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Gears of War 2 Review

Gears of War 2 pack shot
Developer:Epic Games, Inc.
Publisher:Microsoft Game Studios
Genre:Shooter
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://gearsofwar.xbox.com/
Release Date:November 7th, 2008 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 

The original Gears of War was one of the reasons I invested in Microsoft's big, white, noisy box, so the news that Epic were bringing out a sequel to the blockbuster was pretty good to hear. And, as expected, Gears of War 2 has happily chainsawed its way to the top of the charts, slaughtering the other recent releases and even dropping the Master Chief himself down a couple of steps.

And yes, it is very, very good, but it doesn't really do anything we haven't seen before. The graphics are sharper, there are more weapons, more multiplayer game modes and ever-more epic and cinematic battle scenes, but the basic gameplay remains unchanged- run from cover to cover, chainsaw a few bad guys and win the day. That's not to say that this is a bad thing, it was just a shame that Epic didn't decide to innovate in this new incarnation.

Anyway, the story revolves around the life and times of Marcus Fenix and Delta squad, a unit of troopers (Gears) fighting for the Coalition of Allied Governments (COG) against the Locust, a tunnel-dwelling, monstrous species replete with hundreds of soldiers and dozens of flying, stomping, screaming nasties.

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The story picks up shortly after where the last one finished- with a fizzle as the mighty lightmass bomb turns out to be useless. In fact, the only useful thing the bomb achieved was to wipe out the breeding grounds for the annoying Kryll- so no more staying out of the shadows (thank god.)

The environments that the Gears have to battle through are wide and varied, from snowy mountains to huge underground caverns, and there are many epic moments where you feel like your single Gear is part of a much bigger operation, adding to the immersion factor.

Also included are several vehicle driving scenes (not always human vehicles either) and the chance to take on and kill a couple of massive beasties, from inside.

The story itself keeps you going, but ultimately leaves far too many questions unanswered for my liking, despite taking Marcus and co. all over the surface of Sera chasing after the Locust queen and the origin of the horde. While I can understand the developer's need to keep the story going, not answering any questions at all is unnecessary and irritating.

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Combat is largely unchanged from the last Gears, and is still as intense and gritty as the previous game. This time there are a few new weapons including a portable shield, a nifty flamethrower, and the addition of heavy yet powerful support weapons such as a mortar and a heavy machine-gun. The lancer machine gun also makes a reappearance, with its attached chainsaw bayonet, but you can now chainsaw a locust from behind (groin to chin) or even team up with another Gear for double the gore.

Also making an appearance are some new enemies, including several new breeds of boomer, complete with their own grunting words uttered before they fire: 'burn', 'grind', 'charge' etc, and a fair number of other varied enemies you meet and kill as you go along.

The story is about three times as long as in the last game, with the ever-fun online and offline co-op mode making a welcome return. Multiplayer-wise, Gears 2 has all the old modes such as Warzone and Annex but adds a few new ones to the mix, including a 2 vs 2 vs 2 vs 2 vs 2 mode called wingman, and an interesting take on capture the flag; 'submission', where you have to fight off the enemy, then find the flag- a very angry man with a massive temper problem and a pistol- shoot him till he drops, then drag him to your base. It's as hectic as it sounds.

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The other new mode is 'Horde' where you and five friends can team up and take on up 50 waves of computer-controlled opponents with increasing difficulty. It is a fun and refreshing take on co-op multiplayer, and is also very, very hard.

The multiplayer does, however, suffer from an exceptionally long matchmaking time and an annoying habit of ending a game if one person leaves. Also, the 'shotgun spamming' prevalent in Gears 1 is still in evidence, and the gamer (probably American) with the best connection will always win a shotgun battle.

Single and multiplayer aside, Epic have tweaked the gameplay and graphics in a hundred different ways, such as adding shinier effects on the weapons and environments, the ability to crawl to safety if downed and the chance to use a downed enemy as a 'meat shield' to protect your character until it disintegrates from the firepower aimed at you. When taken as a whole, these all serve to give the game a much smoother dynamic, and all the more fun to play.

Summary

Overall, Gears of War 2 is a brilliant return to the tortured battlefields of Sera. Don’t expect any kind of innovation or major change over the last game, but the addition of more characters, enemies, guns and scope makes Gears 2 bigger and better in almost every way. Get your chainsaws out lads; it's time to take on the horde.

The bottom line
8.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • Even better graphics
  • More multiplayer options
  • Much longer story

Not so good stuff

  • Matchmaking takes ages
  • Not really very innovative
  • Shotgun spamming is back


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