Review by katamari_roller

"Amazing 360 shooter that's not [mainstream FPS here]!"

When it comes to the Xbox 360, the most played games are definitely shooters. You have your Halo 3, your Call of Duty 4, your Gears of War, and countless others that millions of Live users salivate over. But there's one shooter which is a masterpiece, but sits in the shadows of its first/third person shooter brethren. I am of course referring to Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. Debuting as a minigame in Project Gotham Racing 2, it has gained a positive reaction from the 360 community and was further enhanced when released as an Xbox Live Arcade game which stills ranks as one of the most downloaded Arcade games on the service. For years, 360 owners were stuck with Retro Evolved while Nintendo fans were treated to the next installment of retro 2D shooting with Geometry Wars Galaxies for the DS and Wii, both games also as great as Retro Evolved. But the countless hours on the same game had run their course and the 360 needed a fresh burst of Geometry Wars goodness. On July 30, 2008, that prayer was answered in the form of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2.

The purpose of Geometry Wars still hasn't changed much with Retro Evolved 2. You're still the same anonymous white ship flying around the same rectangular grid. Random enemies from the aimless purple pinwheels to the bullet avoiding green diamonds to the pink boxes that multiply once shot still gang up on the ship for no reason in insane numbers. You're armed with an endless supply of bullets and in some cases, a small amount of screen clearing bombs that you can use to fend off your foes for as long as your skills can keep up with the never-ending torment of the AI.

However, the main reason Retro Evolved 2 is a buyable game and not just some revamped version of an old favorite is the six game modes. Instead of just having the same goal of shooting enemies until you die and racking up points, you now have multiple ways of playing the game. The first is Deadline where you get infinite lives and 3 minutes to get as many points as you can. In King mode, you have one life and cannot shoot unless you are within "zones" that randomly spawn on the grid. They are also safe spots, since enemies can't enter the zones. These zones expire after a certain amount of time, so you need to hop from zone to zone strategically to stay alive and get high scores. Evolved is exactly what it sounds like: the original goal of having 3 lives and 3 bombs to destroy as many enemies until you eventually die. Pacifism disables both your gun and bombs, so you have to avoid enemies to stay alive. For defense, you can pass through gates which will destroy any enemies near it. Waves challenges you to survive through multiple...erm....waves of rockets that fly either horizontally or vertically across the grid with only one life. The final mode, Sequence contains 20 levels of predetermined enemies. You are given 30 seconds to clear each level of enemies. If you die, you move on to the next one, but losing all your lives will end the game. Each game mode is unique and interesting, not to mention that they have certain strategies you'll learn if you want to gain higher scores.

Despite the fresh new modes, there are some other new additions that are blessings or disappointments depending on how well you enjoyed Retro Evolved. First of all, if you destroy an enemy in any mode, they will sometimes drop Geoms, items first introduced in Geometry Wars Galaxies. They increase your multiplier by one. This may not seem like much, but with all the pandemonium bound to happen in a game like Geometry Wars, hundreds of Geoms can appear at one time, greatly increasing your multiplier. Geometry Wars veterans will be disappointed by the ease of getting high multipliers while lesser players can rejoice as they see their scores soar into the millions. In Retro Evolved, death resulted in resetting your multiplier back to 1. In Retro Evolved 2, this has been tweaked so your multiplier stays the same after you die. This is a blessing to the less skilled Geometry Wars players who constantly get crushed by the immense difficulty, but not so much for players who honed their skills for hours to weave and shoot through the waves of enemies. On the plus side, there's a multiplayer option where you and three friends can join forces to blast through the swarms of lethal shapes. Sadly, these friends have to be in your living room since there is no online multiplayer. This confuses me, since many 360 games have gained so many positive notes due to having online multiplayer. Including the option would have made Retro Evolved 2 that much better and probably more popular and accessible for the crowd of first/third person shooters. Leaderboards for each mode are there so you can still indirectly compete with the 360 owning community. Finally for you achievement whores, there are 200 Gamerscore points up for grabs. Like the achievements for Retro Evolved, they provide challenging goals that improve your skills at the games, but some feel easier that what Retro Evolved had. Instead of having multiple scores for you to aim at, they consist of objectives as easy as unlocking all game modes (which takes mere minutes) to pretty difficult as rubbing your ship against all sides of the grid during Pacifism and surviving 8 waves in Waves mode without shooting. (harder than it sounds!)

As for technical enhancements over Retro Evolved, there's little to say. The graphics have been noticeably upgraded, but still stay true to the word "retro" in the title. The bright neon lights of the original remain and shooting through a thick wave still results in a bright series of beautiful explosions and sparks. When it comes to the first game's audio, most people agree that it could use more variety. Retro Evolved 2 solves this with each mode having its own enjoyable heart-pounding soundtrack. For fans of the original game's sole song, it appears remixed during Evolved mode and well remixed if you ask me.

In closing, Retro Evolved 2 is a must buy for fans of the first game and a lighter introduction to the series for new players due to the addition of Geoms and changes to the rules. If you have the cash, this is a very good game I guarantee you.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/31/08

Game Release: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 (US, 07/30/08)

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