Last time we spoke, I told you a bit about the campaign in Gears of War 2. Now, the free world (or, at least, the game critics and other writers who were invited to a review event for the game a couple of weeks back) is allowed to talk about the multiplayer side of the game. So here we go:
Gears of War 2 has multiplayer in it.
Boom. Shocking, I know. But Epic's upcoming sequel has the ability for players to play against each other in a variety of modes, new and old. The game now supports up to 10 players per match, as opposed to the previous game's limit of eight. You can easily organize groups with your friends using the new "what's up" menu, which is only a bumper press away when you're at a menu screen. Personally, I think they should have labelled it "What's Happening!!" or maybe even "What's Happening Now!!" But with the Shirley Hemphill license being so tough to get these days, I suppose "what's up" works, too.
Once you've determined the upness of your friends and pulled them together into a party, you can jump into a variety of new and old modes. Stuff like Warzone, Execution, and Annex return from the original game, and King of the Hill is here, too. Assassination mode has become a new-but-similar mode called Guardian. As long as your team's leader is alive in Guardian games, your team can respawn at will. But once the leader's down, the team has to eradicate the opposition with no respawns. Additionally, the direction of the enemy leader shows up on your screen. Balancing between defending the leader and charging to take down the opposing one seems interesting--though every time I played, everyone just took off in the direction of the leader.
The "meatflag" mode you've heard about in the past is called Submission. It's essentially a one-flag CTF game, except the flag is a dude. You'll have to subdue the guy--a Stranded, in case you were wondering--before you can pick him up using the game's new human shield mechanic and slowly drag him over to a capture point. If he's dropped, he'll need to be beaten up a bit before he can be retaken. Once you've got the Stranded at the capture point, you'll have to hold him there for a bit to win the round.
Wingman is another good, new mode. Here, the players are broken up into two-man groups based on character models. So the Marcuses are a team, the Dizzys are a team, and so on. The rules aren't much different than a standard team deathmatch, but working with one other person makes sticking together much more important. Aside from Horde, Wingman probably ended up being my favorite mode.
Aside from the raised player count and the new modes, you'll probably feel right at home in Gears 2's adversarial multiplayer. Or, at least, you will once you get used to the maps. Some of the levels feel bigger, which works well with the two additional players that can be running around. These larger levels are also very cool in the game's all-new Horde mode.
If you've been following the game's development, you probably already know that Horde is a five-player co-op mode that takes place on the game's multiplayer maps. The setup pits your team against 50 waves of Locust attacks, each one tougher than the last. Though the difficulty ramps up with more than just simple numbers. Every 10 waves, the number and variety of enemies you're facing resets, but the enemies themselves become more resilient, more accurate, and more deadly. Even when playing on the game's lowest difficulty setting, the last set of waves can be really tough. Also, you aren't given much time to scavenge for more ammo between waves, yet you'll need to get out and do exactly that before probably scurrying back to whatever corner of the map you and your crew have decided to fortify.
The Horde mode can be played on any of the game's multiplayer maps. You'll get 15 such maps when you buy the game, though they're broken up in a somewhat troubling way.
Ten new maps will be included on the disc. Their names are...
- Blood Drive
- Day One
Some of the levels take cues from the areas you'll see in the campaign mode. Others, like Avalanche, have unique looks that don't immediately map to sections of the story. Oh, right, hey, the troubling part. The other five maps aren't on the disc, but instead come to you via a download code that's included with the manual when you buy the game. These maps make up the Flashback Map Pack and give you updated takes on five maps from the previous game. They are...
- Tyro Station
Though Microsoft certainly isn't spinning things this way, the downloadable nature of these maps seems like an attempt to make buying the game new more attractive than picking up a used copy or renting it. Instead, they're being billed as a "special gift to fans." To me, that comes off about as well as saying "SPECIAL XTREME FAN BONUS: THE GAME FUNCTIONS AS INTENDED AND DOESN'T CRASH (USUALLY)!" 15 total maps sounds like the right number to have, and painting some of them as being "for the fans" is pretty silly.
Also "for the fans?"" The ability to pay extra for a limited edition version of the game to get access to a gold version of the game's most-famous weapon, the Lancer. Once I was in a game, I was too busy shooting and/or cutting fools to notice the color of my weapon, so it's kind of a silly addition... but I will admit that before every single match, I quickly tapped the LB button to switch over to the gold version of the Lancer. Another gold weapon--the Hammerburst rifle--will be available to players who buy the game at a participating retailer's midnight launch event on November 7.
But let's try not to get bogged down by how the information Microsoft is giving out is worded. The main thing to know is that if you liked the multiplayer in Gears of War, you'll continue to like it in Gears of War 2. If the adversarial stuff isn't your bag, you're still in luck, because Horde mode ably uses those same maps to present an interesting co-operative addition to the game. And, of course, you can still play through the campaign mode co-operatively, as well. All things considered, it's an expertly crafted package that should live up to the grand expectations of the Gears-loving masses this November.