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Gears of War 2 Full Review

Posted by haunt506e on November 10, 2008

Gears of War 2 Review

I’ve gotten a chance to play, quite extensively actually, the newest shooter on the block, Gears of War 2.  It makes a magnificent attempt at following in its predecessor’s footsteps with its intuitive cover system and trademark “stop-and-pop” game play that so defined its successor, the original Gears of War.  The game improves on these aspects instead of trying something entirely new, and still manages to feel like an entirely different experience.  It blends an intense single player (and cooperative) campaign mode with a very deep multiplayer mode, complete with several new addictive game types.  And now my full review of Gears of War 2.

Graphics/Audio:

I’ll start off by going over some of the visual and audio aspects of Gears of War 2.  Put simply, this game takes the precise graphics from the original game and expands them.  In the sequel, you’re fighting larger enemies in larger quantities, all with the same level of detail as before.  A few missions in the first and second acts have you gunning down vast hordes of enemy Locusts and Locust siege creatures, all of which move and act normally.  The set pieces in the game also look and act tremendously well, several boss battles are brought to life through these massive pieces falling or crumbling apart.  Pieces of bricks will fall off of wall as you hide behind them, and while this has no real effect on the game play, it makes the game more realistic.  As far as sound quality and composition goes, Gears of War 2 again follows in its predecessor’s steps by delivering tremendous, epic orchestral scores to complement the huge scale on which it is played.  The tracks fit the mood of the level and situation perfectly, and again separate this game from all other shooters.

Mulcher-wielding Boomers (also known as Grinders) are another addition to the vast Locust arsenal.

Mulcher-wielding Boomers (also known as Grinders) are another addition to the vast Locust arsenal.

Single Player:

Getting into the single player campaign, you take control of Marcus, six months after the events of the original Gears of War.  I won’t spoil any of the story, but you’re pretty much told that Locusts now have the ability to sink entire cities into the ground and you are now on the offensive, sending siege weapons known as Grind Lifts to deploy COG soldiers deep underground in the center of the Locust horde.  The single player campaign can be summed up in one word: epic.  The idea behind it is the same as that of Gears of War 1, where you and your squad move from point to point eliminating anything in your path while simultaneously uncovering key points to the Gears of War storyline.  However, Gears of War 2 augments this traditional game play by increasing the size of the scale on which these objectives take place.  You fight huge battles with huge creatures in huge arenas with virtually everything at stake.  It isn’t just limited to the same old emergence hole after emergence hole game play that decreased the replay value of the original game.  While you will still fight waves of Locust enemies, it no longer seems so monotonous in Gears of War 2, thanks largely in part to the addition of its intense set piece battles and extremely thorough level designs.

The single player campaign, in all its glory, won’t survive more than one or two play-throughs, unfortunately.  However, thanks to EPIC’s brand new drop-in cooperative feature, the whole single player campaign just redoubled its replay value.  In Gears of War 1, in order to play campaign with a friend, you had to set up a cooperative match, then invite said friend, and then start the match.  Now, in Gears 2, you can easily just start up your own solo campaign, and, if you’re stuck at a part or just need a pal, you can invite anyone on your friends list and that friend can join in the game, without having to set up an actual cooperative match.  It sounds simple and in today’s world of gaming, it’s almost a “duh” feature, but the cooperative aspect of Gears of War 2 has been greatly improved upon, and stands out as one of the key features of its campaign mode.

We're gonna have to rush 'em.

We're gonna have to rush 'em.

Multiplayer:

Campaign is by no means the only part of Gears of War 2, and is really only the beginning of its greatness.  In actuality, what defines the Gears 2 experience more than anything else is its multiplayer mode.  EPIC did away with the original matching system of Gears 1 and replaced it with a new matchmaking system, reminiscent of Halo 3.  So far, the matchmaking has been a mixed blessing.  It’s great in the sense that it is now relatively easy to get into a match and stay on the same team as your friends, and also in the fact that all matchmaking is ranked, so you will gain achievements no matter what the game mode.  However, it could just be that the servers are new and need some updating, but, for me at least, the matchmaking appears to be slow at times.  I will frequently get caught in what seems to be an infinite loop of error messages and matchmaking restarts that result in about (on average) one match found per minute.  It doesn’t seem like much, but it gets pretty annoying after finishing one match only to have to wait in the matchmaking screen for it to slowly find you a match.  In addition, Gears of War 2 has improved on the whole matchmaking veto system, now allowing for players to vote on a certain map and game type, rather than just veto one map or mode in exchange for a random new one.  EPIC also took the time to add in a Training Grounds mode to the game, allowing new players to hone their skills against bots on any of the game’s maps or modes, the only exception being Horde.

Cover is invaluable in every game mode.

Cover is invaluable in every game mode.

As far as the actual multiplayer goes, however it is fantastic.  Most of the old modes, with the exception of Assassination, have made it to the new game, with the addition of a few other new game modes, the best of which being Horde.  Most of these new game types, while not significant or unique, add more variety and replayability to the game, and help to flesh out the multiplayer mode even more.  Guardian is the only new Death Match game type that has been added, with Warzone and Execution being carried over from Gears 1.  In Guardian, your team has a leader who, while alive, grants the rest of the team guaranteed respawns.  If your leader dies, you lose your respawns.  In theory, this game type would be a blast to play, and it usually is, but every once in a while you’ll meet up with another team who basically camps at their spawn so that their leader won’t get killed, and this strategy often just results in a standstill.  As far as new objective game types, EPIC has added a whole new slew of modes, including a CTF variant called Submission, and a King of the Hill mode, in addition to the Gears of War 2 version of Annex, which has been left largely untouched.  King of the Hill on Gears of War 2 functions just like King of the Hill anywhere else, you gotta find the hill and hold it.  Submission, however, has two teams fighting for control of a stranded, also known as the “meatflag.”  To win, a team has to capture the meatflag and bring him back to a turn in point, securing points for their team.

In addition to these game types, EPIC has added a few other genre-defining modes, namely Horde.  In Horde, you and four buddies team up together to take on wave after wave of Locusts, and if you’re good enough, you can make it all the way to wave 50.  The enemies get progressively stronger every 10 waves, and it by the time you get to the higher waves, you’ll be hard pressed for ammunition and cover, as you’ll be flanked, doubleflanked, zerged, etc.  While you can play this mode through matchmaking, it is a much more enjoyable experience when played with friends.  It brings out teamwork and comradery like no other game type, and you and your buds will have a hard time leaving the game after discovering Horde mode.  Fighting wave after wave of ferocious Locust baddies with your buds side by side is a gaming experience I will never forget.  This game type can be played on any map, and its a joy to strategize and cooperate with your teammates in order to take the high ground, flank enemy cover points, or coordinate strategic retreats.

All weapons from the single player campaign can be used in multiplayer.

All weapons from the single player campaign can be used in multiplayer.

All in all EPIC has done a great job with this title, and it has certainly lived up to and beyond the original game’s claims to fame.  EPIC has added a few other noteworthy features as well, including well designed spectator functions, complete with the ability to take and upload game play photos, a host of unlockables, and a great system of achievement tracking.  The photos work really well, you take them while spectating a match, and EPIC has added a “ghost camera” feature so that you can fly around the map and take pictures from several angles.  All of the pictures used in this review were taken by myself during various multiplayer situations, and they came out pretty well.  The unlockables are nothing to shout about, but its nice that they put them in there.  In the original Gears of War, I know a lot of guys were complaining about its terrible system for tracking your achievements.  Well, all that has been fixed in Gears of War 2, and now you can not only view the achievements, but you can also view your progression on each individual achievement, all in-game without the need to bring up the annoyingly slow Xbox Guide.

Verdict:

When it’s all said and done, Gears of War 2 is a Great Buy for any Xbox 360 owner.

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