Review: Gears of War 2
The gaming equivalent of placing a ‘kick me’ sign on your own back returns.
â€œBigger, better and more badassâ€ is what Cliffy B used to describe Gears of War 2 way back when. It sounded like over-the-top PR speak at the time but he couldn’t have been closer to the truth.
Amid criticisms that the previous game’s story was rather lacking, things have been significantly upped here. By Gears’ standards anyway. Taking place some months after the events of the previous game you again take the lead as Marcus Fenix, accompanied by Dom (who seems to have suddenly remembered he actually has a wife) and other faces old and new in their continued struggle against the Locust. In an attempt to flesh out the story, rather than collecting COG tags you instead pick up items such as newspaper clippings, diaries, and letters which help to explain the events surrounding the Locust attacks in more detail. Dom’s search for his wife, Maria, is also one of the main plot points used to drive the story along. Overall the story and script are rather cheesy but the game knows it and doesn’t really seem to care.
Gameplay-wise pretty much everything has been kept the same. The cover mechanic that has become the series’ trademark works better than ever; you rarely, if ever, become stuck to the wrong piece of scenery and the â€œstop and popâ€ mechanics are as intense as you remember. However, whereas the first game only had one solitary vehicle section, Gears 2 uses them much more frequently to break up the action.
While these sections are mostly enjoyable, some of them end up becoming the worst aspect of the game, particularly the turret sections. Playing through the game on ‘Hardcore’ (which seems to be a lot easier than it was in the original) it was no coincidence that the many occasions I died during those sections vastly outweighed the times I died in normal combat.
Executions are still as gory as ever. While previously you could only execute an enemy with a curb stomp, you now have a number of options mapped to the face buttons including the option to use the Locust as a shield while you whip out your pistol for added protection in heated moments and, of course, this wouldn’t be Gears of War without some suitably over-the-top weapons to back it up. The Lancer Assault rifle is back and now includes the option to chainsaw-duel when you come up against a similarly-equipped enemy. Newcomers include the flamethrower, the powerful burst-fire Gorgon Pistol and my personal favourite – the Mortar. The satisfaction you get when you successfully judge the distance and unleash a barrage of shells on a group of opponents is simply brilliant.
A host of new Locust have been introduced. Most notably (and annoyingly) are the Tickers â€“ basically Gears of War 2’s version of Headcrabs but with bombs strapped to their back. Others include the explosive mace & shield wielding Maulers and the Bloodmounts.
This is the sequel to the massively popular testosterone and steroid fuelled run ‘n’ gun shooter. It is pretty much the same as the original, except with more variety to the levels.
The story is the same load of bollocks as the first, with you playing either as the Bender-voiced Marcus Fenix or Dom Somethingorother. There’s also the inconsequential side-plot about finding Dom’s wife.
Multi-player is back with more game-modes and an extra person on each side. Their attempt to fix the host advantage problems with the chainsaws by making you have to bash the B button repeatedly to win this still seems a bit shit, due to the fact their still seems to be a host advantage when it comes to the button bashing.
The real stand out improvement in this game is playing the Horde mode. You and four other people fight off wave after wave of Locust on your chosen map. Unfortunately unless you’re playing with friends the match making system is very slow. Luckily from my experience you don’t get the racist/bigoted dicks in this mode which infest the rest of the game.
Secondary Score: 8/10
Upon its release, the first Gears of War was home to arguably the best graphics on a home console and while at first glance Gears 2 doesn’t appear to be much of an improvement, this quickly changes as you advance through the campaign mode and includes some of the most impressive set-pieces you will see this generation. Each chapter is visually trumped by the last, from snow-topped mountains to glistening cave networks and demolished cities. Unlike its predecessor which only allowed a handful of Locust on screen at a time, that number has been upped significantly and helps to emphasize the feeling of a real warzone.
The co-op campaign is as solid as ever and remains two-player despite many calling for it to be expanded to four. Even though computer AI has been vastly improved and is now far less suicidal than before, it is certainly no substitute for playing it in co-op with a friend. I was never a fan of the multiplayer in the original game and my opinion hasn’t really changed. The general mechanics feel too clunky and cumbersome for me to enjoy it. Plus the shotgun spammers are still present, although not a prominent as they were previously. Also the chansaw still seems to randomly decide whether it wants to work or not. There are also problems with the match making with it often taking a good number of minutes to find a game, very poor compared to Halo 3 or COD4.
The main addition to multiplayer is the new five-player co-op Horde mode. Think of it as something similar to Rainbow Six: Vegas’ ‘Terrorist Hunt’ mode and you get the idea. You fight your way past continuous waves of enemies from one to fifty, with every few waves gradually getting harder and introducing more powerful enemies.
While Gears of War ended far too abruptly and left me rather disappointed with the length, the sequel is quite the opposite. In creating Gears of War 2, Epic have taken on board every criticism of the previous game. It’s the perfect length, the set-pieces are stunning and Horde mode provides hours of fun with friends. At times it makes the original feel like a mere tech demo and is without a doubt one of the best games available on the 360. This is a lesson to other developers on how a sequel should be.