|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Epic Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 7, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2 (12 online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
April 25, 2008 - The team at Epic Games is clearly gunning to outdo itself in its quest to make every aspect of Gears of War 2 larger, brimming with more action-packed goodness and packing an even greater punch than its apocalyptic predecessor. With promises of making it "bigger, better, and more badass than the first game in every way," they've got their work cut out for them.
In the original game, players were given only a vague sense of the larger conflict because the focus remained steadily on the small band of soldiers. With GoW 2, Epic plans to take things to a loftier scale both in size and intensity. This time you're less likely to forget about the fact you're in the middle of a full-scale war with the fate of the last remnants of humanity swinging in the balance.
A host of new characters will bring additional color to the dark plot, but it doesn't lessen the weight of the subject matter. The situation remains dire as the continuing saga of the clash on planet Sera between the remaining humans and the invading Locust Horde opens in GoW 2. It turns out the lightmass bomb Marcus Fenix and his crew dropped in the Locust tunnels has the unfortunate side affect of vaporizing the liquid "imulsion" into gas that causes a deadly respiratory disease among many of the remaining survivors. To make matters worse, the Locust has renewed its assault with a mysterious secret weapon capable of felling cities by drawing them into the ground from below. The last human stronghold, Jacinto, is protected from a similar fate by tough bedrock below the city. With nowhere left to turn, COG decides to push back with a counter-assault, and Fenix and his group join in the charge that takes the war to the Locusts.
Improvements to the Unreal Engine 3 will make GoW 2 visuals stand out even further than the impressive vistas players soaked in the first time around. Dynamic tweaks to the way lighting works in the game will make subtle nuances in character models and scenery elements sharper and more discernable than the murkier tones of the original. Water effects are also substantially upgraded, and highly realistic destructible environments will offer new pleasures for your eyes. In line with Epic's aim to ramp things up significantly for the sequel, the engine now has the power to support vast numbers of individual creatures on-screen at a time. We expect this will play a large role in the massive battles in-store for players.
While enticing close-quarters chainsaw fights are all but guaranteed, details on other new weaponry are sparse at best. Aside from the old favorites, a new burst pistol, poison grenades, and a hefty tank are among the armaments at your disposal. The creatures you'll be battling offer more exciting prospects at the moment. Pleasantly enough, Brumaks will make a grand return; however, Epic has hinted the hulking, destructive giants will actually be on the smaller scale of bestiary. A new Locust variant, called Kantus, appear quite formidable. Their ability to revive deceased comrades from long distances will force players to alter their strategies or face wasting precious ammo killing the same foes over and over again. We can't forget boss battles either; of course, they'll be ramped-up with the rest of the best elements.
The difficulty curve of GoW was relatively steep, and this time Epic has decided to add-in another dialed-down difficulty setting to let super casual players jump in and enjoy the experience. Co-op play will allow a second player to drop in and out of combat seamlessly at whim, but more importantly each player will be able to adjust their own difficulty levels individually. This new feature will allow hardcore GoW veterans to blast away Locust alongside new players.
With all the updates and changes in the works, there are some things that will stay the same. The run-and-gun cover mechanic is largely untouched, though it will be harder for enemies to pick away at you when you're ducking behind cover - assuming they don't blow it away completely. The active reload system is also expected to be sticking around, thanks to the return of the old weaponry. Fortunately, these gameplay elements were incredibly solid to begin with.
The first batch of forthcoming details on GoW 2 is encouraging, and Epic's follow-up is bound to improve on the gritty tactical shooter that wowed gamers and wracked up critical acclaim both on the Xbox 360 and PC. The game is still currently set to release as an Xbox 360 exclusive, but PC gamers have their fingers crossed for an eventual port. Stay tuned for more coverage as the game gets closer to launch.
CCC Staff Contributor