dudacles's Gears of War 2 (Limited Collector's Edition) (Xbox 360) review

Bigger, better and more badass does not do this game justice

Gears of War 2 is the follow-up to one of the most popular Xbox 360 games on the market. Indeed, the original Gears of War was a hit, with a multiplayer that was almost as popular as the likes of Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4. Epic has now delivered the second installment in what will undoubtedly become a longlasting franchise, -- even already with movie plans and whatnot -- and for the most part, it delivers.

Gears of War 2 can be broken up into three modes. Campaign and competitive multiplayer obviously return, and they are joined by Horde, Gears' take on a survival mode with waves.

So let's start with the campaign. It's obvious that Epic is learning how to skillfully craft singleplayer storymodes, and it shows here. The campaign in Gears 2 is vastly superior to the original Gears'. The original's main complaints, story and vehicle sequences have improved, and most importantly, the pace of the whole adventure is better than the previous game's.

Epic has done it's very best to create a more enthralling narrative than the one found in Gears 1, and for the most part, they've succeeded. The story of Gears 2 starts off 6 months after the Lightmass Bombing at the end of Gears 1. The humans had hoped that they would have struck a serious blow to the Locust forces, but the Locust came back, and harder than ever. They have now gained the ability to make emergence holes large enough to sink entire cities at once, which is annoying to say the least. But Gears 2 also has a more personal plotline, not in

Dom is determined to find his wife
Marcus but in his best friend, Dominic Santiago. Dom is looking for his wife, Maria. While this part of the story is slightly overdone at times, it does add some much needed human touch to these though-as-nails, steroid soldiers. There are times when it's overdone though, and you will wish that they would just shut up about Maria and get on with fighting.

The story very much sets up Gears 3. This way, it makes Gears 2 feel like a small episode in an epic story arc. While the game ends with a good amount of closure, a ton of questions pop up about the world and what exactly has been going on since the Pendulum Wars. Who knows, maybe one of the next games will go Metal Gear Solid 4 on us and answer every single question that has ever come up. On a whole, the story in Gears 2 is definitely compotent to pull you into the experience.

The actual gameplay has been stepped up a level as well. Vehicle sequences have definitely improved, though not enough to make them great. These sequences are still somewhat clunky, and while they'll give you a thrill the first time through, you'll soon start wishing for the end of the ride. The stop 'n pop gameplay has been cleaned up, moving in and out of cover feels smoother now, and you aren't quite as sticky while roadierunning, which was another complaint from the first game. Overall, playing Gears 2 just feels cleaner and better.

The environments are really diverse this time around, with everything from green woods to almost Oblivion-like dungeons. The game offers a wide range of colours throughout these surroundings as well. While my SDTV isn't quite up to the task, even I can tell that the graphics have improved in this new Gears of War. Everything just looks colourful and detailed.

One thing that the campaign does quite differently from the first Gears, is heavy scripting. Really, the campaign is one explosive and thrilling scripted event after another, making the whole game feel almost like a blockbuster action movie than anything else. The campaign is a rollercoaster ride all the way through.

Another big aspect of Gears of War 2 is its online multiplayer. The game features 6 modes, four of which are returning from Gears 1. The modes are;
  • Warzone is a deathmatch of sorts where everybody gets one life per round. The winner is the team that can take out the entirety of the other team.
  • Execution is essentially Warzone, but in order to take out an enemy, you need to execute him. That means have a oneshot kill, like a headshot, or using one of many execution moves while he's crawling around downed.
  • Guardian is a mode where both teams have a leader. Keeping your leader alive means respawning, as soon as the leader dies, your team can get taken out much like in Warzone.
  • Annex is essentially King of the Hill, Gears style.
  • Wingman; in this mode, 5 teams made up of two players each face off against each other.
  • Submission is an interesting mode. It's Capture the Flag, but only this time, the flag is a bot that can shoot you. Expect to be taken out many times by his shotgun.

So there is quite a bit of variety in Gears two. The only true flaw it has is the fact that Gears has taken over Halo 3's matchmaking system. Not only does this suck, because now you can't choose exactly what you want to play, but at this point, it's taking forever to get 10 players together. Either way, once that issue has been fixed, Gears 2 has a very fun multiplayer mode, especially with friends. No weapon achievements this time either, so you don't see people doing nothing but sticking others with grenades just to get those damn achievements.

And then there is Horde. Horde is a completely new game mode, and man is it awesome. Up to five players can join up and face wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemy setups.
Chainsaw duel!
Horde is undoubtedly my favorite mode, and it has real pop-in and play appeal. At any time, I can just start up a wave and attempt to take down all the enemies being thrown at me. It's here that all the awesome new enemies of Gears 2 truly shine as well, for there is something terrifying and awesome at the same time when you are being swamped by drones only to see a Mauler Boomer, one of many new types of Boomers in this game. When you play with multiple players, communication is key, for this mode gets really tough. Even on Casual, the super-easy  mode in Gears 2, later waves get truly ridiculous. Playing these waves with friends is truly awesome. Truly, Horde alone makes Gears 2 worth it.

Marcus Fenix, still a badass

Overall, Gears of War 2 is everything you'd want out of a sequel. It's got the some new gameplay elements, like chainsaw duels and taking meatshields to use as bullet sponges. It also simply has refined gameplay, a better story and awesome campaign setpieces. On the multiplayer side of things, while the Halo 3 matchmaking system was somewhat of a mistake according to people such as myself, the core, the actual gameplay is still ridiculously fun. And then there is Horde, which makes the game worth it all by itself.

Truly, Gears 2 is a must-play for every 360 owner and shooter fan. If you liked the first Gears at all, you'll love this Gears of War 2!
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