Gears of War 2 Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

The way that the developer went on about the story of Gears of War 2 you would have thought it was the deepest thing ever, well the reality is very different, as whilst it’s an improvement over the original, it’s not exactly vast enough to announce it from the rooftops with great enthusiasm.

The game picks up six months after the closure of the original, and after a period of peace, following the lightmass bombing at the conclusion of the original game, the Locust begin to re-emerge, sinking entire cities just to prove a point. A side story of the main plot is that Dom, a returning character from the original, is searching for his missing wife, but with little success. There’s nothing terribly deep within its narrative and characters are as clichéd as they were before, although it’s still a relatively entertaining story with more going on than in the original.

The game itself is largely unchanged, with only small things being added to the successful setup of the original. The assault rifle with the chainsaw bayonet is still here and cutting through enemies and splashing blood on the screen is still very gratifying, if I can say that without sounding like some sort of chainsaw wielding maniac. The cover system has been very slightly tweaked and is just as accessible and useful for avoiding all that flying lead and, of course, like the original, it’s what the game has been built around, as staying out in the open is something that you should avoid doing if you are actually intending to wipe out the Locust scum. The roadie run, the spectacular graphics and the satisfying active reload are all also intact.

The difficulty levels of this sequel are also wider in the amount of challenge that they present to you. There’s a new normal difficulty level (sitting between the casual and hardcore options), which allows you to play and complete the game with few things stopping you dead (literally!) in your tracks, but still doing enough to pose a small challenge. Such a middling difficulty level is certainly welcome and helps to better balance out the challenge that you will receive as you decrease or increase the difficulty.

On any difficulty level, other than insane, the game now gives you a chance to crawl to safety (leaving behind a trail of blood) if you take the kind of damage that would have killed you in the original game, giving you a final chance to get yourself to safety (tapping the A button makes your fallen soldier crawl faster) and for one of your accompanying team-mates to get you back to a vertical base.

Injured Locust also have learned how to crawl (isn’t it normally that you learn to crawl before you learn to walk?), and you can finish them off with some gruesome animations, or you could always pull them to their feet (not as some sort of gesture of solider-to-soldier respect) and use them as shields if you ever think that the necessary situation arises, my own conclusion is that it’s a feature that wasn’t really needed, although at least it’s there as a measure of last desperation.

I said earlier that there’s more going on in the plot, well that goes for the game as well. There’s more variety in the games’ scenarios, including some rather unusual transport sections, and there’s certainly a sense that the human race is really fighting for its very existence as cities begin to get swallowed by the ground.

Then there’s the perfectly formed multiplayer modes, through split screen and over Xbox Live. The game, like the original, can be played in two player co-op, though this time each player is able to choose their own difficulty levels and when playing online, it’s now possible (and convenient) for players to drop in or out at anytime. Online multiplayer also benefits from a new matchmaking system (which can be rather sluggish) and a significant patch has just been released to address some glitches and balance issues.

As for modes, the excellent Horde option allows you and another four players to take on the AI-controlled Locust, which increase in challenge with each new wave. If your entire team is wiped out in a single wave, then the Locust win, and being extinct, the human race then has a lot in common with the Dodo. The new Wingman mode has five teams of two people (each duo control the same character) shooting at each other in order to be the team with the most points. Guardian is basically a tweaked version of the Assassination mode, sharing the same objective of slaying the opposition teams leader, although as long as a teams leader stays alive, his underlings will continue to respawn. The final new mode is Submission, a twist on Capture the Flag where the flag is actually an AI controlled enemy with a gun.

This sequel is everything that the original game was and more, although those seeking a drastically different experience, won’t find it here. The cover system was already near perfect in the original game, so here it hasn’t seen any changes other than some tweaks, whilst the intense action benefits from even more enemies to shoot. Gears of War 2 is a great sequel that wisely remembers what made the original such a fantastic game and then turns everything up a notch.