Review by lurchibles

"Gears of War 2 - Review from an Experianced Player."

Before I start this review, I just want to give you some background on my “Gears of War” experience.

I have completed the first game on the Xbox 360 and, after completion I spent the majority of my gaming hours playing on Live. I was even the leader and founder of a multi-player clan on “Gamebattles” for a while. With regards to the second game I received my copy on release date, and I have both the in-game Golden Lancer and Golden Hammerburst (for those unfamiliar with the game, these are weapons exclusively available). I have completed the game on normal difficulty and both my brother and I are working through the game on co-op on “insane” difficulty. We haven't yet completed the game on insane difficulty (its difficult to find time when we are both free), however my insane play-through is a work-in-progress. I am also currently playing through the 1st game again, but on the PC.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I personally believe that its necessary before you read a review to know a bit about the reviewer. I am a huge-fan of the series and I have played through the entire single player game and played at least one full multi-player match on all the maps. In my opinion the only way I can write an honest review about this game is after playing through both games and having in-depth knowledge and experience with both.

Now Gear's of War 2 is set 6-months after the events of the first game, if you are reading this review without playing the first game, I would personally recommend that you play through that one first. The first game is not very long and takes less than a day to complete, it is available to rent at most rental stores but is also well worth purchasing.

In terms of story Gear's of War 2 pushes the series forward in all the right ways, the COG force and on there back foot, leaving them no choice but to launch a full-blown assault on the locust stronghold. Meaning that once again Marcus and his companions have to head underground, and must fight the enemy on there home territory. Gears of War 2 is a story-driven but combat focussed game, so players looking for a more adventure-like experience should try games the likes of Far Cry 2 or Fallout 3.

The Gameplay remains similar to the first game, fast-paced action from start to finish with a fantastic, polished cover system that makes almost every second of combat both extremely tense and extremely fun. For those unfamiliar with the first games' cover system, your character can hide himself behind walls, cars, gravestones, desks, barrels and almost anything with a simple tap of the “A” button. When in cover your character can aim and fire, this however does expose them to enemy fire. There is the option to “blind-fire” which is less accurate than aiming but doesn't expose the player to enemy gunfire. Both are effective when used correctly, and as most of the fighting is close-quarters it provides some very tense, action packed and highly addictive combat.

The weapons are as fantastic as the first game, with a slightly less-powerful shotgun. The Lancer is the high-light of all of the Gears of War weapons, for those unfamiliar with the Gears universe, the Lancer is an assault rifle with a chainsaw blade attached to the bottom of it, which means that when the enemies get close the player can raise his chainsaw bayonet and cut there enemy in half. However if the enemy also has there chainsaw bayonet raised the players go into a chainsaw duel, which essentially involves manically pressing the “B” button until either you get cut in half, or you cut them in half. There is a lot of gore in this game paired along with strong language, however I recently discovered there is an option to turn both the gore off and the strong language off, which is good news for any parent considering letting there child play this game. The shotgun, as I said earlier is slightly under-powered in comparison to the first game, however at close proximity with a well placed shot you can still blow you enemy into pieces. There are 3 pistols available, however these are normally used as a last resort when ammo is low, but they are surprisingly effective. Unlike the first game, the Hammerburst is now not burst-fire but single shot, however a few concentrated shots onto your enemies head would lead to a satisfying kill. Again for those not familiar with the Gears universe, a head-shot involves a nice “crunch” sound as your enemies' head gets blown into pieces, followed by there headless body left standing for around half a second until it drops to the floor. All very entertaining and a good shot with the sniper-rifle will easily blow your enemies' head to pieces. The Boomshot is basically a grenade launcher and the Torque-bow fires an explosive arrow into your enemy blowing them into pieces. Some weapons can also be used to execute your enemies, using the sniper-rifle as a sledge hammer or your shotgun as a baseball bat is a lot of fun.

The graphics are one of the strongest parts of the game, Epic have really pushed the Unreal engine to its limits. Blood stains the walls, gun muzzles flash and flicker. As your position gets hit by the enemy walls start to crumble and obviously bit break off, however there is no real destructible scenery and there has never been with Gear's. The game's graphical approach is slightly more cartoon-like than the first game, but this is definitely one of the more impressive looking games available on the Xbox 360.

Multi-player is where Gears of War 2 shines, the new maps are fantastic and 5 maps from the previous game are also available when buying the game new, these are: Canals, Gridlock, Mansion, Subway and Tyro Station (all of these re-styled to look 6 months in the future). There is also a new map-pack available on Live with 3 new action packed maps, which I recommend to anyone who purchases this game. The multi-player action is as fast, if not faster than the single-player game. The maximum players on a map are 10, normally 5 vs 5, there are many different game modes from all out combat in “Execution” and “Warzone” to strategic position capturing in “Annex” and “King of the Hill”. There is also the “Guardian” game mode, when one of the players on each team take the role of the leader and as long as they are alive there team-mates can re-spawn. However once they are killed, there team-mates cannot re-spawn. This leads to some really interesting tactics which involve either protecting your leader or throwing everything at the enemy leader in order to win the game. “Submission” is another new game mode, which involves a computer controlled player that has to be beaten down and then dragged to your base to win the match. All the game modes are brilliant fun, and for players who do not have Xbox live there is also the option of Bots. The only problem with the bots is there difficulty, I find that if you set them to anything under “Insane” they start making stupid mistakes and tend not to use the cover system as much as human players. However when set to “Insane” the bots are beatable, but I have seen some impossible sniper shots being made and they tend to use the cover system very effectively or not at all. The game can also be played through cooperatively with a friend either over Live or split-screen, this brings the single-player game to life and I would recommend playing it through on co-op mode as it really adds to the fun.

All in all Gears of War 2 enhances the experience off the original, adds new modes and the addition of chainsaw battles definitely adds to the fun. However it doesn't quite warrant a 10/10 score, because as a sequel it doesn't quite better the original as much as possible. Therefore I am awarding Gears of War 2 a 9/10 score, well worth your money if your willing to give it a go.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/05/09

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

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