Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gears of War 2 (XBOX 360)

WARNING: Potential minor non-story related spoilers though there will be some Gears 1 spoilers as I make some comparisons.
- Finished the single player campaign on normal which was a mistake. It was way too easy. I really should have played it on hardcore. I think it would have been much more enjoyable. It feel a bit longer than Gears 1.
- There are several welcome new features: new weapons, a ability to stick grenades to surfaces to act as proximity mines, meat shields, new execution moves, and an improved cover system (less sticky) though I still had some issues where I would side roll instead of mantle over a ridge when in low cover. This wasn't that big of an issue except for one level where a roll instead of mantle meant instant death.
- Continue points are spaced out nicely keeping frustration to a minimum.
- Graphics and art work is even more impressive than the first game (which was already amazing). Some of the underground vistas are just breathtaking.
- I dig the new soundtrack.
- The new Horde co-op mode is a lot better than it first sounded like on paper. The on the fly tactics, and the true need of teamwork really shines. There are 50 waves. After every 10 it kind of resets but the enemy gets stronger. I spent maybe 6 hrs in this mode, and I feel like I've just scratched the surface. I can see myself playing this mode for a long time. The new weapons, and enemies work really well in horde mode. There's a good variety and really encourages the team to cover all the different engagement aspects.
- Bots have been added to the adversarial modes. I haven't tried the multi player much yet beyond Horde.
- It's gears, more of what you would expect with the core mechanics enhanced and refined.
- Reavers, Corpsers, and Brumaks oh my: Overall, I was a bit disappointed with the single player campaign. I actually thought Gears 1 was better. It had more memorable set piece battles, better boss battles, and better use of the environment for unique game play scenarios (Though gears 2 did have one that I thoroughly enjoyed, there just wasn't enough of that). Things in Gears 1 just felt more weighty and had a bigger impact. I still remember when you first fought a berserker, how you had to use sound, the first time the Hammer of Dawn was introduced, the first time you fought a boomer, seeder, reaver, or corpser. Each was a memorable and epic set piece battle. In Gears 2 it seems to happen a lot less often. Weapons and enemies are introduced with little hoopla. All the big bosses from the first game are just kind of thrown in like cannon fodder with nothing adequate to replace them. Also, the split paths seemed to have more impact in the first game (like when you had to keep the light on your partner or the Kryll would tear them a part). The final boss is probably the most disappointing in that it really wasn't this epic battle I was expecting. I liked how in Gears 1 it combined several things you learned throughout the game into a single tough boss. Also, just a personal preference thing: I like gears 1 "destroyed beauty" setting more than the large portions of underground areas in Gears 2. I guess in the end it just felt like I was going through the motions to reveal more of the pretty ridiculous story that I really didn't buy. I felt the characters were all acting rather irrational. It just felt like more thought and care went into crafting the gears 1 campaign than this one. Again, a lot of this might be because I made the mistake of playing it on normal.
- The first vehicle level is a bit frustrating and doesn't control all that great. The later on rails levels are pretty exciting and even give you limited movement control to dodge attacks (sort of like Panzer Dragoon...ok maybe just a little bit).
- Instead of just collection cog tags, this time you are collecting a variety of items like journal entries and letters which add a bit to the story.

Highly recommended. Sure I had some gripes about the campaign content, but the game play mechanics, excellent multi player, amazing production values still make it a must have. And don't get me wrong. I still really enjoyed the campaign for the most part just not as much as the first Gears of War.

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