So it’s here, without doubt the biggest release to the format this year. Gears Of War was a revelation in third person shoot ‘em ups with jaw-dropping presentation, incredible cinematic and a cover system that actually worked (and which numerous titles have gone on to follow) it provided what was and still is a true gaming experience. Of course Gears Of War 2 has a difficult task in following its predecessor, can a game that was so groundbreaking in the first place be justified other than to continue the plot?
Gears Of War was a beautiful game and Gears Of War 2 is no different, it’s still beautiful, is both sound and vision. This time round the unreal engine has been pushed to the limit. Backdrops made from forests, snow capped mountains and scenic environments that stretch out for miles sit beside the crumbling buildings and cave that is now such a familiar site. The score also deserves a special mention; designed by the man behind the transformers soundtrack it’s a score any composer would be proud of. It truly adds a sense of grandeur to proceedings.
Epic have delivered what is a familiar experience, it handles in a similar style to the original, the cover system is still in use, although the clumsiness that plagued it so much is also present. So the sequel still won’t turn those who weren’t enthusiasts of the first release. However what Epic has done is introduce little tweaks to the gameplay that make it that little bit more appealing. More melee attacks are available; ‘B’ will make Fenix give his opponent a blow to the back of their head. ‘X’ will still perform the ultra-violent curb stomp; ‘Y’ lets Fenix punch his opponent to death. ‘A’ is perhaps the most intriguing and useful addition, with it Fenix will pick up the injured Grub and use it as a ‘human’ shield, the downside to this is that it limits weapon choice to the pistol. Weapons have also been tweaked; the traditional arms have been altered to make them more distinctive. For example, the Locust assault has sluggish fore rate but is more powerful when compared to its COG counterpart. Fenix also has more at his disposal; new arms such as mortars, flamethrowers, and the boom shield have been added to the traditional arsenal, all new equipments to kill locust hordes in oh so violent means. Nice.
Tacticians out there will notice that Fenix is now unable to issue commands to his squad, it can be a wearisome omission especially when Carmine and co. storm into battle and to their inevitable professional suicides, on the plus side it means no more slanging matches with the television when Santiago or Carmine don’t follow orders. Despite this omission, the developers have addressed the balance somewhat; death now doesn’t mean death, instead Fenix will remain injured until someone heals him while pressing ‘A’ and a direction and seem him will seek cover. Sure, Fenix’s buddies leave him to be ripped to shreds by Locust bullets but at least someone will come back to heal him.
Campaign is enjoyable when in single player mode but it’s the multiplayer mode that will have people coming back for their fill of gratuitous violence. The campaign can still be done in co-op, however this time around there is a drop-in where another player can drop in and out of the action at any point with each player able to have their own difficulty setting. The other multiplayer modes have also been tweaked, Warzone, Execution, Assassination, and Annex all feature as does King of the Hill which previously was only available in the PC version. Continuing with the tradition of new features there are also four new modes. Submission, which is similar to capture the flag except the flag is a civilian, who can be a little bit hostile. Guardian is similar to VIP modes, where there is one team member who must be kept alive, although the rest can respawn and Wingman, which relies heavily on teamwork as players are split into teams of two. All new modes add longevity to the experience, however it’s Horde that steals the show. Horde is perhaps the closest to the campaign mode; it sees teams of five face waves successive of Locusts enemies, each getting progressively harder. Team mates can be revived but if at least one member is alive at the end then entire team will respawn for he next hoard. Horde reinvigorates online multiplayer as it’s all about teamwork and not shooting the hell of each other, that and it’s utter, utter fun.
Gears Of War 2 is not as ground breaking as the original but no one expected it to be, sequels don’t tend to be so. What sequels strive to be, or at least should strive to be, is an improvement on the original and this is what the developers Epic have achieved. Even the biggest Gears fan would have to admit the original had its flaws and while some of these have carried over Epic have still managed to make Gears Of War 2 bigger and better in almost all aspects but to mention them would be giving the plot away. It’s more intense, it’s more violent, and both the campaign and multiplayer modes are a lot more varied. Sure there are enough unanswered question for a third but for now this is one not to be missed.