Review by Gruel

"A Gears campaign with a story? Plus functional multiplayer? Keep my Lancer revved up please!"

Microsoft heavily pushed the first Gears of War as the greatest thing to hit gaming since Halo, and after finishing it, and to my shock it lived up to the hype. Who knew that running around as huge super soldiers with chain saw-equipped assault rifles would have been the blast that Microsoft made it out to be? Gears of War 2 is now out, and it faces the same amount of hype and expectations that faced its predecessor.

When starting the campaign for Gears 2, the main thing that sets it apart from the first Gears is that there is now a presence of a competent plot. The narrative doesn't take a backseat to the crazy fun gun play anymore. Players finally get to learn more about the invading Locust horde, and some of the intriguing background of protagonist Marcus Fenix that was hinted at last time around. Without spoiling anything, there are some satisfying payoffs, and it finally feels good that you are playing for a purpose.

The campaign itself has a surprising amount of diversity in level design. Rest assured, there is a ton of the addicting “stop ‘n pop” action that Gears made famous, but there are also a few other levels of different action thrown in to mix things up. Look forward to a couple vehicle levels similar to what was experienced before, along with a couple other surprises towards the end of the game. The constant variety in the mission structure never made the overall campaign a dull experience, especially when playing with a buddy in cooperative play online or in local split screen.

Speaking of coop, there is a fantastic new mode introduced called Horde mode, where up to five people can team up online to take on up to 50 separate waves of blood thirsty Locust. For the players that don't want to tackle the fierce nature of competitive multiplayer, Horde mode is a great way to still have fun working together with your friends instead of against them. For the fans of said competitive multiplayer, than Gears 2 has you covered. The dated matchmaking system used before was thankfully scrapped in place for a faster and more reliable system comparable to the online lobbies found in Halo. Most of the old play types are back along with a new versus variant called Wingman where up to five teams of two wage war where teamwork is critical to success.

As of this writing, there has been quite a bit of DLC released for Gears 2, and if you have yet to buy it, then you can still find it at retailers bundled with all of the DLC which includes a whopping 19 new multiplayer maps and a deleted scene from the campaign which can also be played in online or local coop. Even if you feel ready to move onto Gears 3 at this point, getting your feet wet with the multiplayer with all these maps is a great option to consider if you have wet to wage war in Gears online.

At a glance, Gears 2 doesn't look a whole lot different from the superb graphics that premiered two years ago, but when compared side by side, it's stunning to see all the tiny details that set the two apart. The oddly fitting Star Wars-esque orchestral score returns, which only helps make each and every firefight more intense. While Gears 2 now has a satisfying story, don't look for any drastic changes to its trademark, foul-mouthed dialogue and the established one-liners that Marcus and his Delta Squad members spew out throughout the game.

Once again, Epic Games has managed to outdo themselves. I came in expecting a relatively minor upgrade from the first game, but Epic went beyond that and delivered a far more enjoyable campaign, a brand new addicting cooperative mode and heavily improved multiplayer. This all comes together to make Gears of War 2 a sequel that surpassed expectations.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/30/11

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

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