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

Bigger? Yep. Better? Yep. More Badass? Definately.

Gears of War 2 is one of the most hyped games in the history of gaming. The first game was one of the best third-person shooters around and the sequel promised to be even better. Well, Gears 2 lives up to the hype in pretty much every way - it's simply awesome.

Gears 2 picks up a few months after the first game finished with you once again taking control of Marcus Fenix as part of Delta Squad. The story is definately better than that of Gears 1, but it still seems to be trying a bit too hard to make you care and pull at your heart strings when really all you want to do is kick some Locust ass. Dom's search for his missing wife is meant to be the more emotional, human story element but it is predictable and to be honest I didn't give a crap about his wife. The characters aren't particularly likeable either and they all end up getting on your nerves after while. The ending is also unsatisfying and anti-climactic. But let's be honest, who on earth is playing this game for a good story?

Gears 2's campaign follows a similar design to its predecessor but there are far more big action set pieces than before. The cover system is still the best out there and the shooting action feels fantastic and really packs a punch. There are more big monsters, more boss fights and certainly more variety in the design of the levels than there was in the first game. Unfortunately, the vehicle section about half way through is just as bad as it was in Gears 1 and it proves to be a frustrating experience that completely slows the pace down. The campaign can still be played in co-op over Live or splitscreen, but for some reason it is still only 2 players rather than 4. With games like Halo 3, Resistance 2 and Left 4 Dead pusing that co-op number up, the fact that Gears is still limiting us to 2 players is disappointing and makes little sense.

The online multiplayer in Gears 2 is certainly an improvement as well as the tactical, action gameplay lends itself well and the map design is very good. The teams have been upped to 5 vs. 5 which provides a bit more fast pace into the matches as little of the maps are ever left unoccupied. However, I really despise the game's ranking system as it's very hard to tell what you are getting XP for and how much you need to level up. There is no way of seeing all your online stats unless you go online to the Gears 2 website which is annoying. The ranking system is certainly leagues behind Call of Duty and it is disappointing that a popular first party game is so far behind. The online is good overall but there are some serious lag and disconnection issues which are still quite prevalent 6 months after release.

Accompanying the campaign and multiplayer are some new features added for the sequel. Of course there are new weapons and gameplay functions but there are also a couple of new noteworthy features to talk about. The first is Horde which is a 5 player co-op game where your team has to take down wave after wave of Horde which grow in numbers and difficulty as it goes on. It is very fun, frantic and demands teamwork and it is probably the best new thing about Gears 2. Some other small additions to take note of are being able to take photos from multiplayer matches and one very handy feature of being able to see how close you are to completeing a certain Xbox achievement.

The presentation of Gears of War 2 is absolutely first class. The graphics are stunning on a technical and artistic level and an improved colour pallete over the first game is something to praise the Epic for. The character models are incredibly detailed and the monsters and environments are stunning. The musical score is suitably epic and wouldn't sound out of place in a big Hollywood blockbuster. The voice acting is decent but nothing to write home about although to be fair to the actors, the horiffic script and dialogue doesn't really help them.

Gears of War 2 is the Hollywood summer blockbuster of video games. It looks great and has incredible action whilst having a god awful story and poor acting. On a game level, it plays brilliantly and despite the lag issues with multiplaer all the features and modes will last you a long time which makes Gears 2 well worth the admission fee.

The Good
-Still plays fantastically well.
-Stunning set-pieces in the campaign.
-Horde mode.
-Flawless graphics and musical score.
-Addicting multiplayer when it works.

The Bad
-Awful story.
-Multiplayer is often a lag fest.
-Poor ranking system for online.
-Annoying voice acting.

Final Judgement: Gears of War 2 is everything a sequel should be as it improves on almost every aspect of the game to end up with a fantastic shooter with incredible visuals.

9/10

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