The meatheads are here! Get your chainsaw!
Gears of War 2 is a wild blockbuster style romp that delivers stunning visuals, decent sound and fabulous gameplay, but skimps on story and depth. In a way, Gears 2 is like a summer hollywood blockbuster - full of continuous battles, triumphs and losses, but it's not going to win any oscars. If you're willing to check your appetite for realistic shooters (with a passable plot) at the door, Gears is one-of-a-kind.
The gameplay in GOW2 is spectacular. The "cover system" unveiled in the original release is back, and wasn't updated too much. New weapons, chainsaws, vehicle levels and the ability to play co-op makes Gears a great experience. The controls are intuitive, and while aiming is still a little herky-jerky, any lover of shooters should be able to pick it up and play quickly.
Sound in this sequel delivers well. The voice acting is mediocre at times, but the soundtrack and accompanying music is excellent. The music weaves its way through the game extremely well to deliver an extremely cinematic experience during firefights.
Graphics and level design in GOW2 are amazing. I was blown away at how much the game got out of the XBOX 360...truly a stunning feat. The levels are varied and offer all sorts of different settings - which really shows off the developers handiwork. The game itself leads the player through all kinds of levels, which are fairly well laid out.
Though I haven't played much multiplayer, the recent patch seems to have made the game very smooth and enjoyable. Multi in Gears is a real treat, with plenty of game type variety and levels to choose from.
My only hesitations come with two primary issues in the game: Story and what I like to call "the meathead factor". The story was fair at best, which is a shame given that the game is so gorgeous and had the opportunity to engross gamers at a much deeper level. If I had to point to an example it would be GTA IV - being that not only was it gorgeous, but as a player I became attached and wrapped up in the protagonists journey. In GOW2, you play as a couple of meatheads who merely shoot everything in site - and that's the only real premise of "saving the world". The meathead factor comes in to play when a game is designed to "shoot stuff just to shoot stuff". In the end, though, a game like Gears isn't asking it's players to think that hard about it - much like a summer blockbuster. Soak it up - it's worth the cash...just don't bring your thinking cap.