Review by B3ASTED

"The Pinnacle of Gaming"

Gears of War was an interesting title. It was fresh, unique and raw, nothing like it had been done before and the push forward with the TPS genre was a gamble that paid off. The original Gears of War delivered a unique experience, and whilst the campaign might have been lacking somewhat, the MP more than made up for it. Even on the night before the Gears of War 2 release, the Gears of War online was as popular as ever. There were no gimmicks, no all out war fare, but rather, tactical levels, valuing class and excellence over the number of people involved. It was just fantastic, and remains one of the all time great online experiences.

So, now, with the original being such a resounding success, Gears of War 2 had one choice, which was to pull out all the stops, refining the experience, delivering the same WOW Factor the original held, with the same rawness, grittiness, excellence and all while making the experience feel new.

Quite a challenge.

But, I will state on record now, that Gears of War 2 is without a doubt, one of the most phenomenal games ever to grace the 360, and perhaps this generation. This is the Action Shooter genre at its best, the definition of the Third Person Shooter, complete with a campaign and MP experience so exceptional, that this game can be nothing other than an essential purchase.

GRAPHICS

The graphics here are just unbelievable, without a doubt the finest graphics on a console game.

Toward the beginning of the game the graphics are reminiscent of the original Gears of War, with noticeable improvements all over. Marcus' armour now has an incredible amount of detail, and up close during the cinematic scenes the level of detail even on his facial features is just astonishing. There are clear improvements over the original game, and this can be seen right from the word go.

However, once the game goes underground, the word “jaw dropping” is given a whole new meaning. I won't go into detail, as to not spoil the game, but the atmosphere, the architecture, the water and depth to the underground sections are just magnificent.

As shown in an Unreal Engine III demo a while ago, the water in this game is quite something. Moving through water creates realistic ripples which will even collide with each other. The water surface itself is near photo-realism, and don't get me started on the waterfalls. There is one section in particular where weight is shown to create waves on the water surface, which I just found incredible. This is without a doubt the most realistic water I have ever seen in a game.

One thing the Gears of War franchise is famous for is the level of gore, and once again this has been refined and perfected. If a foe gets ripped in two, which can happen quite often, the level of detail on their entrails and internal organs is just twisted; I never thought I would stand in disbelief staring at a set of organs spilling out of half a corpse. Also, remember the Meat Cube from the Unreal Engine III demo? One section toward the beginning of the game will make it quite clear what that was tested for.

I have never seen this level of immersion in a console game, the graphics here are just inconceivable, even in MP the graphics still hold the same level of brilliance. As I have said, this is the best looking title on a console to date, no contest.

10 / 10

GAMEPLAY

Where to start?

Gears of War 2 has kept the same core aspects that made the original Gears of War so fantastic. The cover mechanic has been brought back, enhanced and refined, to prevent unwanted inconveniences such as accidental wall sticking, something that bothered a fair few people in the original.

Cover is once again an important aspect of the game overall. This time, portable cover is brought to the table, meaning it is now possible to down a foe through shooting at their legs, pick them up, and hold them as a human shield until the enemies take such a massive proportion of meat off them, that their function as a shield no longer, well, functions. It is now also possible to use actual portable shields as cover. It is possible to either hold the shield in the left hand and a pistol in the right, allowing the user to move around, or plant the shield in the ground, providing a much more reliable cover base and allowing the use of two handed weapons.

That brings me onto the new weapons, and the new selection is immense. There is a new pistol, able to shoot bullets in bursts and hold a vast amount of ammunition. There is also the flame thrower, a fantastic new addition. The flames are beautiful, but also lethal, and able to bring enemies down within seconds, burning them to a cinder. There is also a selection of heavier weapons, such as the portable mortar cannon and a new rail gun. The classics make appearances also, with all the original weapons making a return to the franchise.

The guns feel heavier now, more powerful, something which I just adore in this game. When a gun is shot it feels like it is making an impact, the sound and rumble are timed to perfection here.

You can just imagine the opportunities such a selection of weapons presents in MP.

This brings me onto the MP itself. There is a new mode, named Horde, a game mode which allows up to five gamers to fight against waves of oncoming Locust until the team is overrun. As was the case with the original Gears of War, something which was featured almost as an afterthought will become, what I predict to be, an online phenomenon. I haven't been on Horde all too long to be quite honest, but the brief experience I did have was adrenaline pumping, refreshing, addictive and most of all, fun.

The campaign itself is genius, a vast improvement over the original and perhaps one of the most pleasurable SP experiences I have ever, ever had on a game, despite it at times getting almost sickening in terms of how black the narrative has dared to go this time round. That said, the set pieces are epic in scale, and the narrative itself has had an enormous improvement over the original, now with considerable characterisation, delivering a deep, thrilling and moving experience.

The two man campaign, much like the original, is once again remarkable. Gaming with a friend does not get much better than Gears of War 2, trust me on that one.

The online has also been given considerable treatment, now with new modes, settings and the number per side being raised to five per side. I will not go into too much detail, because the Gears of War 2 online experience is something that has to be seen to be believed, it is that good. Tactical, intense, heart thumping, it is an online experience to remember, that much is certain.

An outstanding campaign, new weapons, new maps, new environments, new settings, new modes, new characters…

I could go on.

Gears of War 2 is the perfection of the Third Person Shooter.

10 / 10

SOUND

The entire original cast return to voice their respective characters and once more do a top notch job. The voice work shines in some sections of the game, ensuring that the narrative remains believable.

The weapons sounds have been redone, making them feel heavier, more powerful and the feeling of bullet impact is made more rewarding. The splats and crunches sound fantastic once more, making certain that the level of immersion within the game remains intact.

The soundtrack is just stunning, with new battle and cinematic tracks being featured which gets the adrenaline rushing. All tracks recorded in delicious MP3 Orchestra, the level of scale and grandness within the campaign is emphasised. The music here is just faultless, timed to perfection to bring out the emotions, be it sorrow, compassion, exhilaration, dread or even inspiration, this game cracks them all.

This time round, the sound is much more crisp and realistic, and the music has been nailed. There is little to fault the sound on aside from some recurring sound issues. With a fantastic soundtrack, authentic sounding metallic weapons and excellent voice acting, Gears of War 2 is one of the best sounding games out there.

9.5 / 10

LIFESPAN

With a ten hour campaign, Horde, Insane Mode, the same addictive MP experience, complete with a countless number of achievements to amass, the long life of Gears of War 2 is all but assured. Now with the option to use computer controlled opponents in MP, Gears of War 2 is a friendlier game for offline gamers. With numerous new options and settings provided in the MP, games will remain fresh and original for a long time to come.

I predict that, much like the original Gears of War, once the kinks have been patched up, Gears of War 2 will become this generation's online console sensation.

This game just cannot be experienced with a mere rent, with an 150 GP incentive, Insane Mode will once more be something that all 360 gamers will strive for, the same applies with Horde, which I am sure will consume the gaming hours of thousands of gamers across the globe. Along with the option to go online and run a co-operative campaign with a friend, and ranked matches, it will be hard for gamers to put the controller down.

Taking all this into account, gamers on the whole will see at least a solid 40 hours from Gears of War 2, with the online communities quenching their thirst for the traditional adrenaline fuelled Gears of War matches for several months to come.

VERDICT

For me, Gears of War 2 is one of the finest games I have seen in a long time and without a doubt commendable for the 2008 GOTY. With a compelling campaign, excellent MP, faultless controls and mind blowing graphics, Gears of War 2 is a definite purchase for all 360 owners.

Gears of War 2 is right up there at the pinnacle of gaming this generation and could well be the finest action game ever crafted. You would be a fool to miss out.

10 / 10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/13/08

Game Release: Gears of War 2 (EU, 11/07/08)


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