'Gears of War 3' set for Sept. 20 release

/ Source: The Associated Press

The battle for the planet Sera will continue this fall.

"Gears of War 3," the final chapter in Epic Games' otherworldly Xbox 360 shoot-'em-up trilogy, is scheduled for worldwide release Sept. 20, except in Japan, where it will debut two days later — the developer announced Wednesday. The third edition finds human soldier Marcus Fenix battling the Lambent, a mutated version of the reptilian Locust Horde.

"They burst out of the ground in these veiny, treelike stalks that transport them throughout the world," said design director Cliff Bleszinski. "It's like an embryonic sac. It's nasty stuff. You fight those guys for about a third of the experience, then for the rest of the game you deal with the latest evolution of — or should I say the devolving — Locust."

At the end of 2008's "Gears of War 2," Fenix and the remaining members of the Delta Squad flooded the city of Jacinto, one of the last bastions of humanity on Sera, to cripple the emerging Locust and Lambent forces. Bleszinski said the M-rated video game series' hulking baddies have gone "almost feral" in the third installment, which was delayed from an April release.

"It's something you don't often get at a studio," said Bleszinski. "We were originally talking to Microsoft about an April release, and we certainly could have done it, and it would've been great, but now that we're talking about a holiday release, it's extra time that allows us to step back from our work for a bit and ask what works and what doesn't work."

Bleszinski said a public beta test of the multiplayer mode, which adds "team deathmatch" and the ability to play as the Locust to the mix, will launch this spring and will be "just as much a bug-finding mission as it is a marketing exercise."

The first "Gears of War" was released in 2006.

The series has sold more than 12 million copies, according to Microsoft.