Gears of War 2

By: Shaun Hunter    On: Xbox 360
Published: Thursday 6 Nov 2008 9:50 AM
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One of the year’s biggest action games, Gears of War 2, has finally landed, and we’ve taken on the Locust with Delta squad to see how it fares. Straight off the bat, you’ll recognise this as a Gears of War title. The game looks, feels, and plays the same as the original Gears – and that’s not a bad thing. The main characters Fenix, Cole, Dom and Baird are all back to reprise their roles, alongside a couple of newcomers in Ben Carmine (Anthony Carmine’s brother), and Tai.

The story is set six months after the events of the original Gears, where the lightmass bomb used underground to eradicate the Locust has brought about a sickness called rustlung to the above-ground population. A renewed resurgence of remaining Locust have taken the fight to a new level, very quickly threatening one of the last safe-havens - and home of the COG – the Jacinto Plateu.

One of the positives of picking up a sequel is that you already know the basics when it comes to the story – we already know that the Locust are, what they’ve done, and that they’re most likely up to no good again. Essentially, this allows you to jump straight into the action – and Gears 2 brings it within the opening minutes.

It appears developer Epic Games has heard the fans of the first game – who complained that the story was arbitrary, and didn’t make all that much sense. Gears 2 improves on the core story, making everything feel more ‘epic’, and also giving the characters a tad more depth through some of the sub-plots and witty dialogue. Before the end of the second act, you’ll be knee-deep in the habitat of the horde, will have experienced plot-twists, and major character events.

Largely, Epic Games has kept the same run-and-cover mechanics found in the original Gears. As we touched upon in our hands-on preview, the major addition we’ve made use of is what actually happens once you’ve been shot down. You’re given the ability to crawl around, tapping the A-button to go faster, hoping that one of your team-mates will be able to come to your aid. The enemy – in the campaign, and multiplayer – will also take advantage of this, so it’s important to make sure that when they go down, they stay down. This is where the meat-shield and executions come in. Walk up to a down-but-not-out enemy, and you’ll be prompted with the choice to either finish them off by one of the many ways to do so, or use them against their own acting as a shield. We never had too much luck using it successfully, but it would be useful in situations where the extra cover would come in handy.

The campaign isn’t particularly long, but it is full-on action the whole way through, making it perfect to play a couple of times over. Scattered throughout the levels are items you can collect and add to your War Journal – such as COG tags, scrolls, and other collectables – which will undoubtedly become an obsession for those who must collect everything. Luckily, the collectable items are broken down into the chapters in which they can be found, so you can cross off each section as you clear through.

That’s where you realise that the game – while great at getting your adrenaline pumping with the run-and-shoot gameplay – gets almost repetitive. Whether it’s the campaign, the online multiplayer game types, or Horde mode, it’s always essentially the same thing. While the campaign does its best to keep things exciting by offering different scenes and sequences, there is still, at times, that overwhelming feeling of ‘another same fight’ that was present in the first Gears.

Co-operative campaign also offers a welcoming fresh experience from the single player aspect. And similar to the original Gears of War, it’s actually more fun most of the time playing through with a friend than it is by yourself. Epic has done an impressive job with having the co-operative game work so well, and it’s clear that Gears of War 2 was created with the two-player aspects front and central.

Aside from the campaign, the other multiplayer and Xbox Live modes have really been improved over the first Gears. With a multitude of modes, and the very welcome inclusion of bots – something that is sorely missed from many multiplayer/online action games – you would have to say that the multiplayer aspect of Gears of War 2 is just as fun, if not more fun, than the campaign.

Jumping online, or even locally with a few bots, the game modes offer plenty of variety. We became addicted to ‘Wingman’, one of the new inclusions where each of the five teams of two must be executed. Last team standing wins. Teamwork is clearly the goal here, with the emphasis being on the need to execute the other players – leaving them crawling on the ground won’t be enough. It’s a mode that while isn’t anything revolutionary, does provide a lot of fun. All of the other traditional multiplayer modes are available, such as ‘Annex’ (king of the hill), ‘Submission’ (capture the flag), and Warzone (deathmatch) amongst others.

Located with its own separate menu item, Horde mode has been long touted by many as one of the most anticipated features of the game, and it’s not hard to see why. Pitting you and your team against wave after wave of increasingly difficult Locust, it epitomises the action-centric gameplay. Up to four other players can join in on the fight, and it almost feels like it has the old-school arcade ‘have to beat the high-score’ mantra to it. The non-stop battle does cater to those who want to do nothing but shoot the Locust Horde that are bringing the fight.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous. Gears of War, when it arrived on Xbox 360, was the best looking title to date, and Gears of War 2 does the same. From shooting chunks off of the Brumak, to the close-ups of Delta squad in the cut-scenes, you can tell a lot of time and care has been taken to make the game look polished. There will always be the occasional graphical glitch, or textures taking a while to load in multiplayer, but for the most part you’ll be impressed with not only character models, but the environment, and the level of destruction you can blast them with.

It’s an understatement to say Gears of War 2 is the epitome of action. This game defines the genre. Gears of War 2 is one of the highlights of the year, and for all Xbox 360 owners, this deserves to be in your collection.

The Score

Gears of War 2
"There’s no doubt about it, this is Gears of War. "
Rating: R18   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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Comments (26)

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On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 12:29 PM Posted by Mr.Deflok
How's the story this time around? A bit more developed? The 8 hour length isn't so bad considering the game consists of the same 5 minutes of gameplay over and over... It's fortunate that the 5 minutes is pretty damn solid, then.
stupidlikeafox VIP VIP Gold
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 2:00 PM Posted by stupidlikeafox
yeah, first was repetitive but oh-so-satisfying. my hope is that this game is less linear than the first.
Ubercuber VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 2:08 PM Posted by Ubercuber
I just want to blow sh*t up real nice.
Ubercuber VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 2:10 PM Posted by Ubercuber
Oh - and is there offline multiplayer?
Ron VIP VIP Gold
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 2:49 PM Posted by Ron
Linear? I've actually got lost in Gear 1. I must be just crap... ;-(
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 3:57 PM Posted by Oliver
Almost thought you had put a picture in a review there! Then I realised it was a Lego Batman ad...
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 4:27 PM Posted by Tinamn
9 eh?...I better win it!
Phoenix VIP VIP Gold
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 7:09 PM Posted by Phoenix

Yeah, offline multiplayer is there, which is great considering they have the bots that can fill in the gaps.

The story is definitely better this time around, I think it's more memorable, and offers more different 'scenes'.
Ubercuber VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 7:29 PM Posted by Ubercuber
How many player offline is it? Just 2 + bots?

Also - can you play horde mode offline?
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 8:24 PM Posted by paddy01
Nah you can't play horde offline. You need friends online to be able to play it.
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 8:25 PM Posted by paddy01
Also, please tell me that was sarcasm Ron.
Phoenix VIP VIP Gold
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 8:46 PM Posted by Phoenix
Yes, you can play Horde offline, I did it with me and one other. You can't play it with bots though.

Offline I only tested 2 player multiplayer with 8 other bots (I could choose up to 9 bots). I didn't check if you can do four-player split screen - but once you get into the lobby you can choose whether your playing Local, System-Link, Xbox Live Private, Xbox Live Public, etc.
Ubercuber VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 10:05 PM Posted by Ubercuber
Beautiful, thanks mate.
On Thursday 6 Nov 2008 10:55 PM Posted by Hato-kun
This game looks awesome. Want want want.
Genocide VIP VIP Gold
On Saturday 8 Nov 2008 10:55 AM Posted by Genocide
Picked this up, so far co-op is great.
On Saturday 8 Nov 2008 12:22 PM Posted by ChatterboxZombie
I liked that song they used on the add before.
They ruined it.........

Blind fireing ftw.
Genocide VIP VIP Gold
On Saturday 8 Nov 2008 6:19 PM Posted by Genocide
The shotgun still rapes seven babies. On the bar.
On Monday 10 Nov 2008 6:09 PM Posted by Rockajay
Great Game, Great review. 10/10
On Wednesday 12 Nov 2008 5:29 PM Posted by cute_maori
Wanna win this game and trailer was awesome.
On Thursday 13 Nov 2008 2:48 PM Posted by kaz
I aint even clocked gears 1....aahahahahaa I'll get there i dont wanna play Gears2 until i finish 1....ANYWAY GREAT REVIEW thanx
On Friday 14 Nov 2008 5:29 PM Posted by Xyttik
"This game defines the genre"
Wow. Big statement. Gears one and two will definitely be the first games i pick up
SkinBintin VIP VIP Bronze
On Saturday 15 Nov 2008 6:29 AM Posted by SkinBintin
Simple: The Greatest Game EVER!

Well, probably not really, but in my mind, right this second, I absolutly LOVE it!
On Sunday 16 Nov 2008 12:07 AM Posted by Prensel
Oh my god, it got rated 9, now i really want it >< too bad i got like no money left.
On Sunday 16 Nov 2008 10:37 AM Posted by -Unknown-
The first one was great.
Cant wait to play this one.
On Sunday 16 Nov 2008 9:58 PM Posted by topcatnz67
Gears of War 2, time for a cliche! "Game on".
On Tuesday 16 Dec 2008 2:24 PM Posted by primeelfkilla
I am so pleased that I didnt listen to all the negitive comments on the net. I enjoyed G.O.W and admitt that I was left wanting more and feeling there was room for improvement but it was a better game than battle for the pacific which was short and very poorly slapped together.
Then when I got the word that G.O.W 2 was being developed I waited read the growing negitive comments and decided to see for myself. I played the game and found it very challengeing the grapics and all other game content was a surprise the end product showed the development team had their hearts set on giving G.O.W fans a true master piece.
one guy on another game site was rubbishing the game saying it was to easy and blah blah blah I asked what difficulty was he playing on he replied normal. I then told him beat the game on a higher skill setting then come back and whine all he wants, last I heard from him he was stuck in the escape on the the back of the Nemacyst level. I like shooters and think that I am good at beating them on difficult settings but I got stone walled for a considerable time. this game is best played on the harder settings, easy and normal are really for the beginner, or if you just want to run around time wasteing and killing with out thinking to much my advice is try for your self