Saturday, February 14, 2009

Review: Gears of War 2

Originally published on January 20, 2009 on

Epic Games
For Xbox 360
9.5 out of 10

Epic's sequel to the wildly popular "Gears of War" on the Xbox 360 is as smooth as a perfect Lancer reload. It's a sequel that actually outshines the original in more ways than one.

"Gears 2" picks up where "Gears of War" left off. After the Lightmass bomb takes out most of the Locust Horde in "Gears," humanity breathed a sigh of relief. Oh, don't think for a second that even though the Locust were down, but they were not out. Not only do they come back like "Return of the Jedi," they have the ability to take out cities - from below.

Marcus Fenix and his crew, the COG, return in "Gears 2," and a new recruit, Benjamin Carmine. You also meet some other colorful characters, including Dominic's wife, and the derrick driver, Dizzy, who sports a crazy cowboy hat. I didn't see one cow - or bull. What does he need a cowboy hat for?

If you have played "Gears," you will find the same control schemes. You know the drill - take cover. The crimson omen - you know, when you get shot and the screen turns red - is back as well, and several weapons from the first "Gears." (Lancer assault rifle, the Longshot sniper rifle, the Torque bow, and my personal favorite, the Hammer of Dawn) There are new weapons as well - including a flamethrower (it's cool, but not as sick as the one in COD:WaW), a mobile shield (works great for anyone in need of portable cover) and a mortar (it takes some getting used to).

You also get more vehicles to operate this time around. From riding on a Locust Reaver - the flying alien creatures and controlling a huge Brumak (you'd never, ever wait in a traffic jam with one of these puppies), to manning cannons on an Assault Derrick, driving a Locust speed boat and controlling a small, mobile tank called a Centaur. My favorite *vehicle* was the Brumak. Riding one is much better than fighting one. If you hijack one, you WILL have a blast.

The graphics are sweet. You will see a slight improvement over "Gears" and they really stand out when you are in the human cities. The huge lake and channels you navigate and the woods you pass on the derrick are beautifully recreated. It is a visual masterpiece.

Gameplay is awesome. You will find yourself dodging razor rain (will cut you up like Chuckie), doing the roadie run (it's back), taking cover behind a moving rock worm and battling a lake monster. You won't be bored as you keep the Locust in check.

One of the coolest moments in the game is working your way through a creature that swallows you. If you were a nursing major or pre-med, get ready for some anatomy and physiology 101. Going down the digestive tract has never been full of so much win.

However, you can't mention "Gears 2" without talking about multiplayer. The single player campaign is sweet, and with the co-op mode, you can have your friends assist you during the acts. However, the matches on LIVE is where it's at.

"Gears 2" offers public and private matches, and also lets you know what friends are online and playing "Gears 2." For me going online with Chron readers, we opted to create a party over LIVE, then play against other teams.

According to reports, some gamers said online in "Gears 2" is broken, but in the hours I was online, I never had a problem finding a match.

On the multiplayer modes, there's Warzone (COGs vs. Locust), Guardian (you protect the leader of your team from harm), Wingman (teams compete until they reach a certain amount of points), Submission (capture an enemy, use them as a shield) and Execution (automatic respawns).

The multi maps vary, but offer a great mix of areas to do battles.

The experiences in the game - taking the fight for humanity into the Locust's own neighborhood really makes this one awesome ride.

I can not wait for "Gears 3" to hit.

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