Review by Slawdigi
This review will be based solely on the Story-mode feature for Gears of War 2. I'm a huge fan of rpg's and sports games, but also find myself loving a great multi-player shooter on the same console with a buddy. I enjoy story sequences as well, so prefer to play these off-line, and this is the first I will attempt a review for.
First off, a short list of a few things that caught my attention while playing, and some things that didn't manage to make the cut with me.
--Story unfolds like a great action flick
--Return of a great cast of characters
--Imaginative boss battles
--Intense action sequences
--Good voice acting
--Forgettable sound effects
--Limited levels of difficulty
--Lack of ammo not considered difficulty, or fun
--Not enough teamwork aspect
What I found GoW2 to be was a classic co-op shooter that didn't press the boundaries mechanic wise, but offers action packed storyline battles in unreal settings. We move forward to the part I disect the lists above. I'll go a bit more in depth as I rate out the 5 main components of a shooter game I feel are necessary in order to enjoy it.
Ok, first off, I understand these guys are "Gears", and thus are wearing heavy armor due to a bloody war with the alien insects. Heavy armor surely weighs you down, but WOW, these guys are pretty immobile for such athletic appearances! You can "pick up the pace" and jog I'll call it, and also there is a "roll out of the way" feature. But in the end, you're controlling a large, physically fit, but mind numbingly lethargic dude. The camera luckily is a savior and handles very fluidly, making it easy to turn and such when things get hairy. The button placement is very common and textbook as it is in many other shooter games. Small difference in this is it's an over the shoulder view instead of the more frequently first person perspective. There's a reload feature, timing it reloads quick and helps keep the carnage coming. My minor gripe in this category is supposed to be one of the games innovative selling points, the duck and cover system. It's great and I love battles that play out like this, and most of them do GOW2. But, it's rather frustrating when enemies end up in close quarters and you're struggling, hopping and ducking in between broken walls since nearly everything can be a shield. This is sadly commonplace in games I've played of this genre. Good thing most of the storyline mode is intended to be played fighting from a distance, and thank goodness for a chainsaw molded into your futuristic weapon! The game had a decent choice of weapons, some obviously will slow your movement even more-so, to the point of paint drying. But only one of them had a chainsaw, and it's pretty much a must have at some points of this storyline. All in all I thought the controls were very straight-forward much like the first, yet since this is the second installment, I was looking for a little improvement. Not much customization in the targeting speed, but fluid enough as is.
One of the stronger points of the co-op experience, the game looks beautiful. Amazing that tattered cities in ruins and the belly of a giant worm could look so wonderful, but they do. You will find yourself irritating your friend as he searches for the checkpoint and you look around at the amazing detailed environment. (sometimes leads to unexpected death). Seriously, the game has very few noticeable flaws in this category. The slight blur when "jogging" in a hail of gunfire, the skyline of an enormous city in the distance, the murkiness of the underground Locust world, all completely look the feel. The only reason this is not a 10/10 is because I feel there is lack of depth, a downfall of most games in this genre largely due to the on-line popularity. That's where the focus is, and that's understandable.
The sound on the other hand is very bland and almost non-existent, especially in the music department. Of course, most shooter games are void of music and focus on voice acting and sound effects, but it wouldn't hurt to throw in some kind of soundtrack to pumping massive lead into alien heads. And the sound effects were marginally ineffective, due to a lot of the guns sounding the same and not very authentic. The voice acting on the other hand was very well acted out, and fit the characters flawlessly. Fenix is classic. But once again, like the graphics, the depth is just not there. Great VA sure, but a short script leaves you slightly disappointed after $60 if you expected a greater storymode.
There's only so far you can take a 1st/3rd person shooter plot wise, but this direct sequel unfolds into a dramatic, action filled 6-8 hour experience. I know these games are built more for the on-line dynamic since that's a huge selling point nowadays, but GoW2 gives 1-2 players on the same console a fairly strong story mode. Continuing the events of 1, Marcus and Dom decide to take the battle to the Locust stronghold, where they live and breed. Underground. It makes for a great setting in an action shooter game, and without spoilers I can tell you it's not an easy job ridding a nation of alien insect...things. Plenty of the normal "I saw that coming" twists and turns, and even some not so obvious ones. And as noted before, the voice acting tied in well. All in all the game delivers in this department, more-so than many games of this genre.
Fun/Replay Factor: 7/10
First off, keep in mind this score was for the story-mode feature of GOW2. Obviously if you enjoy these types of games on-line, you'd rate this higher and inevitably a 10. Really can't get any higher replay value than an on-line game. That said, a 7 is pretty high for the story-mode of a shooter. I liked it enough to play through the 3 harder difficulty modes (4 total), the latter 2 being co-op and once for a single player experience and to get the "whole screen view", which was outstanding. Each time through I enjoyed it the same, which is pretty rare for me and games of this genre as well. The story got you into their mood and you could really feel the adrenaline at times, which creates a fun setting for a solo or duo play-through. The game has some great fights, including riding on the backs of mutated aliens, and floating aimlessly down a river of acid fighting off boats of Locusts and a giant, pestering worm.
Bottom line: It depends. I think $60 is entirely too much for this game if bought without on-line use in mind, that's obvious. Average score of my story-mode review came out to a 7.4, which is probably in my top 5 for shooters. Both GOW and GOW2 offer a well thought out and adrenaline rush of a story that's at the least a must-rent. I would suggest waiting until you can get both, maybe in a package, for cheaper and then buying. Playing through the story-modes of part 1 and 2 make it feel complete and is worth experiencing solo or with a friend.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/29/09
Game Release: Gears of War 2 (US, 11/07/08)
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