Gears of War from Epic Games has been a huge video-game franchise for Microsoft’s Xbox 360. It’s an important (and exclusive) component in the Redmond company’s effort to cater to hard-core gamers — the type of people who can debate the relative merits of pinkish red vs. cherry red spatters on the screen when Marcus Fenix takes out an enemy with his chainsaw.

Yes, this is a trilogy worthy of its M rating, not one for the faint of heart. I’ll admit, after seeing one of those chainsaw scenes during a demo of the original Gears of War at Microsoft, I decided it wasn’t for me, or at least not for my living room. But having given in to curiousity and played portions of the games over the years, I can attest to the fact that it’s an impressive franchise.

The final installment, Gears of War 3, is scheduled for release Tuesday, with record pre-orders that bode well for the Microsoft console. And the reviews so far indicate that the game will meet those expectations, for the most part.

Here’s a roundup of advance reviews from a variety of publications.

Brett Molina, USA Today:Gears of War 3 is perhaps the best title of the series. The campaign is intense, and the online options are varied enough to entertain long after the story ends.”

Seth Schiesel, New York Times: “It is engaging to play and easy on the eyes, and the extensive, inventive online modes will lend the game longevity. But in its overall presentation and storytelling, Gears 3 never conveys the sense that its developer, Epic Games, is truly trying to outdo itself.”

Ryan Kuo, Wall Street Journal: “Gears of War 3 is the pinnacle of the series, and everything Epic has wanted Gears to be—a tight, endlessly replayable blockbuster with some glancing looks at real human pain and suffering—but it’s also in this most fully realized form that we can see, and question, it most clearly.”

Gamespot: “Cooperative and competitive opportunities are broader and better than ever, but the most stunning achievement is the campaign. It’s an exhilarating, emotional, and thoroughly satisfying finale for the series, and it makes Gears of War 3 one of the best shooters of the year.”

If you’re one of the fans who will be playing this thing into the wee hours, let us know what you think once you get your hands on it.

Previously on GeekWire: Xbox 360 keeps U.S. streak alive, gears up for next ‘Gears’

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