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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Microsoft Games Studio

 

Developer

Epic Games

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

November 7, 2008

 

 

- Has a story that can be followed!

- Co-op play and online Horde mode are the best ways to play

- Looks even better than the last game

 

 

- Dom can be a friggin' idiot

- A lot of instant death

- While the environments are varied the basic mechanics of "stop and pop" with some very straightforward objectives remain steady throughout

 

 

Review: Gears of War (360)

Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (360)

Review: Army of Two (360)

 

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Gears of War 2

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

Expectations were riding extremely high for Gears of War 2 (unofficially subititled, "It Has a Story This Time").  Everything was supposed to be "better and more badass" and Gears 2 does a good job of trying to deliver on that, beyond just a new coat of textured paint and a few different ways to kill Locust.

 

gears of war 2           gears of war 2

 

To start with, Gears 2 actually follows a loose connection of plot points that resembles a story.  As one who played through the original a few times, this is probably the best part of Gears 2, that and the ability to just jump in and start playing.  Though there are a few new weapons, like the mortar, the "stop and pop"

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gameplay of the original returns so any learning curve for experienced players is extremely short.  Slamming into cover and performing SWAT turns remains extremely satisfying and the overall cover system still shines.

 

Already knowing how the cover system works makes for an advantage when facing off against the number of new Locust enemy types, like

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the exploding "tickers" and the lumbering Butchers and Grinders, to say nothing of the marauding Reavers that attack from the air and on the ground.  Brumaks also appear at regular intervals, and one plays an important at the climax of the story.  The strategy involved, especially when playing the campaign cooperatively or playing Horde mode, in handling a mix of enemies all at once is exciting and can be a lot of fun, provided you don't die immediately.

 

There is a lot more instant death in Gears 2 than I remember in the original.  This is especially a problem during the vehicle sequences.  If you don't react very quickly, you'll die.  Or if you're not in the right spot, you die.  You'll also drive into holes a lot. (It should be noted that the vehicle sections, though filled with instant death are much better than the hobbled driving sequence in the original.)  You'll also die a lot while on-foot and in particular during one water-based boss fight, where it's easy to be crushed, get caught on cover (and therefore die), and drown.  Or if you mess up your grenade toss at a critical moment, you die.  I'm no advocate of making boss fights a cakewalk -- a boss should be tough -- but that one in particular had me pretty close to seething. And Dom... don't get me started on Dom.  In the closing chapter or two when you need him most, his IQ suddenly drops to single digits making it a necessity that you match up with a human player to have any hope of finishing without snapping the controller in frustration.

 

gears of war 2          gears of war 2

 

Gears 2 takes Marcus and Dom (and Delta Squad) through a variety of different environments but you'll be tasked with pretty much the same thing.  You'll fight through a building, have to pull a lever, fight out of the building, board a moving platform of some kind, like a train or boat, defend that platform, possibly jumping to an adjoining platform in the process, then fighting a bit more on foot before making more progress in a vehicle or boarding another platform.  It's done in the right proportions where I didn't mind the repetition and it doesn't hurt that Gears 2 looks as good as it does.

 

Of the online modes, Horde mode has grabbed most of my attention.  As far as I'm concerned, co-op play and Horde mode are the only online modes that exist.  Horde mode pits a small squad of players against increasingly tougher waves of Locust enemies.  Sometimes it can be hit and miss on the cooperative nature of the mode depending on who has teamed up with you.  With people dedicated to working as a team and really learning the maps, Horde mode is plain awesome, especially the brief time between waves when the team runs around collecting ammo and talking strategy for the next wave.

 

Gears of War 2 is a very good action game and Epic Games has taken full advantage of the groundwork laid by the original, by mixing up the enemies, the locales and even making story an actual component of the game rather than an afterthought.  For an action fix, particularly Horde mode, Gears of War 2 is recommended.

 

- Aaron Simmer

(December 2, 2008)

 

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