Game Reviews
Review: Gears of War 2
By Sean Booker
November 17, 2008 - 08:00

Studios: Epic Games
Microsoft Game Studios
Rating: M
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360
Players: 1-10 Simultaneous

Gears of War 2 brings the same game play elements from its predecessor, but adds new features to keep you interested and coming back for more. You play as Marcus Fenix, leader of the Delta squad, six months after the events of the first Gears of War. We can see that the humans struggle against the Locust has gone from bad to worse. You must fight and gun your way through various terrain types in an attempt to save the planet Earth from enslavement.

The biggest point that hit me with Gears of War 2 was that I actually enjoyed it a lot. What made this shocking to me was I quite disliked the first game. It should be noted that I only played through approximately the first act in the first one, but that was all it took for me to decide "I don’t need any more of this". On the other hand, Gears of War 2 started off big and kept me thinking about it and wanting to come back over and over to continue. It had a great beginning that, unlike its predecessor, got me intrigued.

The biggest difference you will probably notice about Gears of War 2 is its inclusion of a deeper plot. Along with this, you will find more emotional scenes tied to the characters. You start the game out knowing that there is a war going on, but you also are told of a side plot in which your teammate Dom is trying to find his captured wife, Maria. Throughout the bloodshed you will ensue upon your enemies, you’ll keep being reminded of this extra story going on and begin to feel a connection to Dom. The game causes more emotional relationships with some of its other characters too, such as Tai. This is such a good aspect to the game because, unlike the first one, you have more to think about. Gears of War had you going through it and just killing anything, your objective was clear. Gears of War 2 has you doing the same, but adds in more reasons for you to fight through the Locust army. To some this may seem to be a letdown or unnecessary for the game, considering it’s so different from the first. However, it actually helps the game quite a bit by connecting us to the characters and trying to make us realise how awful the Locust Horde really is. Overall, it makes the game more engaging and a generally better experience.

It's an ambush!

The graphics in Gears of War 2 are also incredible. You can just see how much detail Epic Games put in through all the subtle aspects like Tai’s facial tattoo or the grotesque scar on Marcus' face.  Also the color works so well, especially considering much of the first game was mainly shades of grey. Underground you will find nicely glowing mushrooms in fluorescent greens and blue, while the fire and blood have a vibrant and sharp red or orange to them. Gears of War 2’s graphics are definitely top notch and some of the best to date on the system.

Besides the absorbing storyline, the next best thing about Gears of War 2 is its online multiplayer game modes. The newest addition to the Gears of War franchise, online wise, is Horde mode. This was, by far, my favourite part of the game to play and I was actually sad when I had finally completed it. In Horde mode you and up to four other teammates take on horde after horde – or wave after wave – of enemies. Each wave gets harder and harder because the enemies swarm in bigger quantities and their stats begin to increase. You may find that during the first wave an enemy only takes fifty bullets to kill, but by the tenth wave you you need 200 to take it down. What makes this mode so fun to play is you actually NEED to work as a team to get through it. If anyone decides to hang by themselves and take on some of the Locusts solo, you can bet that he or she is going to die sooner or later. This makes you need to strategize and figure out the best spot on the map to set up  "base" from which you fight off all the monsters. By far this was an incredible addition to the various online modes offered.

Gameplay in Annex mode.

The other online modes also add huge variety to the game in ways you choose to play it. There are the standard warfare modes where your goal is to kill everyone and be the last one standing. That is, apart from modes like Annex, in which your team needs to stay in a certain spot for as long as you can before your opponents come and kill you in order to claim it. They also have a capture the flag like game in which the flag is actually a human with a shotgun, so he’ll try to fight you off before you can grab him and drag him around. Overall, the multiplayer adds much more diversity to the style of game play you’ll need to use in order to win these games. Just shooting blindly won’t always work for you.

T he online multiplayer is a bit of a double edged sword though. You will find a lot of the time it will be very hard to get into a game; the matchmaking is really bad. The problem is that it takes so long to find you a full team and then find another full team to play against. There were times I had to wait around five minutes from the time I hit “Find Team” to actually getting one. To make things worse, when I got fed up with waiting to get in a game and decided to cancel it, it actually took a good ten to fifteen seconds at times to cancel the searching. This is a real let down considering the online play is so damn fun. Luckily it only happens about half the time.

The only other downfall Gears of War 2 has is a collection of technical bugs here and there. I can’t count how many times I saw either a team mate or an enemy appear as if they were floating a few inches off the ground. The other bug I saw happen the most was when someone was knocked back by something. For example, when you’re hit with a smoke grenade (a grenade used to cause a cloud of smoke around the area) your player will be sent flying to the ground due to the shock. Most of the time, when my character was hit, I would either slide across the ground like there was no friction at all or my body would twitch consistently long after I had died.

Watch out for tickers. They explode themselves when close to humans.

The achievements in Gears of War 2 are very well laid out. Of course, they have the certain ones for going through the story and completing it. They also have ones for going through a number of chapters in co-op play. The best ones though, are the ones that require you to do certain things with your opponents. For example, in one, you must use a downed (crawling) enemy as a meat shield ten times. This forces you to focus on shooting your enemies legs, to cripple them instead of kill them, so you’re free to grab them. There is also the one for having to kill a downed enemy eleven different ways, which causes you to always keep in mind which weapons you should be holding onto for just such an occasion. Then there are the multiplayer ones that are spread out evenly through all the mutliplayer modes.

The replay value in this game is through the roof. Once going through all five acts of the story mode on any difficulty level you unlock the Insane level (hardest). That alone gives you four different levels to play the campaign on, as well as the option to play through any of them with someone in co-op. And of course there are all the different kinds of multiplayer options to choose from. Even if you just want to play online and work on your rank, you’ll have reason to come back, especially since it shows gameplay level beside your gamertag when online (which is totally awesome).

Taking a beat down.

Overall, Gears of War 2 does a great job of continuing the series, especially since fixing the issues the first one had. The game starts off big and continues strongly throughout. It does a great job of keeping the player interested, not only with the gorgeous graphics but the  multiple storylines weaving through it. The campaign mode also feels like a great length and even when it’s done you will always have the online to go play, if you can get past the annoying wait times it requires. This game does a good job of making sure you will enjoy your time with it and always want to come back for more.

Overall: 9.5/10

Verdict: Buy It

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