Review by PickHut
Gears of War 2 shouldn't even be considered a sequel, because it really doesn't feel like one. What you're getting here actually feels more like an expansion pack. Upon immediately diving into the title's campaign mode, you'll feel right at home, because the controls are exactly the same as the original Gears of War, with some minor additions. Within the first few minutes of being in an actual gunfight, you'll be ducking behind cover, running and rolling between bullets, and chainsawing Locusts like you've been doing this your entire life. Like I said, there are some new stuff, but they're not even that significant, just a button press here and there. The various "finishing moves" you get to perform on crawling enemies is fun at first, like stomping on their heads, or beating the crap out of them, but it becomes old, fast, and you simply just shoot them down from a distance after awhile. It's too much of a hassle, really, and you're likely to get badly hurt trying to perform them. Same with the ability to use Locusts as shields; you become heavily handicapped when you pick one up, only being able to use your handgun and move slowly around the battlefield. You're ten times more safe hiding behind something solid.
Speaking of the battlefield, while it may feel the same as playing in the first game, it's more repetitive here. It started off somewhat good with the hospital, and then the graphically impressive level where you and a bunch of other Gears go riding into the mountains, but after that, a pattern begins. You'll eventually enter a snowy town, where you'll have more gunfights and try to avoid being blown up by suicide buggers, which is easy if you have eyes. Then, after just narrowly avoiding a fight with the Locust's version of the Predator, you enter a cave level. Similar to the one in Gears of War. Then you'll go through another town, which has a small cave segment in it, participating in the usual gunfights. See where I'm going with this? And that's not the end of it, you'll go through three more cave stages (two of them are back to back) before the game ends. The campaign mode does have some interesting segments, like the part where you take control of a Metal Slug, or when you ride a Reaver, but even those moments have their irritations. Frankly, by the time you're at the halfway point of the game, you just want it to end. Hell, if the developers didn't include so many damn cave levels, it probably would have ended there, too.
The multiplayer almost saves this title from being a complete disappointment. You'll get a bit more variety this time with the addition of objective games like Submission to go along with returning fighting modes like Warzone and Execution. Submission is a capture the flag mode with a humorous twist: the "flag" is a human, and he fights back. Finding this person before the other team does will be the least of your problems, because you'll also have to avoid his shotgun blasts and shoot him down before you can pick him up. It's probably the most absurd and off-the-wall mode in multiplayer, since there's so much happening around the meatflag in an attempt to take him.
Including King of the Hill was pointless, however, since Annex does it so much better. Some of the "hill" placements aren't even fair at times. There was a match I played where the hill appeared right in front of our starting point. All we had to do was simply run forward, but the other team actually had to navigate around objects, and by the time they got near the hill, it was well-guarded by our team. The match was unfairly won before it friggin started... That's not the only problem with mulitplayer, as well. With the exception of the shotgun's reduced power and the inclusion of matchmaking, online matches are as unbalanced as they were before.
Cover is not like it is in the campaign, since you're playing against real people, unlike the AI, which follows a pretty simple pattern. I'm not saying cover is completely useless, it'll help sometimes, but you'll die pretty quick if you think it's gonna give you an advantage over your opponents. There's really only two types of ways the majority of people play the multiplayer: either up close with melee attacks, or at a distance with a sniper rifle, exploding arrows, grenades, or mortars. And since there's only two respawn points on each map, it's pretty easy to die the moment you reappear. This is especially problematic on the River map, where the two respawn points are out in the open. There's this one game I played on there where someone kept hitting me with exploding arrows from a building the moment I respawned. It was annoying as hell. There was another instance on a different map where an opponent who had the meatflag was standing in front of a respawn area, and kept shooting and hitting anyone who reappeared. While the multiplayer can actually be fun sometimes, these problems really distract from the experience.
I was pretty surprised when I played through Gears of Wars 2, because I was honestly expecting a quality title. The campaign may be longer and have more impressive-looking moments, but it still only feels like a generic extension of the original. Apparently, the developers thought people only liked the gunfights and shunned everything else that was unique about Gears of War. That, and caves. It just doesn't hold a candle to its predecessor, which felt epic and had more weight to it. The only reason to really play this "sequel" is for the multiplayer, which is a slight improvement. Hopefully, when they begin development on Gears of War 3, they'll go back to the first and see what made that game fun and cool, as well as making the multiplayer much more balanced.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 11/17/08
Game Release: Gears of War 2 (US, 11/07/08)
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