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Tuesday | September 25, 2018
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Gears of War 2 (X360)

Gears of War 2 (X360)

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Gears Of War was one of the most successful games ever released on the Xbox 360, so the sequel has been hotly awaited for two years by a very large portion of the gaming community. Marcus Fenix and Dom return in a game with so much intense, exhilarating action that it easily rates as one of the best games I have played this year.

Gears Of War 2 rarely strays from the formula that made the first such an iconic title, we are still treated to the wonderful cover system, the amazing alien design, and the artistic direction of the environments. This time around however the scale is much bigger and the combat situations are frequently more challenging and entertaining.

The storyline in GOW2 has been fleshed out considerably and for most of the game there is a higher level of bonding and immersion with the characters. The new characters (Tai, Dizzy and Anthony) fit perfectly into the group and don’t take away any of the focus from Dom and Marcus. These new characters deserve special mention as they are all meaningful roles in the titanic battles with the locust hordes and Epic really deserve credit for the storyboarding.

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The focus of the story is with Dom and the search for his wife, Maria. Obviously Marcus Felix is still the main character and his persona is still the perfect combination of calm leader and ruthless soldier. Dom is much more emotional this time around and while he can kick some serious ass in the game it is clear that his personal intentions are to find his missing wife and reunite with her. While it sounds sentimental, the fact that Epic have combined a fast paced, hard hitting action game and managed to wangle a deep underlying story into the sequel is some achievement.

The battles in GOW2 are simply massive and enemies from the first game who made minor appearances are now involved en masse. Corpsers and Brumaks litter the battlefield and make for more intense battles than before.

This leads me nicely into one of the key positive aspects with GOW2, the level design. Gone are the similar structures from the first and now we have water levels, ice levels and one crammed with disturbing meat physics effects. Not only do you get to explore these levels with Dom and your gears of war buddies in tow, but there are a wealth of vehicle based levels at your fingertips to break up the action. If you combine all this with the fact that the single player game is around 3 to 4 hours longer than the first (10-12 hours) you do feel as if you are getting value for money.

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As I mentioned earlier, the core game play mechanic is just as proficient and anyone who is familiar with the first will be able to jump in right away and get into the heat of the action. Additionally Epic have incorporated a few new moves, such as now being able to grab downed foes to use as shields for absorbing damage. The developers have also included new mobile cover which are based around the Rockworm and the Boomshield. The Rockworm is an interesting creature as it moves between glowing orbs to feed and you can duck in behind it while laying down fire on the locust. The cover element of Gears Of War was, at the time, groundbreaking and it has been enhanced and fine tuned with a more fluid system now in place. You won’t notice massive differences, but it just feels better.

The chainsaw was a firm favourite of many GOW veterans and the emphasis thankfully hasn’t changed as it is still quite possible to jump from cover to cover saving ammo and mashing up the alien beasts. There are also now moments when the chainsaw is used to cut through barriers and alien tissue to allow for level progression.

There are some levels which require you to mount enemy beasts and these remind me a little of Panzer Dragoon, the courses are guided and you have to escape while destroying pursuing foes. The Brumak level is one of my favourites as you are given control of a 300 foot beast with various forms of attack, such as propelled rocket grenades and a rail gun.

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With regards to the graphics, they are very impressive being based on the Unreal 3 Engine (which has been tweaked). There are some destructible environment touches which work very well, almost everything in the game can be deformed, marked or damaged in some manner and it exponentially enhances the feeling of being actually in the game. There are some neat water effects as well as damage models, every creature you kill will result in some form of meat physics, with chunks of them being dismembered or obliterated in some manner. There are some texture pop in issues however to be fair they aren’t that noticeable most of the time and certainly don’t detract from the game.

The music is excellent and Steve Jablonsky (Transformers) is the man behind that and I feel he has produced a brilliant score which fits in perfectly with the setting and is certainly mood enhancing. The voice acting is also impressive with quite a few cuss words making the final cut, so parents with very young children who aren’t put off by the giblets and guts will most certainly find this aspect deal breaking. To be fair, you do expect soldiers in such an environment to behave like this.

The single player campaign is a highlight of the game and it is very heavily story driven with some great cut scenes and action that unfold seamlessly. Felix, Dom, Coletrain and the rest of the gang really are three dimensional war time heroes with a strong sense of personality and appeal.

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Unfortunately I found the end boss a major letdown, and while the setting is somewhat redeemed for those who patiently sit past the credits, I still can’t believe that Epic felt this was a good way to end the battle. I obviously don’t want to go into detail as it will ruin it for everyone, but I would be interested to hear views on our forums.

The cooperative campaign is very similar to the single player campaign but you have extra firepower which means sometimes you can take different strategies. It is just as good as before and I have played the game through twice now with different friends and it was incredibly enjoyable on both occasions. Epic have also allowed both players to set individual difficulty levels which means that your damage and health will vary accordingly. There are also branching paths in certain levels which means you can take different routes and explore the levels.

With regards to the Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is very impressive. If you play single player, you will notice Dom performing all kinds of great combat maneuvours. Equally so, downed enemies can be raised again by their colleagues, so you need to be sure to be on the ball and kill them first time around. In GOW2 the team mate commands have been removed and I am glad to see the AI is much better to compensate for the lack of these commands (which never worked right anyway).

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Multiplayer is once again an integral part of the package and Xbox Live will be buzzing for the next year or more thanks to the superlative game modes. There are 15 maps, five of these are downloadable remakes from GOW1. These remakes are basically graphically enhanced versions of the originals and they play just as well. The remaining 10 are newly developed designs ranging from Hail to the incredible Avalanche.

The only downside I could find during testing was slight lag which means that the person hosting the games has a minor advantage. Once again it isn’t a game breaker, but it can be noticeable and somewhat annoying to be taken out due to lag (and no I actually don’t suck at the game for a change).

Matchmaking has changed for the better in that players are now matched according to their rank and once paired up they vote on the game-type and the map to play. Game modes are well catered for, with Submission, Guardian, King Of The Hill and Wingman now being available (two of these were only available on the PC before). Guardian is a steroid induced Deathmatch style mode which gives one player control over the rest of the teams ability to respawn. If he dies then once his teammates die, game over. Submission puts an AI controlled Stranded character in the center of the map, he is the flag. You have to get him back to the capture point with the key twist that he doesn’t really want to go. It’s a brilliant implementation of a creative and intensely entertaining game mode.

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If this wasn’t enough then Epic have included a cooperative mode called Horde mode. You are faced with up to 30 enemies depending on how many of the 5 possible player slots are filled. Once you start there are 50 challenging levels to battle through and the enemies level up health, AI and damage every 10 waves. This is an extremely addictive game play mode and you can not only play against AI foes but also your friends.  Every map has a leaderboard and some people with the highest scores have beaten the levels without the team dying at all. I feel very inadequate!

Gears Of War 2 is set to be one of the biggest sellers for the Christmas period and deservedly so, I feel it is the Playstation 3 equivalent of the equally impressive Resistance 2 and will appeal to both single player gamers and those who lose whole weekends online hitting the leaderboards. It is very impressive and is only slightly marred by some minor lag issues and texture popin.

Carnage and then some. Very addictive and fun on your own and with friends.
Some of the nicest I have seen to date on the 360. Some texture popin and minor frame rate glitches lower the overall rating.
Jablonsky delivers with an epic score. Great voice acting from the main characters.
Xbox live will be busy for the next year. if you like multiplayer then look no further.
(Not an Average)
Top notch. Marcus and Dom FTW. One of the video game industries all time classic partnerships.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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