MadWorld Review

Note: Some of the audio may be a little low/rough. Meh. As always, comments, criticisms and/or suggestions are appreciated.


Text Version of Review:

Developer: PlatinumGames
1-2 Players.
ESRB Rating: M for Mature, recommended for ages 17 or older.

Shigenori Nishikawa, who previously worked at Capcom as a planner for multiple games, makes his first debut as a director with MadWorld. With comic book inspired graphics, over-the-top violence and adult comical satire throughout, MadWorld aims to be a unique experience not found anywhere else. If one can look past some of it's problems, there's an enjoyable game to be found.

On Jefferson Island, a terrorist group known as the "organizers" have taken over, trapping the residents and cutting off all means of communication to anyone outside the island. With no chance of escape, citizens are forced to compete in the violent and deadly sport called DeathWatch or risk dying without a chance. While these people fight to the death, the audience places bets on who will win. Each kill earns a number of points for the participants. The winner of the games will obtain fame, fortune, and the right to continue living. On the third night of the games, a new challenger appears to compete, and his name is Jack.

Players take on the role of Jack Cayman, a highly skilled ex-marine whose main weapon is a chainsaw attached to his right arm. Jack starts off in Varrigan City and progresses elsewhere once he's defeated each boss in every area. Players will always have two lives at the beginning of each area and if they die they can choose to continue right from the spot they were killed at. If players run out of lives, they will have to restart from the beginning of the area. In order to face each area's boss, players will have to earn enough points to open up the boss challenge. Meanwhile, they will unlock new weapons and also open Bloodbath challenges. Bloodbath challenges are short, timed trials where players will defeat as many enemies as they can using new environmental objects presented to them.

The game really uses the motion control functions of the Wii, but not so much that it becomes bothersome. Basic attacks don't require much emphasis with the controller, and it makes sense to require more force when quick time events occur. Overall, the controls feel nicely balanced out.

There are a few issues with the game. For starters, the game relies heavily on canned animations, most executions for enemies will be performed exactly the same way for other types of enemies. The announcers, who provide comical commentary throughout the game, can get really repetitive and this is especially apparent during Bloodbath challenges. The default audio settings are also not the best, it's hard to hear the announcers with the music and sound effects being just as loud. The game itself can also become a little mundane, but this is usually broken up with new segments like areas that require a bike [motorcycle] to traverse forward. It would have been nice to have some more variety for executions, such as having more weapons available or more stylistic finishers.

MadWorld has a comic book inspired art style, using black and white tones throughout the game. Some sound effects appear on screen as text and comic book panels are used in cut scenes. There's enough contrast between the colors to make it easy on the eyes. The soundtrack for MadWorld is completely original, consisting of hip-hop beats and lyrical forms. The music really fits the atmosphere and presentation of the game.

MadWorld is relatively short, but it flows well and it's pretty entertaining in it's entirety. Although there are some issues that almost make the game unenjoyable, there's enough substance to keep it from falling too short in it's offerings. As the first game to be directed by Nishikawa-san, this is certainly not a bad start. For Wii owners who are interested in mature-themed games, MadWorld is definitely worth checking out.

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Prince of Persia: Epilogue Review

See Prince of Persia Review. Warning: Spoilers for the ending of Prince of Persia are within this review.


Text Version of Review:

Prince of Persia: Epilogue
Platform: PlayStation 3
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
1 Player.
ESRB Rating: T for Teen.

There was no doubt in anyone's mind that there would be a continuation of the storyline from where Prince of Persia left off, but only when Prince of Persia: Epilogue was announced did everyone realize it was not coming in the form of a sequel, instead it would be released as downloadable content (DLC). With the asking price of ten dollars and the short amount of time it takes to get through it nothing more than calling it a "rip off" can be used to describe it.

The Epilogue continues where Prince of Persia left off, with The Prince carrying Elika away from the temple that Ahriman has escaped from. Shortly after, the two work together to escape from the corrupted land while Ahriman sends servants to try to stop them. Once again players go through each area by jumping, running across walls and passing obstacles that block the way forward. New abilities include being able to sprint and clash with enemies during battles, a new power plate for crossing through areas, and a set of alternate skins for The Prince and Elika that players can select.

When there is combat, it is with identical enemies that were in the game before. It quickly feels like battles are becoming a chore to get through when they appear so often. This really wasn't that prevalent of a problem with the game before because it was nicely spaced out in the duration of the game, but with the Epilogue being so brief, it's far more noticeable.

Although Ubisoft Montreal promised that this content would enhance the experience for fans, it really boils down to nothing but more of the same with a few small additions that barely change anything. For such a short span of content it becomes far too repetitious. Although the difficulty of obstacles is a bit more complex and tougher to get through, it isn't enough to justify the cost.

The ending is abrupt, like a sharp artificial halt that was created on a whim rather then thought out well enough. It's incredibly disappointing where it leaves off, because the prior ending was a great way to end the game.

It's hard not to feel ripped off when PoP: Epilogue is incredibly short and feels more repetitive in the short time frame than the entirety of the full game beforehand. With the content being released only three months after the game's launch, it's pretty obvious that it could have been included with it. The continuation of the story should have been created with a sequel instead of the additional slap piece of content they are charging money for. Unfortunately this kind of DLC appears to be on the rise for future videogames and one can only hope it doesn't get too far out of hand.

This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version. The DLC is also available for the Xbox 360.
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Killzone 2 Review

Comments, suggestions, critiques and criticisms are always appreciated. I changed my review format a little bit, can you tell? I also got a new headset, so I'm not sure if mic volume is better or worse.


Text Version of Review

Killzone 2
PlayStation 3
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
1 Player, supports up to 32 people in online multi-player.
ESRB Rating: M for Mature, recommended for ages 17 or older.

When the first Killzone debuted in November 2004 on the PlayStation 2 it was met with high expectations but ultimately fell off most people's radar when it turned out to be an average game. Despite it's good qualities, it did nothing special to stand out from the crowd of other First-Person Shooters on the market. With the announcement of a sequel in the works much doubt was placed on the same developers to provide a quality game. However, most players will find that their expectations have been exceeded as Killzone 2 has an engaging single-player campaign and a substantial online multiplayer component.

Killzone 2 takes place two years after the events of the first Killzone, with the ISA (Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) continuing the war that the Helghast started. This time they're taking the battle to the enemy's homeland, planet Helghan, with the goal of capturing the Helghast leader: Emperor Scolar Visari. Players take on the role of Sev, a veteran of the ISA Special Forces unit and a dedicated soldier who follows orders without question. As a part of Alpha squad, Sev travels with three other team members throughout the game.

It doesn't take long before players are thrust into the first battle, using this time to provide a quick tutorial to get players accustomed to the controls. From there, players will move from one objective to the next until the very end. The default control scheme isn't the same standard used by other first person shooters, so it may take players a little while to get used to. The game takes a realistic approach when it comes to handling weapons. Similarly, friendly fire is also integrated into the campaign, which can lead to some unintentional damage being targeted towards allies. Players can heal squad members if they are down, but never have to worry about them completely being killed, as they will automatically revive after a short period of time. The same does not hold true for players though, once down, they will restart from the last save point they passed.

Quite a selection of different weapons are available to pick up throughout the game, each having their own unique sound and variation in firing power. In close-quarter situations, melee attacks come in handy. Taking cover is also an important aspect, providing protection against oncoming gunfire. There isn't very much variety in the types of enemies but that doesn't mean they can't be difficult, especially in large groups, which is how players will normally stumble across them. The music and sound effects really add to the atmospheric pull that the game produces, though the voice acting and dialogue is generally nothing special.

The major weakness of Killzone 2 is it's storyline. Players aren't given much information about the enemies they're fighting or the squad members they're fighting with. The game prefers to place players in situations with minimal details and seems to rely on constant enemy barrages to distract players of the minimal plot lingering in the background. Luckily the game provides plenty of action to keep players occupied, with very few slow points in between.

In multiplayer, each match contains up to five different modes to play. Each of these are smoothly transitioned from one to the next without forcing players to back out into a lobby. Although players don't usually need to partake in completing each mission, they can still continue to just take out enemies on the opposing side. By continuing to play matches, players gain experience and earn ribbons that unlock certain abilities, weapons and different classes for future use.

For the most part, Killzone 2 maintains a smooth 30 frames per second even in intense online matches. The only real problem that can be found with the graphics is the character animations being awkward at times, most notable between non-playable characters during dialogue sequences that are not in cut scenes. This is only a small annoyance though, transitions between cut scenes and gameplay are usually seamless. It's also rare to find a glitch in the singleplayer campaign, proving just how polished the game really is.

Killzone 2 is not without it's flaws. However, the single-player campaign is a satisfying experience and the multiplayer has a lot to offer. Although the storyline leaves a lot be desired and the campaign is relatively short, it's presentation is done extremely well. With three difficulty levels to choose from and another one unlockable if players feel the need to be challenged further, there's a lot of replay value to be found here. For fans of shooters, this is definitely a worthy title to have in their collection.
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New Profile Mock-Up

I posted this in the "Official Redesign thread," but I figured I'd make a blog post about it.

Profile Mock-Up

First off, I know the staff have been working very hard on this design and I'm sure they will be tweaking things that will make it better within the next few weeks. I just wanted to get a feel of what some things would look like if they were tweaked.

Current Profile
Mock-Up Profile.

Full Size View:

Note: I cropped both images to only show one blog post, since you can probably get the general idea.

Changes made in the mock-up:
  • Removed heading - This will make it so you can see your banner better, I don't really see the need for the heading if all it will say is that you can customize your profile, a reminder to make bug reports could be done on the home page. Customize your profile button is moved to the top. Avatar placement has been changed to be next to the status.
  • Colors - The balance of grays were really just about perfect beforehand, now it seems they are way too dark and actually strain the eyes of the some viewers, I used lighter grays for just about every box area, using the same gray hex code as the previous profile pages, the links have also been changed to yellow. I tried different colors, but yellow seems to be the less straining on the eyes for links. White text was used to replace some of the darker gray text that is hard to read (such as the blog feed, activity, etc links).
  • Friends Blogs - Right side of profile. One of the best ways to find blogs from others was being able to go to someone's profile and seeing one of their friends blogs listed. Having the "friends blog" list only appear on the Homepage really limits how many people will see those blog posts. I think this should be added to the profile, especially since they is plenty of blank space there to fill. EDIT: This has been added now! w00t!
  • Capitalization - In the wiki edits, the first letters are not capitalized, such as "franchise, game concept." I think it would look better if these were capital letters at the beginning.

I also did a tiny mock up of a forum post, with lighter colors, and more readable text:
Mock up (Top). Current (Bottom).

Full view:

I'd love to hear others thoughts about this. I know the mock up isn't perfect, I think there's a little too much yellow with all the links, but that's the best color that seemed to work in my opinion.

I really hope the colors are lightened up, or we can customize them, they are really straining my eyes, and I've heard several others complain about this as well.

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Devil May Cry: TAS Review

Devil May Cry: The Animated Series Review

Warning: The ending is very stupid. Please don't sue me if your brain cells are damaged.


Text Version of Review:

Devil May Cry: The Animated Series Review

Based on the videogame franchise of the same name, Devil May Cry is a 12 episodic series that follows the staple protagonist Dante, a devil hunter who takes odd jobs in order to both rid the world of demons and try to pay off his debts. Starting off, Dante is tasked with looking after a "young lady" named Patty, an orphan who likes having everything her way. Eventually Patty starts to frequent Dante's shop, as well as hanging around him when he's not out on a job. From there, Dante completes menial jobs throughout the show. Strong language and graphic violence warrant the Mature Audience rating, although the language is fairly mild with only a strong profanity said every now and then. When there are battle sequences, it tends to be quite bloody.

The first few episodes offer a promising outlook on how the entire show will flow, with action scenes filling the screen, but unfortunately it all goes downhill from there. Most episodes focus on relationships of original characters that viewers will most likely not care for. For such a short series, this is not justifiable, and really just feels like filler for a small plot to be drawn out until the end. Thus, there is no major storyline, but self-contained plots in almost every episode.

The selection of music is well fitted to the atmosphere of the show, from rock selections to orchestral pieces, the soundtrack is appropriately used. The animation is great overall, having a serious art style that's both rich in color and dark in tone. However, the character designs seem a little generic, though this is mostly an issue with the demons, as there's nothing that makes them really stand out or seem unique from one another.

The English voice acting is quite good, with Reuben Langdon returning to voice Dante. Patty's voice actor accurately portraying a spoiled child can become slightly grating. Otherwise, the other characters are voiced well enough, though some fans may be disappointed that Lady's voice actor is not the same person who voices her in the games.

For a videogame series that relies heavily on action, more emphasis should have been put on the action sequences and less on character depth for one-episodic characters. For the times there are battle scenes, it feels too rushed and finished with before it even begins. Even the episodes where Dante has to fight supposedly powerful demons feel no longer than the fights with weaker ones, which is especially disappointing when the story has built these characters up to be very powerful.

The show definitely has some perks, with the characterizations of staple characters from the franchise being upheld, and some humorous situations that will give viewers a few laughs, but sadly the downsides outweigh the good. Although the anime is canon, taking place between the first and fourth game, there really isn't much a Devil May Cry fan would miss out on if they skipped watching the entire show. It's unfortunate that so much potential was wasted, this could have been a great spin-off but it just ends up being average.
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Hardcore Versus Casual Gamers

The following is a response to April Carlson's blog post, "The Hardcore vs Casual Gamers Debate"

Hardcore Versus Casual Gamers: Defining the undefined.

What is a "casual" or "hardcore" gamer? Many people have their own definitions. Some define a "hardcore" player to be someone who has a certain level of skill and can stand on their own in a multiplayer game. Others see it as playing many games in a short time period, or what type of game consoles the person owns. I've always considered a hardcore gamer to be someone who's really passionate about games, no matter their skill level. I've thought the people who fall under the casual label only played games occasionally, or never really thought of games outside of actually playing them. In other words, if one were to ask what a person's hobbies were, casual gamers would not write games as a hobby, because they don't really have a strong passion for them.

So, what is the true definition of these two terms? Everyone's answer is different, but it seems that these terms are being thrown around more frequently these days. Why exactly has the videogame industry fallen into this practice of separating their demographics with these labels and are they really necessary? I don't think so. I think most publishers use the terms in order to justify why their game has been created a certain way. I think this is a bit foolish on their part, as they are denying a bigger audience by saying their game was not created for certain people. In fact, I would call this approach a marketing disaster.

Sadly, I don't see this trend of separating demographics and labeling going away anytime soon. Not when associations like the Casual Games Association exist. Below is an excerpt from their Frequently Asked Questions page:
"What’s the difference between casual games and enthusiast (core) games?

Think of Atari and games such as Pacman, Space Invaders, Frogger and Donkey Kong. Casual games have maintained the fun, simplicity, boundless creativity that characterizes arcade-style games. On the other hand, enthusiast games also termed core games, such as Grand Theft Auto, Doom and Mortal Kombat, have been developed using high-end technology that appeals more to younger audiences. Using movies as an analogy, casual games would be Friends or ER and enthusiast games would be Reservoir Dogs or Silence of the Lambs."
Funny that the writer compares movies in relation to these terms for videogames. Imagine if other industries used these terms, such as the music industry. 'Country is causal, Jazz is hardcore.' What sense does this make? It doesn't, and it should not make sense to use these terms when marketing games. 

In an interview with Vishal Lamba of Chakra Interactive, a company based in India who are primarily focused on developing mobile games, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) asked the following questions about their demographic:
"When developing games for mobile phones, how do you see the target audience?
You must keep in mind that your target audience is NOT hardcore gamers (like PC gamers, GameBoy and other consoles). They are the guys and girls who have 5 minutes to 10 minutes to spare. Also, the guys and girls who travel by train for 30 minutes and more but have nothing to do - and have a mobile phone in hand."

"Why do you think a hardcore gamer might play games on a phone and do you see any way that they might be enticed into the mobile game world?
Most likely it's because they cannot afford the Gameboy and its expensive games. This has not yet been exploited by many companies. You have to think of building multiplayer games that last for 5 to 10 minutes.. and are easy to play."

Some people would love to play games more but simply don't have the time. I don't think people are required to play a certain amount of hours each day or every week to be a passionate gamer. Many of us have other obligations to fulfill and cannot devote the desired time to games. Even more so, financial reasons are a big part of why many cannot acquire certain games.

Outside of marketing, the audience themselves now use the distinctions in order to not associate themselves with fellow gamers, for example, enthusiastic gamers would not want to be grouped with the same people who frequently buy "shovelware." Some take offense to being grouped with people who are not on the same skill level as them. In the end, it only creates pointless arguments.

These terms should be done away with, because there is no one definition for what "hardcore" or "casual" is, it's all subjective. I believe that developers and publishers are unintentionally limiting their audience by branding their game with these labels. What happened to making a game fun that everyone can enjoy? Or understanding that not everyone will enjoy the same thing? Let the games speak for themselves and let people enjoy them without giving them labels.
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2008 Wrap-Up

~ 2008 Wrap-Up ~

Unlike most people, I can't choose a favorite game. I like all my favorite games equally, so if I had to decide a game of the year, I would go crazy. So I don't, nor do I ever plan on having to, choose a "best game of [console]" or "game of the year" because I just can't! Instead, I'll highlight a few thoughts about some games this year, as well as give some personal thoughts on things I'm thankful for.

Not even seeing Dante in high definition can save the fail of this game. (But he does look amazing...
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Prince of Persia Review

[Note: The audio sucks and I realized this too late... Blargh. I should use a robot voice in the future, it would work out way better. >:P Also I may have fudged some names, I had no idea how to pronounce the names of the two composers. Edit: If you are having trouble viewing the video, try going to the video's page.]


Text Version of Review:
Prince of Persia
Platform: PlayStation 3
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
1 Player.
ESRB Rating: T for Teen.

Long ago, there were two gods who balanced the universe: Ahriman, the god of darkness and Ormazd, the god of light. Eventually Ahriman became greedy and wanted everything for himself. Ormazd was able to imprison Ahriman and left the people, known as the Ahura, in charge of guarding the prison. Over time, the Ahura lost their powers and the prison weakened. Now Ahriman is on the verge of escaping again.

In order to trap Ahriman, players must travel to the locations that have fertile grounds. Players travel with their female companion, Elika, so she can heal the land. Most locations are traveled to by foot, consisting of a lot platforming. Jumping from one spot to the next, climbing walls and passing over obstacles are all key components in the game. Players can move as quickly as they are able to without worrying if Elika will fall behind. She is able to not only keep up the pace, she is also there if players need an extra boost in a jump or if players are on the verge of dying, she will save them. Almost every path can be traveled in the opposite direction, so there's little chance of getting stuck in a particular area. There are also a few puzzle sequences that must be solved to go further. A world map is used to determine which location players want to go next. They can choose to go to just about any location at any given time, although some areas won't be open until a number of light seeds have been collected. If lost, Elika can use her magic abilities to create a light that will show the direction players need to go.

The combat in Prince of Persia isn't very complex, consisting mostly of one-on-one battles. The Prince attacks with a sword and a gauntlet and Elika can use magic attacks. Blocking and deflecting enemy attacks is crucial as it can be a little tricky to figure out when enemies will stop their offense and are open to attack. Enemies will frequently call upon Ahriman to give them more strength during combat, which allows them to enter three different states, each one only vulnerable to a certain attack. Quick time events also occur, sometimes unexpectedly, which can result in a failed attempt without having a chance to deflect them. Each boss in the game offers a different strategy in order to defeat them. Regular enemies don't hold much of a threat, however, and can usually be defeated quite easily. Although dying is not an issue, if players have to be saved by Elika during combat, enemies will be able to recover their health.

A big portion of the game's dialogue is optional, giving more insight to the main characters and the world around them. The game does a really great job adding depth to the characters. However, there are many places where the dialogue and the voice acting are badly executed. There are only a few loading screens in the entire game, allowing for an almost seamless playthrough. The game also automatically saves frequently, but players can choose to manually save at any time.

The graphics are gorgeous, a unique cel-shaded art style give the environments a vibrant color. Many areas are appropriately dark, and lights and shadows are nicely rendered. There's also a wonderful amount of detail to everything, from character models to backgrounds. Sound effects are also excellent and appropriately placed. Music for the game was composed by Inon Zur and Stuart Chatwood. Zur has composed music for many other videogames, including Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones and Fallout 3. Stuart Chatwood has composed music for seven other Prince of Persia titles, adding a sense of familiarity to this game. The orchestra sounds set a really nice tone for the game.

Prince of Persia does not feature any difficulty settings, which is unfortunate, because there will certainly be some players who find this game to be too easy for them. Despite it's shortcomings, the game makes up for it with it's presentation. Prince of Persia is a well-executed game and a worthy purchase for fans of platformers. Although the game won't take very long to complete, most players will find themselves wanting to replay this game several times. This is another great addition to a well-established franchise.

This review is based on the Playstation 3 version of the game. Versions for the Xbox 360 and PC are also available. 
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Gears of War: Aspho Fields

Gears of War: Aspho Fields
Author: Karen Travis
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: October 28, 2008
MSRP: $13.00 (Amazon: $10.40)
ISBN: 9780345499433
Pages: 385

Gears of War: Aspho Fields, written by Karen Travis, tells the story of the tide-turning battle at Aspho Fields during the Pendulum Wars, the seventy nine year war that took place on the planet Sera before E-Day. Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago and Dom's elder brother Carlos all fought together at Aspho Fields. Sixteen years later, humanity now fights a new war that threatens to end their very existence against the Locust Horde. With the arrival of a former comrade, the memories of that unforgettable battle are resurfaced for both Marcus and Dom, and a haunting secret that Marcus had sworn to keep is in danger of being unraveled.

Despite being called a prequel, the novel also ties events between the first and second game. The book shifts back and forth from past events to the present, providing a unique way of giving more insight and depth to the characters. In this way, character development is handled extremely well. Readers who are familiar with the main protagonists (based off the games) will not be disappointed in their characterizations because their personalities are kept completely in tact. 

The writing is fluid and concise, there's just enough information presented without being too little or too much, and the right balance is maintained throughout the book. Everything is worth paying attention to, even the tiniest little tidbits of information, nothing is worth skipping over. There is always a situation taking place that engages readers, even non-suspenseful sequences.

Different points of view are taken throughout the book, switching from a first-person to a third-person perspective with various characters. By using a combination of these two perspectives, readers can better understand the current emotions the characters are going through and develop a more personal judgment of the plot.

The amount of build up to the culmination is just right and the events after it fulfills the story very well, all the way up to the conclusion. Although the book ends in a slightly abrupt manner, it sets up the events for Gears of War 2 appropriately.

Any fan of the Gears of War franchise should be interested in reading this, and once they pick it up, they'll have a hard time putting it down. Even though it is relatively short, readers will definitely want to read it over again several times. EPIC Games have already planned for two more novels, all officially tying into the Gears of War universe. If this novel is any indication of what to expect, then the next novels will be a worthwhile wait.
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Gears of War 2 Review

A big thanks to everyone who let me participate in the Bombing Run, which allowed me to get footage for my video!


Text Version of Review:
Gears of War 2
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
1-2 Players in campaign, number varies in multi-player modes.
ESRB Rating: M for Mature, recommended for ages 17 or older.

It's been six months since the events that took place in Gears of War, with the lightmass bomb destroying many locust forces. However, the many locusts who survived have come back stronger than ever, and have begun sinking entire cities. Jacinto, the only safe haven left on planet Sera, is now endanger of being destroyed.

In this third person shooter sequel, the core gameplay has been retained with improvements and the inclusion of additional features. Along with Casual, Hardcore and Insane difficulty, a new difficulty entitled "Normal" is also included, which seems to be for players who want something more difficult than Casual but not as intense as Hardcore. Players once again take on the role of Marcus Fenix, or Dominic Santiago in co-op. The artificial intelligence has been enhanced and offers a much more challenging experience for players. Team mates are much more helpful than they were in the first game and the locust horde seems to be as tough as ever. Players can still hold on to four different weapons at any given time. Life is the same, with the crimson omen filling as players take more damage. The active reload system is still in place, where a perfect reload timing will give players a boost in the damage they can inflict.

New abilities include using downed enemies as meat shields, performing executions and crawling. Using a meat shield will protect players from oncoming fire. Performing executions allows characters to kill a downed enemy with their fists or bash their heads in by making one of their weapons serve as a baseball bat. Both teammates and enemies can now crawl to seek someone to revive them, which helps players avoid enemy fire when trying to revive a teammate.

There are a number of new weapons, such as the flamethrower and the mortar. Additionally, the returning weapons have been upgraded to deliver more impact. If two characters are revving their chainsaws at the same time and come into contact, a chainsaw duel will take place and requires players to tap the B button rapidly in order to win. Gears 2 features new types of enemies and much larger scale battles. There are only a few breaks in between intense combat, however the game will frequently save automatically after almost every battle, so dying at an area doesn't feel too frustrating.

The vehicle that players will have to navigate at some point in the game has the ability to shoot and drive at the same time, unlike the Junker in the first game. The controls for the vehicle are pretty easy to adjust to, the left analog stick moves the vehicle and right analog stick is used to change directions. Players can also use short boosts to move quickly. The health of the vehicle is similar to the characters, if the vehicle takes damage and players can avoid any further damage, team member Baird will be able to repair it.

The story line is much more in depth compared to the first game. There's more background information presented this time, diary entries found with COG tags and other interesting collectibles throughout the game give more insight to past and current events within the Gears universe which really helps flesh out the story. Players may be surprised when they see the dramatic twists that take place.

The same voice actors reprise their roles for their characters in the sequel, and keep with the spirit of saying witty dialogue. The sound effects, even for the returning weapons, have been enhanced and sound more momentous. Many fans did not find the music in the first game to be very memorable, but a new composer, Steve Jablonsky, (who is known for his work in The Transformer movie), gives the sequel a different arrangement of orchestra sounds, and a much better tone for the dramatic sequences that take place.

Even though Gears of War was one of the best looking games when it released, it wasn't very colorful. Gears 2 takes a more colorful palette, with more details in the environment, using much warmer colors as opposed to the gray hues in the first game. Character models are also more detailed. Still keeping the same gore factor in place, blood will still spatter across the screen when taking damage, body parts will fly if hit by a frag grenade or turret, and heads will spew blood when shot off.

Co-op returns in Gears 2, allowing two players to tackle the main campaign together over Xbox Live or, if on the same console, in split screen. Multiplayer modes that return in Gears 2 are Warzone, Execution, Annex, and Guardian (formerly known as Assassination). In Warzone, a COG team is up against a Locust team. The goal is to simply eliminate all members of the other team. If killed, players have to wait until the next round before they can play again. Execution is almost identical to Warzone, except players will automatically revive if killed. Annex has players win by controlling a fixed capture location long enough to collect points, the first team to reach the target score wins the round. Guardian has one player from each team selected to act as a leader, whose goal is to stay alive for as long as possible. If the leader dies, the team loses the ability to respawn.

Some additions to multi-player include Horde, Wingman, Submission and King of the Hill. Horde Mode is cooperative, where up to five players can band together to take on fifty waves of locusts. The difficulty will steadily increase which can make it a challenging run through even on the easiest settings. In Wingman, up to five two-player teams can compete against each other until one team reaches a set amount of points. Submission is "capture the flag" with a twist. The "flag" happens to be a Stranded character who is armed and dangerous. Teams have to capture the "flag" and hold him there for a set amount of time to win the round. King of the Hill has players control a fixed location and retain control long enough to collect a number of points, with only one location per round.

Anyone who was a fan of the first game shouldn't be disappointed by the sequel. While keeping the core gameplay the same, the sequel adds many enhancements and features that refine it that make it even better. A more in depth story line helps to answer questions posed by the first game and also gives insight to the main protagonists. New multiplayer modes add tons of replay value. Not to mention better graphics and some battles being grand in scale, this sequel definitely delivers. 
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