Review by OrangeBlueberry

"If it ain't broke don't "fix" it"

Gears of War was one of those few games you could play hours upon hours without getting bored. We were either entertained by the over-the-top bloody animations or the pointless arguments we so often came across on XBOX LIVE. However, as time passed all we could think about was Gears of War 2. We wanted new maps, new weapons, more players, more pointless arguments and more fun. After an excruciating two year wait that fateful day arose in November. I woke up early and headed my local conglomerate game store to pick up my own personal copy. After rushing home I opened my disc drive, placed GOW 2 in and was ready to be amazed.

However, that amazement soon transformed into confusion. How do I join an online game? Why is it taking so long to find a game? Why did the search system reset? Why can't I just look for a game like in the original Gears? Despite these minor setbacks I was sure the gameplay would rebuild my confidence but unfortunately I was dead wrong. All I could ask is did you screw this up?

Gameplay 7: The general gameplay style is obviously still present in Gears of War 2 but its not even close to the same. Do you remember gracefully sliding against walls to avoid being shot or bragging in the public chat when you managed to shotgun three COGs in a row to win a round? Those days are long gone and left in a hurry with Epics attempt to balance the game. In the original Gears players would justifiably complain about host powers, shotgun imbalances, chainsaw invincibility and glitching. Ironically "fixing" these issues has really hurt the game. The shotgun was so much fun in the original but is now no longer useful. It's dreadfully slow, extremely underpowered and inaccurate. Because of this, the game has traded one evil for another. We now must sit back and lancer from a distance, I mean who wants to rush anybody when your shotgun isn't going to be much help. Also, its not just the shotgun thats slow. Every weapon seems to have been slowed by 15% and that includes meleeing with your pistol or boomshot. This essentially means the game is no longer as fast paced as it once was.

What about the environments, at least those are amazing...right? In short, they suck. Environments are bland, most likely in attempt to deal with the issue of glitching out of the map as seen previously in GOW. In GOW, maps like subway or bulletmarsh had style as rocks, hills and foliage blocked the way out of the map. While stylish, this map design regretablly led to design flaws which then was exploited by players. Now, instead of cool design features in maps we get "cage like" maps. Maps that are bordered by walls, bigger walls....well...walls. This blandness really effects the feel of the game and is sure to disappoint many. To be fair there are a few maps that do stand out and also the game does ship with five original GOW maps.

The biggest set back is the new party-system in GOW 2. We have seen this system in Halo 3 and saw how well that worked....right? In the past you could say, "I want to play Bulletmarsh". You search ranked/player matches, find Bulletmarsh and join. However, Epic decided this was too convenient. Now lets pretend you say " I want to play Warzone on Avalanche". You click "find game" under a label that includes Warzone, Execution and Assassination 2.0. After waiting five minutes you find a game and now have to vote on one of two game styles, Warzone or Execution. You and 3 others vote warzone. Five others vote execution. Maybe next time. And don't even worry about playing Avalanche, it never appeared as a choice. This system really has major two flaws with the first being you'll never really get what you want. The second is the waiting to find and start a game, just too long of a wait.

Story/Campaign 5: The campaign itself isn't bad. Its really an extension of the first and sure to please, for the short time it lasts. The only two issues I had with the game is its linear gameplay and story. When you play the actual campaign you will have to complete task A until you can continue to task B and so on. This is fine if you had numerous ways to complete task A but there is only one way to complete it. So estentially there is no replayability for single player unless you want achievements or somehow really enjoyed it. The biggest issue with the game besides the flawed multiplayer is the story. In GOW, we fans of the game, can safely admit the story was limited or sucked. However, there was potential right? A universal human effort to defend themselves against bloodthristy beasts, you really could go anywhere with this. Internal conflict/civilwar, ethical/philosophical questions weaved into the storyline, a non- cheesy love story perhaps between a female gear (if they exsist) and a civilian. All these possibilities and what do they give us, a story written by an 8th grader. These general ideas sum up the non-existent storyline. Stereotypical male-style attitudes about life, an awkward and lame love story between Dom and his wife, humanity commanding a military offensive against the locust horde. Thats it, don't look for anything else.

Sound 9: Pretty good, no complaints. A lot of the weapons have had their audio upgraded for the better which results in a much crisp and cleaner sound. Also the screams, groans and grunts all sound as if they have been overhauled.

Visuals 8: The campaign tends to vary on this issue. At times some areas look the same when compared to the original GOW and at other times the environments are just amazing. The multiplayer has the most flaws when it comes to the visuals. Half the maps are fairly bland while the other half are drop dead gorgeous. Also when you move into spectator mode the graphics seem to take a hit but its really not that important especially since your just observing.

Conclusion: In attempt to fix various imbalances Epic has changed the game we know and love. Some will welcome the change and some will not. For me the overall slowness of the game is just too much. What I think Epic failed to realized is that the imbalances actually made the game fun. These "fixable issues" got everyone riled up, which then created smack talk, which then created a desire to crush your opponent. In GOW 2 we now don't have to worry about host advantage or glitches. We also don't have to worry about talking in the public chat (awfully quiet) or bragging about about how we killed the whole team alone (not going to happen) or how much our eyes hurt from playing all weekend (30 minutes a day will do). For GOW 3 hopefully the creators will be less interested in what will sell or what every player wants and just focus on making a fun fast paced game like the original.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 11/10/08

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

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