Gears of War hit shelves in late 2006 with chainsaws roaring. The original gained instant reputation with its intense action, unique cover system, and cinema-like presentation. The sequel picks up a few months after the original, adding another chapter to the Gears Universe. Gears of War 2 offers a similar experience as the first keeping to the games core fundamentals, but brings with it new weapons, maps, multiplayer modes, and an all new action-packed campaign. The Locusts are back at it again, now stronger than ever and capable of sinking entire cities they have the last human city, Jacinto, in their crosshairs in hope of destroying humanity once and for all. It is up to Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago to take the fight underground to the Locusts in their last stand for human survival.
The campaign in Gear of War 2 expands on the universe created by the original. More information about the key characters is revealed, but as other characters are introduced and the plot turns it ultimately ends up producing more questions than answers. Aside from the mind-splitting chain sawing, head-popping sniping, and gut-busting grenade tagging the story offers a more subtle side. Without saying anymore, family, friendship, and love all make their way into game with a place in the grand scheme. Following suit from the original, the campaign is once again available in co-operative mode. Either split-screen or across Xbox LIVE friends can team up against the almighty evil Locusts in the fight for human existence. One of the more notable changes in the campaign is the integration of the chainsaw into the story. The chainsaw no longer is just effective at cutting down Locusts, it is now required in order to complete parts of the game. For example, cutting through a wall of wooden pallets to gain entry to the next room may be required, along with other uses which will gain no mention here. There are a few “vehicle” portions of the game that in all honesty are a bit mundane and could have been without, but they are rather short and not too common, so fret not! Another noticeable change is the advanced AI the computer seems to have. The actions and strategy of the computer make eerily intelligent choices while launching an assault or defending a position.
Gears of War 2 features all of the weapons from the previous game with a few refinements, additions, and new weapons. The Lancer makes its return with little to no changes, chainsaw intact, of course. However, a different chain sawing move is performed when initiated from behind; the enemy is stabbed in the lower back and split apart from the bottom up. Also new are chainsaw battles. When opponents attempt to chainsaw each other they become locked in a chainsaw battle which is won by the user who repeatedly presses B the fastest. The standard sidearm pistol, sniper, and shotgun also make their return almost identical to their predecessors; however, numerous complaints online have stated that the shotgun has received a severe reduction in power in an attempt to balance the weapons. My experiences tell me you still don’t want to be at the open end of one when it discharges with the same life-ending explosive result. New to the series is the flamethrower and mortar. The flamethrower is effective at close to medium range and does an exquisite job of barbecuing Locust and COG alike. The mortar is a large handheld weapon, like the chain gun it disables the roadie run, which allows the player to launch a round into the sky which comes raining down on enemies within the targeted range. One notable addition to the arsenal is the grenades. The same concept returns with the ability to throw or tag enemies with grenades, but players now have the option to stick the grenade to a wall effectively creating a proximity mine. Furthermore, gas grenades have been introduced which emit a toxic and nauseating gas capable of killing enemies. Also, smoke grenades now provide a concussive blast that send all personnel nearby flailing to the ground dazed.
Player abilities have also gained ground in the sequel. In Gears of War there were basically three options for finishing off a downed opponent: shoot (close range being an execution), melee, or curb stomp. Now players will have more options on how they choose to finish off an enemy before they bleed out. Obviously, the player can still shoot the enemy from afar or up close; however, executions have risen to a new level and are executed by pressing Y. Depending on the currently equipped weapon the player will perform an execution move. Most often he will roll the player over onto his back and finish him off with a couple punches to the face. If the sniper rifle is equipped, the player will raise the weapon over his head and deliver brutal axe-like blows to the back of the head. Once again available for use is the curb stomp which received minor adjustments in the exact player actions, but mainly the same concept is applicable. Last but most certainly not least awesome is the option to pick the opponent up and use them as a shield. This action only allows a player to use a pistol, but provides mobile cover. When the player decides they no longer need a shield, or simply want to kill their shield, they can do so with a neck-breaking drop.
The multiplayer action is back and better than ever. Active map environments, ten new maps, and five new multiplayer modes liven up the killing. The new game introduces ten new multiplayer maps and comes with a key to download five re-mastered maps from the original expanding the number of MP maps to fifteen. All the original game modes have returned (Annex, Execution, Warzone, and Assassination) while bringing with them five new modes online. The new game modes consist of King of the Hill, Guardian, Wingman, Submission, and Horde. Guardian is a “protect the leader” type of game, Wingman is a game type with an emphasis on teamwork, Submission is a Gears of War implementation of capture the flag, and Horde is a co-operative team game that allows up to five players to join forces and take on wave after wave of Locusts. Some of the new maps have received a level of interactivity of their own. They have environments that either react to player actions or are timed for events. Day One is a map with a large emergence hole where a creature residing within is willing to attack any player who wanders too close and Avalanche is a map timed for, who would have guessed it, an avalanche that will obliterate all that stands before it.
Gears of War 2 is absolutely stunning graphically and cinematically. The new additions in game play, multiplayer, AI, and user interactivity make it a whole new game. Although Gears of War 2 does not create the same new universe as its predecessor did, it redefines itself by building upon the same perfection that the original brought to gamers worldwide and deserves to be in the collection of any true action player.
ESRB: M for language and extremely gory violence and themes; make sure you see what it actually details before letting your kids see this
Plays like: Gears of War
Pros: Solid gameplay, new updates, intense and intelligent combat
Cons: Few. Not a good game to buy used, as certain maps won’t be available on used copies.