Thursday, March 26, 2009

You have a rendevous with death...

This review for Gears of War 2 comes late because I had the chance to play it co-op throughout, once a week, with a friend. Developed by Epic Games and published by Microsoft exclusively for the X-Box 360, I think it’s fair to say that this was one of the most anticipated games of the year. The first Gears of War set a standard, not only for third person shooters but as a graphics benchmark for consoles in general. Gears of War was in my opinion the most impressive looking game of its time and it remains a fantastic showcase for Epic’s much-licensed Unreal Technology 3 game engine.

With over five million copies of the first Gears sold the anticipation for the sequel was sky high. Did it deliver? If I may cut to the chase I would say it certainly did. Gears of War 2 improves on the original in every way and serves as a textbook on how to deliver a worthy sequel.

The story of Marcus Fenix and company continues as the Locust Horde’s relentless assault on humanity reaches endgame. The cities of Sera colony have sunk into the crust, one after the other, until only the final bastion of Jacinto remains. As a testament to the polished mechanics of the first title, return players will be glad to know that the control scheme is completely intact. It worked fine then and it works even better now! This insures the game feels comfortable right from the first scene. Other then that they did what a sequel should do and that’s advance the core concept in any way they can. The additional enemies, weapons, vehicles and tactical extras added a tremendous amount of variety to the Gears universe, which is proving to be an even more wacky and wild place than previously thought.

It’s not just that the game play is good; in some scenes it’s bloody excellent. Battles taking place in bizarre environments are brutal and unpredictable. Interesting combinations of enemy types and unusual set pieces create a constant challenge with nothing becoming bored or stale. Overall the pacing is quite good. I thought the game started with a bang and ended with some very satisfying battles that put the skills you honed to the test.

I quite liked the story in Gears of War 2 and there were many great scenes, both big and small. Many have said that Dom’s subplot was clumsy and ineffective but I disagree. Without giving anything away I think the story illustrates a hard fact about civilians and conflict that was told in a stark and brutal manner. I also like how this game ended. It was a satisfying conclusion that opened up the possibilities for the inevitable third game.

The online multiplayer segment of the game is substantial but came riddled with issues. Patches have since been dutifully released but some bugs remain. New to the game is a co-operative Horde mode where you team up to form an online quartet and look to survive wave after wave of Locust enemies. It’s a lot of fun and sure to become a stable game mode in the future.

Gears of War 2 promised to be a badass blockbuster and I think Epic was true to its word. I had a ball, I will play it again, and I am really looking forward to seeing how this world and its heroic characters continue to develop in future games. So long as serialized titles come out as great as this, you won’t hear me complain in the least!