The lights are on
*SPOILERS – REFERENCES MADE TO IMPORTANT EVENTS FROM THE FIRST GAME*
"They do not understand.
They do not know why we wage this war… why we will fight and fight and
fight… until we win, or we die… and we are not dead yet."
These words were uttered by the Locust Queen at the very end of the original Gears of War
after Marcus and Dom detonated the Lightmass bomb... the bomb may have
decimated the the Locust horde, but it did not destroy them utterly. In
the highly anticipated sequel Delta squad fights their way deep
underground into the very heart of the Locust empire to find out why...
The second chapter in the Gears of War
saga (which now includes both comics, and full length novels which I
have yet to pick up but am looking forward to reading) continues
chronicling the exploits of Delta squad as they fight along with the
rest of humanity against the subterranean menace that are the Locust.
Set six months after the successful deployment of the Lightmass bomb,
the Locust return seemingly thriving and stronger than ever. Somehow the
Locust are sinking entire cities! They are, however, seemingly more
desperate in their efforts. So the humans, equally desperate, decide to
take the fight to the Locust in a massive counteroffensive aiming to hit
them where they live… deep underground in hope of finding their
stronghold and cut off the head of the proverbial beast so that the body
There are some truly memorable moments in Gears of War 2.
I don’t want to spoil them for you, suffice it to say several of the
set pieces are jaw dropping in both scale and function. The narrative
takes some interesting (and unexpected) turns (there are several "Huh?"
moments and some glaring plot holes), but let's just say it poses as
many questions as it answers. The problem is that while several of these
scenes merit discussion, I can't even begin to talk about them (both
the good bits and the bad) without giving too much away.
This time around the story is much more Dom-centric as
we learn more about his search for his missing wife, Maria (careful
observers will remember his search being alluded to as he asked around
among the Stranded). While it’s certainly poignant, I felt it was a tad
overdone. This sort of melodrama adds a lot in the way of character
development and motivation but for me it seems out of place in such a
bawdy, action-focused game. The analogous ‘summer popcorn flick’ that it
is, Gears 2 would have been fine without this emotional, albeit well done, baggage.
gameplay is essentially the same with the main focus being on third
person cover based shooting sequences with the odd vehicle section
tossed in. However, there are a few noticeable additions such as:
chainsaw battles (if your opponent is also wielding a Lancer), new
variations on curb stomps (which are endlessly entertaining and
beautifully brutal), the ability to use a wounded Locust as a human
shield (which I just found amusing) and heavy weapons (the 'Mulcher'
machine gun is well good, but the mortar gun is just frickin’ awesome).
Another addition to Gears 2
that I liked was rather than just searching for nondescript collectible
cog tags, this time those collectible items actually have descriptions
that help fill out the back story and the Gears of War milieu in
general. There are 41 pieces of intel to find including things like the
aforementioned cog tags (although now they have an accompanying story
about the person which is usually pretty tragic) to a Locust calendar…
actually most of the Locust intel is pretty clever as it serves to
explain more about the species, right down to their mythology.
Gears of War was
a stunning achievement from a graphical standpoint showing off the
power of the new generation of consoles and wowing audiences (me
included) the world over. The sequel builds upon this foundation with
even sharper environments and greater depth. There are still some
texture loading issues, but the sheer scope of their creation allows
that to be forgiven. The animations are not only more varied this time
around, but more fluid and precise as well.
work lives up to the precedent of its predecessor as well, with all the
actors returning (gotta love Cole-train, especially his eloquent
discourse towards the end of the game… I’ll leave that for you to
enjoy;^). The wonderful sound and weapon effects are just as good, as
are the hair-rising-on-the-back-of-your-neck aural cues of the Locust.
Gotta love those Wretches. My only complaint is that the end song
doesn’t have quite the same… panache, as the original.
One thing I found a bit bizarre was in the original Gears of War
the final boss fight was quite difficult, yet in the sequel it’s almost
like they took that to heart too much, and made the final confrontation
almost laughably easy. It’s almost like the developers just couldn’t
make up their minds so went completely to the other end of the spectrum.
My biggest joys with Gears of War
come from sitting on the couch with a good friend and a couple of
beers, chainsawing and curb-stomping Locust to our hearts content. While
I don't usually play online multiplayer, I do want to mention the
‘Horde’ mode. This is basically a multiplayer map where you (and a
friend) face wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies. It’s a
clever addition that serves to lengthen the time you’ll spend playing
the game. There’s not much point beyond seeing how long you can survive
but it’s a nice distraction and we’ve seen other developers include
similar mechanics in their games as well since Gears 2 set the bar.
I’m struggling to score Gears of War 2.
In many ways it’s a better game than the original; more well rounded in
combat and environments, plenty of new enemies and weapons. In other
ways it’s more of the same with probably the best action cover system
available and familiar faces and foes. Then there is the story, which
for me took a step back. While I appreciate what the good people at Epic
were trying to do with Dom’s arc, I felt like it wasn’t… necessary.
Trying to inject such drama into what has always been the video game
equivalent of a Schwarzenegger film just seems tacky. Don't get me
wrong, his search for Maria did affect me, especially the first
time I played the game, but subsequent playthroughs have left me
wondering if such personal motivations were requisite.
So in the end, I've decided to score Gears of War 2
the same as the original. I love them both equally despite a few flaws.
With the third and final chapter on the horizon I’m sure I’ll be
playing them both again soon just to get ready! This is, hands down, one
for my favorite series. With such a solid foundation I can’t wait to
see how the story of Delta squad comes to an end.
Score = 9.25 / 10
P.S. Want to read more of my reviews? Go to Game Over... continue?!
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