Review – Gears of War 2

November 9, 2008 — Leave a comment

Originally published in The Daily Toreador.

When the original “Gears of War” was released two years ago in 2006, it quickly found its way into many an action gamer’s heart, winning multiple awards, including Game of the Year from several publications.

Now, Epic’s “Gears of War 2” has arrived, and in the words of lead designer Cliff Bleszinski, it’s “bigger, badder, and more badass.”

While it doesn’t bring with it the myriad of innovations that the original did, “Gears of War 2” is an improvement in every single way.

Perhaps one of the greatest improvements is in the story – something that was practically non-existent in the original game. While “Gears of War” gave you a war, an enemy, and a goal, there was very little substance to the plot.

“Gears of War 2,” however, doesn’t fall into that trap. From the very beginning, you start caring about these characters, these battles, and this war. There’s a surprising amount of emotion to be found over the course of the game, and as one of the game’s taglines says, “hope runs deep.”

While the story answers a lot of questions and definitely leaves you satisfied, it also seems to ask a lot more than it tells, setting things up well for at least one more epic installment in the franchise.

But the story isn’t the only thing that was given a boost. The graphics in “Gears of War 2” set a new benchmark on the Xbox 360, sporting gorgeous visuals and even more action on screen than ever before.

Multiplayer has also seen vast improvements, both in competitive modes and in co-op.

Cooperative play for two people is just as much fun as ever, allowing a second player to drop in and out of the action at any time during the game. Now, though, each player can select his or her own difficulty level.

Want to play on the “Hardcore” difficulty, but your dad/friend/girlfriend isn’t up to your skill level? Not a problem. Let them play on “Casual” and they’ll practically have to try in order to be killed.

There’s also a new cooperative multiplayer mode for up to five players online, in the form of “Horde.”

Horde mode pits a group of COG soldiers against wave after wave of Locust enemies. It has a somewhat arcade feel in its pacing and scoring system, and is a unique and highly addicting take on the “Gears” formula.

Working together is the key to survival, and only teams who can successfully communicate and cooperate are going to succeed.

Competitive multiplayer is also here, and it’s sure to please the millions of fans who enjoyed the original “Gears.”

Certain game types now allow for up to five players on each team (as opposed to four), and all modes are spiced up with new maps, weapons, and execution moves.

There are also entirely new modes to enjoy, such as “Meat Flag,” a take on “capture the flag” in which the flag is a living person that you must capture and bring back to your base before the opposing team does.

Problem is, the meat flag wields a shotgun, and isn’t afraid to use it.

All of these improvements combined with the traditional “stop-and-pop” gameplay that made the original game a success are sure to delight anybody who’s just itching for more “Gears.”

But there have also been enough tweaks made that may entice new players to join the war against the Locust.

It’s the kind of brutal, bloody, and outright badass experience that no action game fan will want to miss.

Britton Peele

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Freelance video game critic for sites like GameSpot and GamesRadar. Amateur fantasy author.

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