Gears of War 2 Review
Marcus Fenix and co are back, and back to save the human race, again. The Locust Horde managed to survive that Lightmass Bomb and instead of slowly deteriorating, their army is growing stronger and stronger. Not much can get in their way apart from Marcus and co. What am I talking about? Gears of War 2 obviously.
Epic’s sequel to the 2006 fastest selling game Gears of War has been widely tipped to become 2008’s Game of the Year. But will it? Is it better than its predecessor? And if so, why? So many questions, but does GoW2 give us the answers we need? Let’s find out. One thing I will say, you can’t help but feel a little nostalgia setting in.
You return as Marcus Fenix, part of the Gears troops. Your aim is to save the human race against all odds. The story starts up as you re-acquaint yourself with Anya from the first Gears. Anya, like in Gears1, becomes your eyes from above throughout the game, telling you your next mission. For gamers who have never played Gears before you have at this point the option to take on some training. Here you will get used to all the features found in the original GoW. All my memories of the Gears1 are flooding back at this point, and I can’t wait to get on with the game.
Gamers who have played the previous Gears will find themselves in very familiar territory. There are 5 Acts with each act dividing into different chapters. The story of Gears 2 really draws you in, as not only are you trying to save the last human safety zone, Jacinto City, you are also trying to help your partner in crime Dom find his Wife Maria (who has been captured by the Locust Horde). Various cinematic cut-scenes during the game make this story very emotional (not that I was crying or anything, but you feel sorry for Dom). You can’t help but want to go from chapter to chapter without stopping. It’s a bit like a great book, or a thrilling TV series. You just want to find out what happens next. The problem for me starts here. The story doesn’t seem to last very long. Before you know it, it’s over. Gone. All that fun you have just had trying saving Jacinto City vanished. It takes 7 or 8 hours max and that was playing the game on Hardcore difficulty. There are 4 different difficulties; Casual, Normal, Hardcore and Insane. You are unable to play Insane from the beginning so you have to complete the game on Hardcore first, which I didn’t find very hard. Thankfully when playing on Insane the game becomes a lot more challenging.
As far as the gameplay goes things pretty much stay the same. But why fix something that isn’t broken? So instead Epic have included plenty of new features which are all welcome and make great additions to the game. New features include the ability to stick grenades into the ground or wall that will go off when the enemy walks past them. There are also different ways to execute enemy’s, you can even pick up a stranded enemy and use them as cover, or meatshield as the game calls it. It’s truly amazing. New weapons include the very effective flamethrower and the inclusion of heavy duty guns in the Mortar cannon and Mobile turret. The game just improves so much from the previous Gears and provides so much variety in the way you can play. Another new feature that is exciting and infuriating at the same time is the creation of chainsaw battles. If you and your enemy are charging at each other with chainsaws both players must bash the ‘B’ button as fast as possible to out strength their opponent. While this is a very basic technique, it adds drama and excitement to the game. It also adds frustration to the game when you get beat and cut into 2.
All of this excellent gameplay is of course set in a beautiful and colourful environment. Even with most of the action happening underground the game is still very detailed. The environments change greatly with little things being very detailed. Be it the locust holes that are created to the shiny reflection on the mushrooms, it truly is crisp, once it’s loaded up. At the start of a new loading screen it seems to take a small but noticeable time to smooth out the corners of walls and the outline of the characters. Gears2 is a massive improvement from the original though, but you only really notice this when you go back to playing Gears1.
Once you have completed the rather short but still enjoyable story mode you have a few options available to you. You can head online and show the world
your chainsaw what you have got, or you can play Epic’s new gamemode, HORDE. HORDE is what can only be described as the best ever gamemode to have in a game. you and up to 4 other gears (friends) can take on 50, yes 50 waves of Locust Horde in the various multiplayer maps. Each wave providing different challenges and requiring different techniques in order to complete. Some waves may only contain a small amount of Locust Horde, as other will have loads of Locust ass to kick. The Locust also get stronger, cause more damage and are more accurate as you progress. Horde is also so addictive. You just can’t help but try and get to the next wave. I have spent 7 or 8 hours playing Horde alone, never mind touching the online competitive gametypes.
Online remains that of Gears1 with a few new additions. games like Warzone, Annex and Submission are all now 5v5 rather than the previous 4v4. You can also play new gametypes like Wingman, where teamwork is vital as it’s 2 v 2 v 2 v 2 v 2 and you must execute your enemies. Meatflag is another gametype which has been included, and one that is certainly interesting. Instead of a flag you have to capture a stranded human, which is worth mentioning carries his own shotgun. This is a very unique look onto the basic capture the flag gametype and it would be interesting to see what they come up with next.
The online lobby system has taken a leaf out of Halo 3’s book as parties can move around together and it’s much easier to invite friends into the said party. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about lag, as various times throughout my online playing career games have lagged. One thing that I am still reserving judgement for at the moment is the ability, or lack of ability, to leave games. In order to quit a match you have to turn your Xbox 360 console off, or return to the dashboard. There isn’t an option to leave after a round, which can be annoying when you join a game of Warzone first to win 10 rounds.
While Gears of War 2 might not include the epic changes we were all waiting for, like 4 player co-op and a larger storyline, it certainly provides us with a fun and enjoyable experience that we will all remember. Wasting hours on Horde is amazing and with the new additions to the game, new and old fans will be chuffed. Let’s just hope Epic were keeping all the ‘epic’ changes for the third instalment of Gears of War.