Video games have become a multi-billion dollar industry and some video games are the equivalent of summer blockbuster releases. These games are usually highly anticipated and hyped to death. Unfortunately, not all these titles live up to the hype. Today we will look at one of these games that does live up to all the fanfare; Gears of War 2.
From Epic Games, Gears of War 2 is the sequel to one of the best sellers in Xbox 360 history – Gears of War. In fact, this game was the impetus for my purchase of an Xbox 360 console. It is safe to say that Gears of War is one of my favorite games of all time.
Playing Gears of War 2 feels like seeing an old friend. The game play is very similar with the control scheme unchanged for the most part. Of course, there are plenty of new weapons and enemies to encounter. Graphically the game looks spectacular in high definition. In some games cut scenes look much better than the game play, however, in Gears of War 2, that is not the case. The game play is set in darker color tones of browns and grays, giving the games environment a war torn appearance.
One of the main complaints about the original game was the lack of depth in the story. Gears of War 2 addresses this issue with several plots interwoven into the game’s narrative. Throughout Gears of War 2 we come across the rookie brother of another COG soldier who died in the first game, trying to make a name for himself; watch Dom, one of the main characters who fights by Marcus Fennix’s side, search for the whereabouts of his missing wife, and of course the battle against the Horde.
I think Gears of War 2 is as good if not better than the original. The scope of the game is much larger, as we see much more of the planet of Sera and more of its geography. Battles occur in urban settings, across canyons and fields and the subterranean habitat of the Locust Horde among others. If you enjoy sci-fi and/or tactical shooters, I highly recommend Gears of War 2.
Here are the box shots:
Gears of War 2
* Award-winning sequel picks up six months after the events of the blockbuster original
Innovative third-person tactical action gameplay; Xbox LIVE delivers online multiplayer (up to 10 simultaneous players) and cooperative action
*Unreal Engine 3 delivers jaw-dropping graphics; new effects include ambient occlusion, dynamic shadows, advanced destructible environments, and more
*Winner of several awards at E3 2008, including Overall Best Shooting Game, Overall Best Graphics Technology, and Best Action Game
* Original cast of characters returns, including Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago, as well as several newcomers
The story takes place six months after the Lightmass bomb has been detonated which occurs at the end of the original game. The Locust Queen begins the game with a narrative about the humans’ penchant for war and how the Locust Horde will eradicate the human race. Basically indicating that the humans have their backs against the wall and they were on the brink of annihilation.
The player begins the story playing the role of Marcus Fennix, a former prisoner, current soldier and all around bad ass. Initially, the player is given the option of training a rookie, who just joined your squad or jumping into the fight. Training is unnecessary if you have played Gears of War before, if you are new to the game or haven’t played in a while, then the training mission will get you (re)acquainted with the control scheme.
Since Gears of War 2 is an over the shoulder third person shooter, the control scheme does take some getting used to and does have a learning curve involved. Shooting can be done with the aiming reticle active, bringing Marcus out from cover or done blindly without any aiming mechanism which keep Marcus safe behind cover.
How well you perform in the game is also dependent on how well you reload your weapon. Active Reload is similar to taking a golf swing in video games, press the reload button once to start the process, wait for the indicator bar to land in the reload zone and press the button again. If you press too early, you fail to reload, if you press to late, the gun jams and delays the reload time. Hitting the sweet spot of the reload meter gives you a much faster reload time.
Player health is monitored with the Crimson Omen, the redder it becomes, the closer to death you are. Luckily if you rest behind cover, your health will replenish. If the Crimson Omen becomes totally red, you have a last gasp chance at life, by hitting the A button and crawling to safety. Once a squad member touches you, then you return to full health. . Of course, if there is a member of the Locust nearby, you are probably boot fodder. If the skull shows up within the Crimson Omen , then you can make your funeral arrangements
Game play is linear, but there are points where different paths can be chosen. This increases the re-playability of the game. In addition, there are four difficulty levels ranging from casual to hardcore.
Gears of War 2 is a great game but gameplay is far from perfect. Hitting the A button near a large static object should put Marcus safely behind cover, but sometimes it doesn’t and you will find yourself standing up in the line of fire. This was a problem in the first game and does rear its head again in this version. Also, the guns drift upward when firing, so if you have someone in your reticule, after a couple of rounds, you will be shooting into the air, unless you make the adjustment with the controller.
The weapons are pretty similar to the original with the Lancer Assault Rifle being the main weapon you always want to have on your person. With its chainsaw attachment, it is the deadliest of the melee weapons. Now grenades can also be used as mines when placed in floors or walls. Besides attack weapons, the player can a Boomshield or a downed enemy as a meat shield to protect Marcus from enemy fire.
Gears of War 2 also has turned up the blood and gore, now downed characters will have trails of blood behind them when crawling for safety. Of course this feature could be turned off in the options, but why would anyone want to do that?
The COG tag collection system has also been upgraded to provide more narrative to the game. Collectible items now include medical records, personal journals, memos, newspapers, etc.
GOW2 has more vehicular action, which is a plus and minus. It does mix up the gameplay from being just a shooter, but vehicle controls are mostly frustrating and these parts are mostly boring.
Now if GOW2 stopped at a single player game, then that would have been enough. However, the creators were kind enough to enhance their previously excellent multiplayer experience. Besides increasing the amount of player eligible to play at one time from eight to ten, Epic Games also added three new modes – Wingman, Guardian and Submission and ten new maps. The best multiplayer feature is actually a co-op game mode dubbed – Horde. Here the player can join four other players to fight off waves of Locust Horde that become harder to beat as time goes on.
Gears of War 2 takes the game play and concepts from the original and expands on them, while providing the same gameplay experience. If you enjoyed the original Gears of War, then you will love this sequel. Of course, having one of the best multiplayer game environments doesn’t hurt, either. After you finish the solo campaign, you can lose yourself in the multiplayer realm for the next several months. Now you will excuse me, I have to go fight the Horde!
Improved gameplay from original
Better story and plot
Horde mode is fun as hell
Beautiful visuals and audio
Superior multiplayer options
Vehicles drag momentum down
Getting behind cover doesn’t always stick