If the campaign demo at E3 is any indication, Gears of War looks more than ready for its September 20 release date.

The behind closed doors demo started on the same derelict ship as the live demo from the press conference. The mission, aptly called Abandon Ship, finds Marcus and Dom facing off against a huge sea beast called the Leviathan. With the ship coming apart at the seams, the squad needs to move quickly to get its uninvited guest to back off. As they work their way to the ship deck, the walls and windows around them crumble and shatter, showcasing the new vertex deformation that makes the Gears 3 environments feel much more alive than in previous games.

With long, powerful tentacles and a mouth that could swallow the entire Gears squad whole, Lancers aren't going to cut it in this battle. Marcus saves his ammo and instead hops into a giant mech armed to the teeth. As he fired up the new toy, design director Cliff Bleszinski was quick to note that both players can use these in co-op. While in these nearly impenetrable suits, bullets ricochet away harmlessly and players can stomp pesky insect enemies indiscriminately. The duo concentrates their fire on the Leviathan's eye, which explodes and showers the ship deck with disgusting residue.

What happens next is a first in the Gears of War 3 franchise. Bleszinski says his team has become more comfortable in the roll of narrator, and they wanted to break away from the conventional plot structure to showcase the secondary characters and give you a new perspective into Delta squad. To accomplish these goals Gears of War 3 occasionally shifts perspective away from Marcus and Dom in favor of other Delta members. In this instance, players take the role of Cole and Baird as they try to drive away the sea beast by dumping a freight container worth of tickers on its head. Before they can seal the deal, the duo needs to fight through some enemies with the help of impressive new weaponry.

The first new weapon is the Vulcan Cannon, a two-man gatling gun that packs an exponentially bigger punch than the Mulchure. As one person lays down a continuous stream of bullets, the other feeds the weapon more ammo. When the enemies show up with sniper rifles, however, the team has to abandon the lead sprayer and duck into cover. Cole flanks an unaware sap and ends his day with a vicious blow to the ribcage. With a sniper rifle in hand, he then picks away at the remaining foes with the surprisingly powerful weapon, which shatters shields on contact and still has enough firepower left to deal considerable damage.

Cole and Baird successfully dump the box of tickers on the Leviathan's head, but they aren't in the clear yet. The ship is breaking apart rapidly, and as the overpass crumbles beneath their feet, the squad scrambles to stay on high ground. When the platform gives way, Baird starts plummeting only to be grabbed at the last second by Anya. He jokes about this being a moment where he's supposed to confide his love for her, but whatever bond they have isn't strong enough. Anya loses her grip and he plummets into the cloud of smoke below.

Bleszinski says this cliffhanger is just one of many intense story moments the campaign, which is the longest one in the series. It certainly looks polished, and we'll find out September 20 if it's also the best.