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Gears of War 2 Review
developer: Epic Games
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Nov 07, 08 (released)
|» All About Gears of War 2 on ActionTrip|
Technologically superior to practically every 360 release, GoW stood proudly atop the throne of action games for a long time. Besides amazing visual quality and high production values, this game had quite a lot to offer gameplay wise; not the least of which is the game's cover system. It was huge fun, provided you could stomach to the confusing and unbelievably corny storyline, along with the inevitable testosterone-driven characterization. As a true sequel should, Gears of War 2 aims to maintain all the qualities of the original, while pushing things further to make its own mark on the competitive market of action games. When Epic initially announced Gears of War 2, some part of me remained cynical about the prospect of a sequel that would actually make a significant improvement over a game that had already achieved its maximum. Well, anything's possible, right?
Let me rearrange your teeth!
The first few moments of this game feel unsurprisingly familiar - same old burly Marcus Fenix heading off on a perilous journey beneath the planet's surface, along with his extremely beefy chums Dom, Braid and Cole (better known as the unstoppable Cole Train). During the single-player campaign, I found the characters a lot more likable than in the first game. This could mean two things: either I've developed a keen interest in broad-shouldered male protagonists or Epic aimed for better characterization. Thankfully, it's the latter. The plot is far from complex, focusing more on the moment. The element of drama was thrown in for good measure, to show us what exactly drives some of the characters. Again it's not much, though it does represent an improvement. Overall, when it comes to the narrative, Gears of War 2 won't provide much beyond what we see in an average action game or a mediocre Hollywood movie.
Suffice it to say, humanity is desperately trying to save its few remaining cities against the forces of the Locust Horde, who, unfortunately, survived the Lightmass Bomb from the conclusion of the first game. Not only have the Locust survived, but they managed to muster a massive army and are continually threatening Jacinto Plateau, one of last human safe havens. So, guess what... You'll be going underground again.
Although the game retains the grayish and dark tones from the original, each area has a unique feel. The action gets more intense and the battles become increasingly epic every step of the way. Delta Squad (your team) takes different paths from time to time, making the whole ride less linear (like in GoW). Such aspects are awesome additions to the gameplay, most especially if you're playing co-op and remember, in GoW 2 you can enjoy the main campaign in co-op. The gameplay mechanics are essentially the same as in GoW. The developers stayed true to the original, making things as fun and straightforward as before. In other words, they refrained from meddling with what made the original an enjoyable first-person shooter. Instead, they focused on incorporating a variety of new elements that were missing in the first game. Each new addition greatly increases the fun factor. There's greater choice of weapons and some of them allow you to pull off some impressive moves in combat. Not only is it fun, but it looks cool too. For example, Marcus and his companions may use mobile cover such as the Boomshield. When your overwhelmed by the enemy and there's no cover in sight, the Boomshield is going to be a life-saver. It can be placed in the ground to protect you from a rain of bullets. Alternatively, it provides mobile cover, while the player uses a Gorgon Burst Pistol or the Boltok Pistol to fend off enemies. Another creative moment is the presence of Rockworms. These huge organisms emerge out of rock formations and are completely oblivious to everything going on around them. They cannot be destroyed or damaged by gunfire, which makes ideal mobile cover. Rockworms can be navigated by any food that falls in there path. All in all, it's a neat feature and a great addition to the existing GoW cover mechanics.
There are more ways to deal with the Locust now. When facing multiple enemies, keeping your distance is the safest way to play it. However, once you move in for close range combat the real fun begins. The brilliant chainsaw makes a blood-spattering return, allowing Marcus to take part in chainsaw duels against foes. The loser, of course, becomes minced meat. In multiplayer, it's basically a button-mashing contest, albeit immensely entertaining. Another cool thing you can do is stomp on enemies who are nearly dead. Whatever you do, chances are it's going to cause a bloodbath.
Contrary to the previous game, Gears of War 2 features more driving segments. In some situations, using vehicles did not meet our expectations. There's a section where players have to maneuver through a huge cave, while riding in a Centaur Tank. Vehicle handling isn't that bad, except you're liable to get stuck at some point and for no apparent reason - like something's blocking you're path, though you can't see what. This happened a couple of times during Centaur driving sequences and it made me return to the previous check point. Furthermore, the AI doesn't always respond the way you'd expect. Sometimes friendly characters as well as enemies will duck behind cover and stay there even though part of their body is still exposed. This doesn't occur too often, so it wasn't too much of a problem.
Okay, so the Centaur segments are technically flawed. Riding a Reaver and a Brumak definitely makes up for that. The Reaver section represents a high-speed, distinctly cinematic chase that can literarily take your breath away, while the Brumak bit gives you fire-power and a true sense of supremacy over measly Locust troops.
8.9 Very Good
An epic, unforgettable experience, incredible atmosphere, one of the best shooters out there;
Not quite there yet in terms of innovation, a few AI bugs and intermittently glitchy driving sequences.