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Gears of War 2 Review : Sucking You In, Chewing You Up, Spitting You Out

Genre: Tactical 3PS (Third-Person Shooter)
Developer: Epic Games
Tech: Unreal Engine 3
Release Date: 11/7/2008

For years now Marcus and Dom have earned their place in the hearts of die-hard gamers.
In 2006 we already had the taste for digital blood and online warmongering, so Gears of War
was just what the doctor ordered. Setting the bar higher visually than any console game before
it, implementing a “cover system” that blew our minds, all the while every shot we fired or
received illuminated our T.V screens with gore galore. We loved it. So it is no surprise that
when we saw Fenix’s crew return in 2008 we were ready.

The first thing I noticed in the campaign mode was that my eyes and ears were completely
overwhelmed – in a good way. Imagine seeing the teeth of a gigantic monster as he lets
out a horrible screech, his mouth glistening with drool from the mere sight of you.
Blood pools on the ground and spatters the walls in a kind of perverse beauty as you
are constantly excited by a brilliant soundscore.

nixie pixel GOW2 screenshots

As for the storyline, let’s face it, gamers weren’t blown away by the plot in the original
Gears, so why should the sequel be any different? Let’s just say you could definitely tell
Epic hired good writers this time. With every cutscene came an added sense of purpose and
urgency in my quest. I truly felt like I was the crucial COG that makes these Gears work.
The dialog was punchy and consisted mostly of one-liners; but hey, they’re Gearheads in war,
and I wanted action, not 500 word speeches, so I was quite satisfied.

You would think the main objective of GOW2, to shoot as many nasty Locusts as you can handle,
would get boring. Hell no! You are supplied with a variety of different weapons in a multitude
of stunning environments. Whether you like rushing into the action with your shotty, blowing
baddies to bits in an abandoned warehouse, or hanging back from the action and watching what
happens to a Locust head when it meets the wrath of your sniper rifle amidst pelting hail,
you can do it all. Different strokes for different folks, and there’s something for everybody.

nixiepixel chainsaw gears of war

In this creepy spiral into Locust Land you meet a variety of baddies that try to kill you in
a myriad of ways. You can tell an obvious difference in their “rank” when you are facing them:
Some are colossal creatures, some are barely seen until they’ve hit you, some snipe, and
some are pyromaniacs. It really adds an interesting dynamic trying to escape being burned,
mauled, snuck up on, knocked down, bitten and shot all while trying to return fire. Don’t
worry Gears 1 Veterans, you’ll still get most of your old favorites and a few good boss battles.

The A.I. is improved for both your friends and enemies; friends putting themselves in the line
of fire to revive you and enemies delivering fatal blows when they have the chance. But have
no fear, you’re not left completely powerless when they try to make you a human sandwich; you
have a metal or a “meat” shield for defense and a new option to “FINISH HIM”
(sorry, Mortal Kombat reference). All the finishing moves are great, as is the new option
to crawl to your teammate when you have been downed.

GOW finishing move screenshots

To break up the monotony of constant killing even further the game has tons of what you would
call “mini missions,” such as driving, chases, avoiding environmental hazards, and using turrets
and/or cannons. How does it all work when playing CO-OP in Gears of War 2? Well, it is co-operative
for sure; coordination is mandatory. Marcus drives while Dom shoots, avoiding pitfalls
along the way. I found repeating failed mini missions to be fun that way and not frustrating.

What is frustrating, however, is how often you get stuck. I’m not talking “stuck” like a level
that can’t be beaten. I’m talking about actually getting stuck in the terrain, grumbling-while-
pressing-every-possible-button-and-not-going-any-damn-place kind of stuck. See below. This
happened at least 5 times in the campaign while searching for collectibles. (little tidbits
that you can collect for more info along with achievements on Xbox live)

gears bug problem

Collectibles are one of the three reasons I think GOW2 campaign has mild replay value.
The plot is linear so you can’t really make choices that will affect the outcome of the game.
Since you can’t affect the outcome of the game you wouldn’t really want to play it over and
over again, unless that is you’re an Alzheimers’ patient or a small rock with opposable thumbs.
So, replay-wise, you are left starting over on Insane mode, or restarting to find Collectibles
that you missed before. Or you could always go with your saving grace: Multiplayer Mode!

Or is it a saving grace? In the first GOW you had an option of hosting your own multi-player
matches, and it seemed to work pretty well. In Gears of War 2 they scrapped that idea to
convert to the growingly popular “Matchmaking” process similar to the one Halo 3 and
Call of Duty 4 have (and it works beautifully for them). Yet GOW2 seems like the redheaded
step-child of the gang when they try this new way of grouping teams. You can’t help the
feeling that when you stumble into a match it is not on purpose, but a freaky coin-toss
where you just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I have also been thrown
into matches where the host is clearly having a field day while everyone else on the team
is so laggy that their guns haven’t loaded into the game yet, so they’re just flickering
around in a fit of lag and ghastly death.

Either this is a serious issue or the 100+ people (including myself) that are complaining
are just unlucky. But I’ve also played on different internet connections, all with an “open” NAT
(as tested by Xbox Live) and my average wait time has always been nearly 7 minutes. One time
I waited a half hour with a teammate who exclaimed: “At least they could put a mini game up
here while we wait! I’d play Pong with Locust skulls.”

The few times I have played a lag free map it has been very rewarding with amazing maps,
chainsaw duels, and different game modes, such as “King of the Hill” and “Submission”
(capture the flag, or more accurately, kidnap the Stranded). The good news is that they
will probably come out with a patch sooner rather than later. The bad news is that we
don’t know when the patch will come or how effective it will be. Again with the coin toss.

nixie chainsaw duel screenshots

Having become frustrated with the Matchmaking I decided to finish the campaign. I loved
the eerie feel you often got wandering through the many thrilling maps. I liked the visual
effects, the sounds, the blood, and the plot. I even liked the characters, for crying out
loud! That is why the ending of the campaign was an absolute, horrible, crushing blow for me.
It was the biggest case of blue ovaries I’ve had in a long time.

I don’t want to reveal too much,but it seemed the Epic team gave it their all nearly the
whole game and then they just ran out of time. It bothered me to play it on Co-op mode again,
and hearing from my teammate exactly what I was thinking the first time: “Is that it?
Was that the ending?!?”
Then something hit me. No, of course it’s not the ending,
they left it open for Gears 3. It seems like a cop-out in the game industry that has become
a recent trend; giving people blue balls just because they know we’ll buy their next game.

nixiepixel chainsaw gears of war 2 screenshot

Sucking Me In: The amazing, jaw-dropping graphical detail and a powerful
storyline. Many shiny maps, tons of monsters, chainsaw battles, the meatshield feature and
metal shield that can be used for constant cover. The Multiplayer is fun when it works,
and the campaign was really addicting to play, especially in cooperative mode.

Chewing Me Up: All the numerous times my character got stuck in Singleplayer
or lagged itself to death in Multiplayer.

Spitting Me Out: Looooong wait times online, and the ending had me screaming

Though I would say that Gears of War 2 has a great bang for the buck, there are some glaring
issues. If bugs tick you off (no pun intended) and you like playing online more than a single
player campaign, I would hold out until they come out with the patch before getting out your
wallet. Otherwise, the Campaign Mode needs a Gear like you!

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Fixing the GOW2 Matchmaking – We spoke, they Listened (Patch Released)