIVE Arcade service and currently holds the record for most downloaded XBLA title of all time. It quickly became the first must-have arcade game for the Xbox 360 and with several successful spinoffs and sequels it was clear that Geometry Wars was here to stay... that is until developer Bizarre Creations closed its doors in 2011. Not all hope may be lost, however, as a handful of the original developers formed Lucid Games and in an out-of-nowhere shocker have released Geometry Wars³: Dimensions. But can this new studio ever possibly live up to the monuments built by its predecessors?

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Short answer: absolutely. To the delight of series fanatics and newcomers alike, Dimensions captures all of the spirit, excitement and challenge of previous installments while injecting a vast array of innovations and improvements across the board. The grid is back, and it's better than ever. For those unfamiliar with the series thus far, the concept is simple: you fly your ship (or shape, really) through an ever intensifying field of enemy ships (shapes) that try to collide with you in any way possible. Get hit and you're out. Stay alive and get points, collect the remains of your enemies to multiply your score thus earning more points. The concept takes moments to learn but a lifetime to master and usually results in instant addiction.

Dimensions just doesn't recycle this formula, it expands it in leaps and bounds and takes it to relevant new heights that both keep the core experience intact and push the limits of creativity within one of the world's simplest games. The largest of these changes, as mentioned in the game's title, is the adding of the third dimension. The arena now takes shape in the form of various spheres, cubes and everything in between, and adds exponential levels of depth in both strategy and challenge. Enemies can come from any direction and adding multiple surfaces to the grid gives those enemies the element of surprise. Claustrophobia begins to set in as you can't see what madness awaits you beyond the edge of the cube or the apex of the hourglass. The smaller environments combined with the sense of the unknown ramp up the challenge ten-fold. Your bullets can traverse these edges too, and watching your shots curve around in crazy ways to blow up unseen enemies is extremely satisfying but it is not enough, if you're going to survive this madness you're going to need some help.

Titan Box

That help comes in the form of your drone, an automated companion that accompanies you throughout these trials, and it's easily one of the most entertaining and intelligent new features in the game. These drones come in five variants offering different abilities to assist you along the way. Some are much more useful than others in most circumstances, but each adds its own unique improvement that drastically alters the strategy in how you play the game. Find yourself screaming to intensify the forward firepower? Equip the Attack drone. Worried about enemies getting a little too close? The Ram drone is here to throw itself into the fray for your defense. The most exciting of these however come in the form of the Collect and Snipe drones. The former being a relatively early unlock that runs around grabbing score multipliers for you, giving you the opportunity to focus on the task at hand: avoiding the baddies. The Snipe drone? He sits back with you rapidly blasting multiple enemies from across the map and is an absolute beast when things get heavy, which of course, they always do. Adding further depth are unlockable super abilities that can be paired with any drone to be used in case of emergency. These abilities range from laying mines out on the battlefield to creating black holes that suck in enemies and increase your multiplier. Sadly neither of those are of tremendous use and you won't see much benefit in the form of the upgradeable abilities until you reach higher level iterations such as the Turret or Clone that can wreak havoc with devastating effect. No matter which option you choose to stick with, these additions allow you to tailor abilities to your own specific strategy and add the much needed punch to endure and conquer these new 3D spaces.

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Where past Geometry Wars titles simply gave you a specific game type and let you have at it until you reached a score that you deemed satisfactory, Dimensions features a full campaign that is impressive in length and unforgiving in difficulty. Fifty unique and exciting levels fully realize all variants of the game's added improvements and modes and keep things fresh and challenging all the way through. These stages are completed by achieving a set score and range in a ranking of one to three stars. Earning these stars unlocks the advanced abilities of your drones but is also a prerequisite for continuing on to future stages, specifically boss battles. Many will find this system unsettlingly familiar to many of the more popular mobile games out there, but instead of being a headache, the implementation here manages to be pure brilliance. Encouraging you to go back to previous levels to improve on your past attempts adds replay value and additional challenge, and as you increase in rank to unlock new drones and upgrades it keeps the content from going stale. Seeing your abilities grow relative to your increasing skill is a payoff in its own right and you'll find yourself returning more and more just to seek revenge on the level that gave you so much trouble in the past.

As mentioned above, boss battles make their first appearance in the series and while they are challenging, these engagements usually result squandered potential for something greater. Bosses sit back and throw enemies at you but if you endure long enough, they'll drop their shield enabling you to return fire. The concept is very basic in nature and upset even more by its scoring system, getting three stars means getting more points and getting more points means shooting more enemies. Therefore a maximum score usually comes down to sitting back and shooting minions all day instead of the big boss, making the whole exercise seem counterproductive.

In its presentation, aside from the new 3D spaces, Dimensions hasn't changed much. Geometric shapes blow up on screen as pretty as ever with all of the sparks and flashes one has come to expect from the series. Geometry Wars has never been for the faint of heart and that tradition stands proudly here as it continues to be one of the most dazzling spectacles of fireworks and explosions available on console. It's hard to fault Lucid Games for trying to improve on perfection but some minor graphical tweaks do hinder the experience. This is presented mainly in the changes to the "black hole" enemies that have an intensified graphical presence that makes both identifying the target and determining when it has been eliminated much more difficult. On a game that requires absolute player precision, this can cause a contradiction not seen in previous installments. Of course the grid would be nothing without its bass-pounding, blood-pumping soundtrack and these tunes are once again present and deliver the desired effect. Unfortunately original composer Chris Chudley is absent from Dimensions so while the music is very reminiscent of its predecessors, it doesn't live up to the classic soundtrack that series veterans will reminisce about while racking up those high scores.

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Couch co-op makes its triumphant return to the series with a separate campaign allowing you and three others to take on the challenge together. Working cooperatively with friends against the grid is an absolute blast but is somewhat squandered by a shortage of content. Co-op consists of a ten level campaign pulled from 2D levels in the single player and while getting three stars on every level is as enticing as ever, its difficulty is marred simply by how many people are playing and with a full team of four you'll soon be left without much to do. These ten levels encompass the whole of the cooperative experience, leaving older competitive modes or the always hilarious "one player shoots the other flies" strangely absent. To help make up for this shortcoming is the addition of Xbox LIVE matchmaking in which two teams competitively fight for scores to see who comes out on top. Various limited ammo and King of the Hill style concepts make these modes enjoyable but again lack the full suite of variety given in the single player campaign. While they may feel shallow by comparison, they add to the whole picture of easily one of the best values on the Marketplace. Coming in at $14.99 / £11.99 / €14.99 for a robust campaign, local and LIVE multiplayer, bonus levels and the inclusion of all five unaltered game modes from Geometry Wars 2 make this an experience that all can afford to buy and none can afford to miss.

For many it will be Dimensions superb achievement list that lingers on their thoughts the longest but completionists beware: this one is going to be tough... very tough. The disparity between the achievements will become clear throughout your campaign playthrough, netting the first 500 Gamerscore or so comes naturally. Those other 500 points? Those are for the best of the best and are spread out across an outstanding array of impressive feats that will challenge your bravery, endurance and sanity. From accomplishing impressive scores on classic modes, to more interesting criteria on specific campaign levels, or even a collection involving beating the developers at their own game, this is simply one of the best lists around. There are minor pitfalls however, such as accumulating a million multipliers throughout the campaign (a grind of seriously epic proportions) but those shortcomings are made up for with one of the most clever (and heartwarming) achievements ever seen. The list is so diverse and challenging it compels players to give it their all and provides major bragging rights to those who attain 100% completion.

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Despite the improbable, or even the impossible, Lucid Games has not only saved Geometry Wars but has reestablished it as the must-have arcade experience on console. It will dazzle you with its lights, drown you with its bass and devour you with its challenge all within a perfectly priced and impeccably polished package. A game meant for few to master but all to enjoy, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions has brought the best of its storied history with it and by is a series that won't be going away any time soon. Enter a novice, leave a legend and be sure to enjoy every moment along the way. The grid awaits.

The reviewer spent approximately 25 hours earning 21 out of 30 achievements, seven of these hours were spent attempting to earn an achievement that still eludes him. This review was made from an Xbox One copy provided by the publisher.
Jerry Minnich
Written by Jerry Minnich
Jerry Minnich is a dapper young fellow from Fort Worth, Texas. He loves gaming, beer and spending time with his lovely wife and pug. He doesn't know what a twitter is, he does have a facebook that he infrequently frequents, but really just find him on Xbox Live. His favorite game is Half-Life 2, favorite movie is Fight Club, favorite beer is whatever happens to be in front of him. Women want to be him, men want to be with him.