Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Review: Gears of War 2

Format: Xbox 360

Category: TPS
Players: 1-10
Publisher: Microsoft
Those gears of war

It look me a while to get round to reviewing Gears of War 2. I wanted to assess it after a long playtest. My initial reactions were positive but I wanted to delve deeper. I wanted to know, for sure, that this was as good of a game as I thought during those first few days. Time will tell I said, and it did.

There is no denying that the original Gears was a great game. It set a level that many titles still fail to come close to. Even two years on, this is still stunning to play. About the most important and integral feature of Gears was its pioneering cover system. Replicated many times but arguably never bettered, this turned what would otherwise have been a brilliant third person shooter into a stellar game worthy of an Xbox 360 purchase.

Gears 2 was seriously hyped prior to launch but the hysteria never reached that ridiculous fever pitch we witnessed in 2007 with Halo 3. It is obvious that due to Gears 2's mature content the marketing was carefully targeted and word of mouth relied upon. In other words, any half serious gamer knew about Gears 2 and had made it a 2008 aim to pre-order.

The truth is that there is nothing overwhelmingly new about Gears 2. It plays just like the original and the visuals are arguably hardly much different. I say arguably because I've been told to go back to the original now after playing the sequel because apparently you quickly realise quite how dated the original suddenly looks compared to the new game. I'm cynical but will confess I haven't tried it.

The cover system mechanic is the same as before but simply didn't require any alterations. The single player is about as dramatic as the original and two player co-op is still a possibility. I have to admit that I just wasn't that bothered about the single player though. This isn't a fault of the game itself. It's just that it has gotten to the point now for me where I crave multiplayer and large scale co-op. I was just too busy on Horde mode.

Simply put, Horde mode is where it's at. Easily the best feature of Gears 2, this is a five player co-operative mode where you are expected to simply hold your ground and survive against increasingly tougher hordes of the locust enemy. It's basically GRAW 2's defend mode... done well. For about three weeks no-one on my Xbox Live contact list could put it down. We lived Horde mode for days on end. I even dreamt of Horde mode. Horde mode... mmmm.

I'm pretty convinced I know precisely why Horde mode works so well. It's because it genuinely requires co-operative team work to get through. Without working together
you will get stomped on, hard. By about level 25 it's intense to the point of cardiac arrest danger territory. You know a game is dynamite when you're listening to four other grown men screaming wildly like schoolgirls over headsets at 3am because a Grinder just breached the defences.

When you're done taking on the swarms a very workable matchmaking-based five-on-five adversarial (Tom Clancy language) mode awaits. Now, I've always sucked at Gears when it comes to the player versus player angle. I'm not one of those Quake-style gamers who can be bothered to run half way across the map each time a round begins just in order to pick up some grenades or a sniper rifle. Therefore, I generally mid table it every time and tend to use the shotgun religiously.

For this reason, I wasn't as excited about the team deathmatch stuff as others out there. However, I will acknowledge the fact that it's clearly very good; with a vast number of settings/gametypes to fiddle with and well implemented bots to fill the numbers and practice on.

So, what about time? Has it told? Sort of. For me, Gears 2 was a love affair that actually only lasted around a month. When your Live contacts start failing to acce
pt your invites to Horde mode and you're left playing with the 13-year-old gamers things fade. There are also several omissions here. There should have been a clan creation system, with ladders etc. There also should have been single player co-op for more than two players. Remember, we live in a post Halo 3 gaming world here. I'm also of the opinion that Horde mode now needs a fresh update. Give us the ability to go beyond level 50, create crazy objectives, and allow players to set the type and amount of enemy? Customisation ftw.

Gears 2 is awesome, clearly. I'm just reaching that point now where I can no longer get that excited by a game unless I'm playing alongside lots of pals. I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm now officially a co-op whore. Horde mode is Gears of War 2 and, in the famous words of Faithless, I want more.


+Gears greatness
+Matchmaking for Gears greatness
+Horde Mode
+The greatness of the Gears
-No clan support

9.4 / 10
It's Gears of War 2!

by The Critical Alien
© 2009