Woo baby, yeah!
The original Gears of War was one of the Xbox 360's first "must own" titles, but the good folks over at Epic Games weren't content to rest on their laurels. They set out to make a direct sequel that would best its predecessor- and in short, they succeeded. Gears of War 2 is bigger and better than ever before. It takes every piece one step further, and the result is a "larger than life" action game that's a blast from start to finish.
The campaign in Gears of War 2 immediately gives off more of a sense of urgency than the original did, and that translates nicely into proper context for the situations you find yourself in. There seems to be more of a purpose to the going ons in Gears of War 2, as everything is on a grander scale. You will constantly be plowing headfirst into seemingly overwhelming situations that have a big story impact, and also tend to be very epic in nature. This is a great change of pace for a sequel such as this, and makes it feel as if Gears of War 2 has upped the ante- even if most of the fundamentals remain unchanged. The controls are still perfect, meaning Gears of War 2 remains the benchmark shooter for cover mechanics. The pacing is still magnificent, the original score is still great, the graphics still push the system to its limits, Delta Squad is still awesome, and the Lancer is still the coolest weapon ever. Playing the co-op campaign is still the way to play, as not many games provide a campaign for two that's anywhere near this good.
That's not to say that Gears of War 2 is a carbon copy of its predecessor. Aside from the aforementioned story tweaks, the campaign has noticeably less annoying sequences than the original did. Mainly, vehicles sequences are much less frustrating this time around. Other changes are mostly simple additions- more weapons, more enemies, more variety, more modes of play, and so on. In a way, Gears of War 2 is a game about "more" as much as anything. And while all of the additions are solid, the one that really stands out is the new Horde mode. Being able to grab up to four friends and fight through wave after wave of increasingly challenging Locust minions is an absolute blast. It's also a great way to ensure that even those who don't particularly care for the online competitive modes (which are also top notch) get something out of the game past the campaign. In this way, Gears of War 2 has something for everyone. There are enough quality modes to choose from, and they run the gamut of playing styles to the point where everyone should be able to pick one that's right for them.
Gears of War 2 is a game that rarely (if ever) disappoints. There are the tiniest nits to pick if I felt like it, but in the end, they simply don't make enough of a difference to be worth a mention. It hits all the highlights in all the right ways, and provides something for everyone at the same time. I enjoyed every minute of my time spent with Gears of War 2, and feel confident in saying that you will too.
For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.