Review by Kiriyama_X

Reviewed: 11/11/08

Finally, A Sequel That Delivers

Gears of War 2

It takes a talented developer to make a truly outstanding game. It takes a more talented one to make an even better sequel. So when websites began to state that “Gears of War 2” would simply be “more of the same”, some people may have felt disappointed, and yes “Gears of War 2” is more of the same. Now add in the fact that the original “Gears of War” is one of the five best games I’ve ever played, and “more of the same” suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. So now let’s also add that “Gears of War 2” demolishes the original in every single aspect, and what are you left with? I don’t think there’s a word yet to describe it.

“Gears of War 2” begins several months after the events of the first. The Delta squad lead by Marcus Fenix struck a crucial blow to the Locust horde by detonating the light-mass bomb in their underground networks. Yet now the Locust are back and they’ve brought something with them that is capable of sinking entire cities into the planet. With their backs against the wall humanity launches a last ditch effort to end the war by burrowing into the planet’s surface and taking the fight directly to the Locust. “Gears of War 2” puts a much heavier emphasis on story telling than the original did. The result pays off in grand fashion mixing in equal parts of grandiose and personal themes. There’s plenty of compelling secrets revealed about the mysterious Locust horde and their origins, which only compelled me to play more.

As mentioned the core gameplay is more of the same, but everything has been enhanced. The weapons are more effective, the enemy and partner A.I. is more aggressive and the cover system is more responsive. Just as in the original you will again need to be taking cover, peeking out to take your shots before ducking back down again. The cover system feels tighter this time around and you won’t find yourself sticking behind objects you weren’t intending to utilize. The biggest and best new addition is the ability to grab wounded enemies and use them as a “meat shield”. This might not seem like a noteworthy addition but I cannot even begin to count how many times I have used this to escape a tight spot. Epic Games has also included “stopping power” to its firearms. No longer can players effortlessly run through a hail of bullets towards cover; now, every bullet that hits not only slows your character down but also staggers him. This helps make the game far more strategic and forces players to take things slowly instead of rushing every opposition. The grenades have also been given a hefty facelift. A new “ink” grenade has been added that explodes into a ball of poisonous gas. The previously useless smoke grenades now not only emit smoke but knock any nearby enemies off their feet. Grenades can also be stuck to walls and used as proximity mines for approaching enemies, an invaluable tool in keeping foes from sneaking up behind you in large rooms.

All of the gameplay tweaks and additions make for an incredibly satisfying experience but the real star of “Gears of War 2” is its 10- to 12-hour story mode. Simply put this is the most elaborate, gorgeous and insane funhouse I’ve ever experienced in a game. It is impossible to know where the campaign mode will take you next, and just when you think Epic Games couldn’t possibly squeeze any more thrills out of it, another surprise is laying in wait. Words really won’t describe how much I loved playing this game; needless to say I was consistently shocked, amazed and enthralled by every minute of this outrageous carnival of epic proportions. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t played “Gears of War 2” yet by revealing any of its locations or scenarios so let me just say, you WILL be impressed. The ability to play the entire game with a friend via split-screen or Xbox Live makes for an unforgettable experience that I can’t possibly imagine people not enjoying some aspect of it.

The multiplayer support is also vastly improved over the original. The player count has now been bumped up from eight players to ten, which might not seem like much of an improvement, but it succeeds in making the game far more hectic with its confined maps. All of the original modes return with some basic others such as Team Leader and King of the Hill. But the best new additions are Submission and Wingman. Submission is a hilarious take on Capture the Flag with the flag now being a living human armed with a shotgun who will defend himself against both sides. Players must down him with enough shots then grab him as a meat shield and pull him to the capture point. This mode gets very hectic with heated gunfights and watching people get killed by a “flag” is a riot. Wingman breaks the ten players into teams of two and places a far heavier emphasis on taking cover and thinking carefully about your tactics rather than just mindlessly rushing in. This mode seems catered to those who felt the original “Gears of War’s” didn’t force people to play the multiplayer as they did the campaign. These modes also support A.I. bots, which is always a welcome addition and helps so that people who aren’t very good at the multiplayer modes can still enjoy it, offline or on.

The highly touted Horde mode is an intense cooperative game pitting five players against 50 waves of increasingly difficult Locust enemies. While throughout the first 15 or so waves you may think it to be too easy, before you know it you’ll be surrounded by the games most vicious enemies. Every 10 waves the Locust also get health and damage bonuses making things even more challenging. As long as one human player is alive at the end of each wave, everyone else will get to re-spawn at the beginning of the next. This is a great mode for people who love to cooperate rather than compete and if you won’t work as a team in Horde mode, you won’t last long.

Graphically “Gears of War 2” looks even better than its predecessor, which is pretty amazing being the original still looks better than most every console game being released, even today. Not only does it have an improved color palette, sharper textures and an even better framerate; it does so while also displaying ten times the amount of enemies on screen at once and larger than life bosses and environments. The sound is equally impressive on all accounts. The weapons and sound effects are thunderous and the musical score is one of the best soundtracks in recent memory with epic pieces perfectly matching the grand scale of the game.

To say that “Gears of War 2” is an “improvement” over the original is one hell of an understatement. Epic Games has truly outdone itself this time. The developers delivered on all of their promises and accomplished what so many fail at – they made a sequel that is light-years beyond the first. This is the best Xbox 360 game I have ever played, period and I can only imagine where Epic Games will take us from here. Get it now.

Graphics- 10
Gameplay- 10
Sound- 10
Overall- 10

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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

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