Gamefly Backlog: Gears of War 2
Gears of War 2 is probably the biggest game that slipped past my radar last year. Even though I loved the first game, I initially passed on Gears 2 because I thought it would be too similar to the first, and I wanted to spend my limited cash on something new. However, I have to say after having played Gears of War 2, I feel like I made a huge mistake by not picking it up in the first place. As soon as the credits rolled after finishing the campaign, I went to Gamefly and clicked on the "keep it" button. I have learned my lesson, and I will never doubt this franchise again.
While Gears 2 is similar to the first game, it's a much more refined and better executed experience. The gameplay mechanics are much more fluid, and a few new maneuvers have been added. You can now use the locusts as meat shields and use portable shields dropped by boomers. There are also new weapons in the game such as flamethrowers, automatic pistols, and extremely effective mortars. Of course, the bread and butter weapon of the game is still the trusty lancer.
The biggest improvements to the game are in the campaign. While the story in Gears 1 was its biggest detriment, the story this time around is Gears 2's biggest improvement. The game still has its over-the-top, cheesy moments and dialogue, but the story is much better written than its predecessor, and it adds more depth to the world of Sera and its characters. The plot also fills in some of the gaps left the previous game, while leaving the plot open enough to make a meaningful sequel.
Gears 1 was a thrilling experience, but there was nothing story wise that got me invested in the plot, which was one of the reasons why I initially passed on the sequel. Gears 2, however, leaves you wanting to know more about the world, the conflict, and the characters.
Enhanced plot aside, the campaign in Gears of War 2 is much more expansive and well-paced. You get an epic (no pun intended) sense of scale from this game that you didn't get from Gears 1. From the sheer amount of enemies you are fighting to the variety of environments you play through to the amount of peripheral action taking place around you, you get the sense that this is a planet-wide conflict that you're taking part in.
The pacing as well should be commended. I played the entire campaign in one sitting and never hit a spot where I wanted to quit. Gears 2 keeps the standard shooting gameplay exciting enough throughout the game so that it never becomes a slog to get through. The game also does a good job of breaking up the standard shooting gameplay with enjoyable vehicle and on-rail shooting sections. The moment to moment experience in the game is one of the most intense experiences I've had with a game in quite a while, but even more so when I reached a big setpiece.
The audio and visual aspects of Gears of War 2 are fantastic. The score does a wonderful job of accenting the vibe of each situation, and battle chatter from both human and locust forces breath life into the battlefield. The graphics have been enhanced to show more detail in the characters as well as the various environments you explore. The graphics are really shown off in the game by the more eclectic selection of environments. The game diverts from the brown and grey color pallets and really demonstrates what the Unreal Engine is capable of. But also, as with most games that run on the Unreal Engine, you will experience some texture pop-in from time to time.
While the campaign is great, you will probably get the most milage out of the multiplayer. There is an abundance of options in this area. You can play the single-player cooperatively online and off, and you get a variety of online multiplayer modes. Aside from Warzone, the standard deathmatch mode, the online multiplayer options include Wingman, a mode that pits five teams of two against each other, and a unique take on capture the flag called Submission, in which the flag is actually an NPC from the campaign mode who is equipped with a shotgun. Another cool multiplayer edition, for people who would rather play coop, is the Horde mode. In this mode, up to five players must endure fifty waves of locusts that get increasingly tougher every ten waves. It's great for people who aren't into competitive multiplayer, but still wish to play with other people.
Gears of War 2 is flat-out the best cover shooter on the market. This game improves on its predecessor in just about every conceivable way. From the refined gameplay, gorgeous graphics, exponentially better campaign, and solid as ever multiplayer, Gears of War 2 is everything you could hope for in a sequel.
This is a must buy for fans of the original, as well as for any fans of the shooting genre.