[XBox 360 Review] Gears Of War 2

This review is long overdue, but with a very busy schedule lately, it’s better late than never.

Gears of War 2 is Epic Games sequel to the acclaimed original, which was one of the best games to ever grace the XBox 360. Will part 2 rise above its predecessor or fall to the way side of sequels that can’t capture that same feeling of the original? After sitting down and getting some good playing time in to the campaign and single player, I came away feeling this was Gears of War 1.5.

Gears of War 2 picks up not too long after the Lightmass Bomb was detonated in the first game, and now the Locust are back and sinking entire cities. You start off with Marcus and Dom getting a new recruit, Benjamin Carmine, to help them out in exterminating the Locust Horde. Throughout the game, you will be introduced to many new characters, as well as reuniting with past favorites. The plot is definitely deeper than the original, but at times comes off as cheesy as a Hollywood action film and tends to take away from the emotional factor the developers were aiming for.

When it comes to gameplay and controls in Gears of War 2, nothing has really changed in terms of the basics, so you anyone familiar with the franchise can easily pick up this game and start playing. There are obvious upgrades in terms of combat and weapons, with new vehicle combat sequences and enhancements to weapons in terms of accuracy, damage and explosions. Some of the newer weapons are a blast to use, including the Mortar and the Mulcher, and the new enemies introduced in the game add a nice variety to the typical Horde monsters. The difficulty levels have been tweaked as well, most notably with Casual being much easier this time around. The only issue I had with the campaign overall, is the fact that playing alone is extremely boring and gets old fast. To truly get the full experience of Gears of War 2’s campaign, you have to play through with a friend, as the fun factor is top notch. You and your friend can also play on separate difficulty levels, and Gears 2 does a great job of balancing the game out due to which level each player is at.

The graphics have been stepped up a notch, with the most notable aspect being a better lighting system. Shadows and lighting effects look more realistic than they did in the first Gears, and the game tends to break away from the whole gray color scheme of the original. The most notable level would be the ride through the forest on the Centaur Tanks, which is a welcome pallet of greens and browns. Due to the power of the Unreal 3 Engine, they have also been able to include more characters on screen at once without any frame rate issues. The character designs are much crisper and well rendered, with even more detail being added this time around.

The multiplayer aspect of Gears of War, was a huge draw for many fans, and kept them playing the game even two years later.  And with Gears Of War 2 comes both upgrades and downgrades to what made the original multiplayer as popular as it was. To start off with the improvements, the entire gameplay online is much faster and you can now play up to 10 players, two teams of five, in most online modes. Epic Games has also introduced more modes this time around to add variety and replayability. They have added in Wingman, which divides the players into five teams of two of the same character. Submission is a capture the flag style of game, where you will down an enemy AI controlled character, and drag him back to your base to earn points. Horde is by far the best addition to the multiplayer foray this time around, as you and four other friends take on fifty levels in which Locust Hordes constantly attack. Each level gets more difficult while adding more Locust to the numbers attacking. You will find yourself playing this mode for many hours with friends, and it never gets old.

Unfortunately, instead of fixing some issues in the original game, they have managed to dumb down or cheapen some of the overall experience. Many times online matches can turn into chainsaw massacres with everyone just running blindly into the open and trying to see who can chainsaw who first. While this tends to be funny the first few times, you start to realize how much this takes away from what made Gears Of War’s online play so loved by gamers. Another degradation to online matches is how the shotgun is now weaker than ever. In the original gears, if there was one weapon that was underpowered, it was the shotgun, and somehow they have managed to make the shotgun even weaker than before. The only other issue is the addition of the chainsaw battles, while a great idea, the animation is no indication of who is actually winning the battle. There are many times I would think I had the battle won due to the animation showing me overpowering my opponent, only to find myself at the losing end of a chainsaw.

Fans of the original will find little to complain about and will forgive most of the games shortcomings. If you are coming into Gears 2 as just a single player experience, you will find yourself disappointed, as this is a game meant to be played with friends. While the plot and acting is reminiscent of a B action film, the combat and multiplayer alone makes up for it. Overall, Gears of War 2 is a very well made game, and a fantastic online experience, and a must have for everyone who spends a lot of time gaming online.

Rating: 8.8/10

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