Then & Now: Gears of War 2

We look at the Gears of War series to see how the original game holds up to its sequel.

The original Gears of War hit the Xbox 360 like a sledgehammer, going on to sell millions of copies and winning GameSpot's Game of the Year award in 2006. When we reviewed the game, we called it an "amazing technical achievement," emphasising that "games just don't typically look this good." True to our word, games in 2007 had a hard time matching up to Gears' presentational quality, and even now, two years later, the original game is still a standard-bearer.

In early 2008, Epic attended the Game Developer's Conference to show off the latest features of its Unreal Engine 3 technology, as well as to formally announce Gears of War 2. Deformable scenery, improved water, crowd generation, and soft tissue were all demoed to an eager crowd and gave an indication of what Gears fans could expect in the sequel. All of these effects and more made it into Gears 2 when it launched in November 2008, and we claimed that "the sequel maintains [its predecessor's] high technical and artistic quality."

Given that Gears 2 contains many of the same characters, weapons, and locations as the first game, we decided to compare the two. Epic claims that the two-year interim allowed its designers to push the Xbox 360 to its limits, but were they really able to raise the bar any higher? Let's find out.

Environments

When Epic shipped Gears 2, it remade five of the original game's multiplayer maps and published them on Xbox Live. All of these maps are structurally identical, but they do feature substantial changes in certain areas, such as weather.

Mansion

One of the most iconic maps from the first Gears, Mansion has a considerably different look in the sequel. The darkness and the rain have been swapped for what appears to be morning sunshine, allowing you to appreciate more of the finer details in the environments. Check out the plant pots and the mansion itself--they're much more detailed than they were previously. Inside the building, the same holes in the ceiling exist, but instead of letting in trickling rain, they're filtering the sunshine.

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Gridlock

One of the biggest improvements to Gears 2 is that there's much more greenery in the environments. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in Gridlock, where the derelict buildings are now covered with vines, and the trees have been left to grow over the years. Despite the neglect that appears to have aged the rest of the map, someone at Epic has been in and redecorated--a new bell has been added to the tower at the center of the level, and the statue opposite the tower has been removed.

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Subway

Epic must have gotten bored with all the rain in its multiplayer maps, because Subway is a lot drier than in the first game. It has a scorched-earth feel to it now, with black dust swirling around the exterior environments. The deserted vehicles have a lot more detail, as you can see from our screens, but we miss the light that used to pour into the subway.

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Tyro Station

The most unchanged of the remastered Gears maps is Tyro Station. The color palette is less red and more green in Gears 2, but the features, architecture, and weather remain pretty much the same. A huge train periodically bursts through the middle of the level, taking anyone who's on the track with it. Taking the trip is still worth the risk, though, thanks to the Torque Bow and the Hammer of Dawn weapons that await you in the middle of the track. The vans underneath the track, meanwhile, have mysteriously turned into storage containers.

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Environments Cont.

Canals

Canals received a winter makeover for Gears 2, giving the map a much lighter look than before. The water on the ground level has now turned to ice, the few plants and trees have disappeared, and the walls have a nice-looking icy finish. You can also notice some of the extra details that have been put into the backgrounds, especially on the buildings in the final shot.

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Weapons

Lancer

As Gears of War's signature weapon, the lancer was sure to make a return in the sequel. As a rifle, it's still equally effective at short and long distances, although we noticed the weapon had a lot more kick in the second game. Compare these two shots--we've unloaded an entire ammo clip at the same pillar from the same distance. Not only is the line much longer in the sequel, but it even curves slightly at the end when we're running out of bullets.

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Chainsaw Melee

The lancer is all about the chainsaw though, and this particular finishing move has actually been toned down for the sequel. The blood definitely has more viscosity in Gears 2. It used to spray out in different directions like a fountain in the original Gears, but it now just pours out of the unfortunate chainsaw recipient. The result: It's less gratuitous, if that's even possible for a move where you chainsaw someone in half.

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Sniper Rifle

The original sniper rifle was deadly in multiplayer, able to take a player's head clean off with the right shot. Thankfully, the same rules apply in the sequel, only this time the sniper scope is substantially different. Gone are the angular edges of the targeting reticle; they've been replaced with a much rounder, more traditional bull's-eye shape. A horizontal line across the middle of the HUD is another subtle but helpful addition, allowing you to line up headshots with greater efficiency.

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Weapons Cont.

Smoke Grenade

The smoke grenade was given a substantial upgrade for Gears 2, with a minor explosive punch that can knock players off their feet. That said, this has a detrimental effect on the grenade's smoke capacity. The original Gears' smoke grenade lasted for 12 seconds and produced a much darker cloud, whereas the one in the second game fades out in half the time. Thankfully, you can stick grenades to walls in the second game, which then explode when shot or when an enemy comes in close proximity.

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Characters

Marcus Fenix & Dom Santiago

If there's one thing that the Gears engine excelled in, it was drawing big armour-clad dudes that looked like they'd been through some wars. The faces of Marcus and Dom remain unchanged in Gears 2, but there are some minor changes to their suits. Those mysterious blue lights on Marcus' collarbone look more inset, and they're also brighter than before. In general, the bumps and ridges in the suits are more noticeable in Gears 2, perhaps owing to a better engine and/or more artistic license for the designers.

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Anya Stroud

While the Unreal Engine had no trouble drawing the rough, angular heads of the members of Delta Squad, it definitely struggled with female characters. Anya, the command contact for Delta Squad, had straight features and flat hair in the first game, but she has become much softer in the sequel and has more-realistic hair. Her outfit also has more detail, especially the badges on her right arm and the embroidered name on her jacket.

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Locust

These close-ups really show how the Locust have color-coordinated themselves for their Gears 2 appearance. Their lancer now features red lights, presumably to remind you which side you're fighting for. It's also worth noting that holding the left trigger in the first game brought a tighter close-up shot than it does in the sequel. In the normal view, the standard Locust grunt looks remarkably similar between the two games, but there are more detailed calluses on his right shoulder in Gears 2.

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Weapons Cont.

Smoke Grenade

The smoke grenade was given a substantial upgrade for Gears 2, with a minor explosive punch that can knock players off their feet. That said, this has a detrimental effect on the grenade's smoke capacity. The original Gears' smoke grenade lasted for 12 seconds and produced a much darker cloud, whereas the one in the second game fades out in half the time. Thankfully, you can stick grenades to walls in the second game, which then explode when shot or when an enemy comes in close proximity.
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Characters

Marcus Fenix & Dom Santiago

If there's one thing that the Gears engine excelled in, it was drawing big armour-clad dudes that looked like they'd been through some wars. The faces of Marcus and Dom remain unchanged in Gears 2, but there are some minor changes to their suits. Those mysterious blue lights on Marcus' collarbone look more inset, and they're also brighter than before. In general, the bumps and ridges in the suits are more noticeable in Gears 2, perhaps owing to a better engine and/or more artistic license for the designers.
Gears of War 2 Gears of War

Anya Stroud

While the Unreal Engine had no trouble drawing the rough, angular heads of the members of Delta Squad, it definitely struggled with female characters. Anya, the command contact for Delta Squad, had straight features and flat hair in the first game, but she has become much softer in the sequel and has more-realistic hair. Her outfit also has more detail, especially the badges on her right arm and the embroidered name on her jacket.
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Locust

These close-ups really show how the Locust have color-coordinated themselves for their Gears 2 appearance. Their lancer now features red lights, presumably to remind you which side you're fighting for. It's also worth noting that holding the left trigger in the first game brought a tighter close-up shot than it does in the sequel. In the normal view, the standard Locust grunt looks remarkably similar between the two games, but there are more detailed calluses on his right shoulder in Gears 2.
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755 comments
icehawk001987
icehawk001987

i hate how damaged environments were magically repaired in the gow2

Dizzzyness
Dizzzyness

gow 1 looks better than gow 2.also gow1 was just like OMG lets play thism ore than gow2.all gow2 has is bots in battle modes

xtremeflem2day
xtremeflem2day

Gears 2 just wasn't as addicting as the first. I dont know why, the environments in GOW1 just look more like the ruins of humanities struggle for survival.

hhiroyuki
hhiroyuki

GOW1 looks much better IMO, the sequel is much too green looking, the colour and richness looks far less than the original. Most of the time I was thinking that the original screen shots were actually GOW2.

Excedra
Excedra

cool. both games rock

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

Gears 1 does present very well in these photos, but I think it is key to look at how the lighting was done in both Gears 1 and 2. Cliffy B has stated that in Gears 2, they ramped up the textures over the first game. I think the dark presentation Gears 1 was partly due to them covering up in areas of deficiency, graphics-wise. No taking away from the fact that Gears 1 blew my mind as well as pretty much anyone else who saw it back at release. The graphics were incredible then - and still are - but mostly because Epic worked within the limits of programming to make it look as good as it could look. Reminds me of a recent interview with id software's John Carmack about the flashlight used in Doom 3 for the original Xbox. He stated that every time they lit things up, there was a cost, graphics-wise, and increased levels of brightness hurt the frame rate, the amount of work they would have to do on textures, etc. I remember in the Cliffy B interview, he said Epic was proud of the improved graphics across the board and wanted to light things up and show off what they could do in a well-lit environment. Irony is that in some cases, dark can come across as looking better!

dragon31691
dragon31691

textures and overall detail all look better in gears 1 which is very strange. You'd think they could at least keep the graphics just as good if not improve them.

rohan_kamps
rohan_kamps

gamespot hasnt actually showed da real changes, here it luks like only light effects r improved but the character detail, the invironment.......everythins improved..........

guitar_and_xbox
guitar_and_xbox

it dnt think gow 2 lives up to how good gow 1 was. I was disapointed with gow 2

L0rD_ShAde
L0rD_ShAde

Gears of war 2 is much better cose its much more intense and also no kryll bulls**t to make the game stupid. I hated GoW 1 mainly becose the missions where always dark and lancer rifle was weak. Moreover the blood effects in GoW 2 is sweet and btw captainoflust, gow 1 had the stupid useless shotguns (which I never used till I played GoW 2) and the people in GoW were dumb as they are always scared. If you can't bear the gore why don't you turn off that option ?

Decrate
Decrate

the lighting on the armor in gears 1 was better than gears 2 in my opinion. it just looks more dynamic with really dark and really bright texture, lights, on the armor. gears 2 is a little more plain and the armor looks to have the same lighting all around, so no shiny spots.

captainoflust
captainoflust

gears 2 looks better but is wack. gow1 is superior. smoke grenades make me sick. wack shotguns make me sick. Lethargic movement that renders the 3rd person aspect of the game irrelevant makes me sick. unstoppable chainsaw makes me sick. Annoying baird (who, by the way, was a legend in gears 1) makes me sick. Stopping power makes me sick. Bots make me sick. Meatflag makes me sick. I pretty much got on gears 2 and spewed all over my TV. Then i completed insane, decided multiplayer was wack and went back to gears 1. Why ruin the best game of all time.

E2Ek1eL
E2Ek1eL

gears of war 1 looks better than gears of war 2... i don't understand. and its not even the environmental change, its textures, lighting and everything else.

hamoksha0000
hamoksha0000

i think gow 2 has abetter intense than one and the graphics too its abit good than gow 1

StuntMan96
StuntMan96

No way dude, Gears Of War is slightly better in graphics and enviro detail.

SmashBroChamp94
SmashBroChamp94

WHOAH, there must be something wrong with my eyes because it looks like the graphics in part 1 were kind of better due to lighting effects and armor detail.

red-orc
red-orc

I like both and I still play both - that's even more fun than just 1 or just 2 :)

bobo123394
bobo123394

I agree with world star but the character models are slightly sharper in gears 2 also the new small but cool details to the guns look pretty good.

world69star69
world69star69

Is it just me or does gears 1 look way better then gears 2 in these shots?? The sky is actually showing in gears 1, gears 2 has a fogged out backdrop which looks last gen. The graphics are way sharper in gears 1 and there are more details. Gears 2 everything looks green, and blurry to me. This is the game that all the hardcore xbox fans love to say has the best graphics? Really? Gears 1 looks so much better!!

andalore
andalore

I think the gameplay in Gears 2 is Better but I like the way the maps look in gears 1, they look more moody, but in a good way

Antaeus1991
Antaeus1991

mansion looked so mucbh etter on the first one. I prefer the first one because it is darker and more ambient. The second one is somewhat bland.

metalkid9
metalkid9

the 2nd one had a really good story that's for sure. thats the only thing that was worth getting it in my opinion

Nephilim83
Nephilim83

They definately brightened thing up a bit. I guess to make sure you can see all the crazy texture details they've thrown in. But honestly, though the texture is not quite as good I think the first one's darker shadier tones was a much better look for this series. The one thing 360 has going for it that PS3 can't touch is the shaders it has onboard. PS3 has some pretty crummy shading abilities and Gears 2 looks like a PS3 game more than a 360 game. 360 you need to keep puting those shaders to work so you can keep yourself set apart from the PS3. Oh, wait... Nah, shaders or not, you still won't be able to hold on much longer. After this game and Fable 2 move to the PC you just won't have any exclusives worth a purchase.

coneman1
coneman1

I believe it's a matter of preference, but I do think the first had a more darker and menacing look than the second GOW and saying that, I guess it didn't really change the way the game played to me. I still think they both Rock!!

plm3d_basic
plm3d_basic

Original looks shinier and has better lighting while sequel has more detail.

EdibleFood
EdibleFood

Hmm it just looks alot greener and slightly higher res textures hugely dissapointing...

DanOwns1207
DanOwns1207

i agree with xaepheon excpt for one thing... i think the graphics are a lot better in gow1. There is far superior shading and lighting, and well the may all be rainy id rather that than the extremely bad textures of gow2. you were right horde is the only good thing in gears 2 over the first one, and even thats only fun the first couple playthroughs

da_iceman017
da_iceman017

Before my earlier post I didn't notice some of the below posts and the way some people were bashing the ps3 and note: I do NOT want to start a cosole supremacy war but to address some statements about ps3's exclusive game collection look at hevenly sword which wasnt GoW but had breathtaking graphics while displaying hundreds( not literally but I believe it was one hundred enemies for the last sequence when Nariko was about to die) of onscreen enemies at once, or Resistance where you literally have about twenty to thirty onscreen characters(enemies and allies controlled by the ingame a.i.), also the sixty player online battles that have no lag, also MGS4 which was simply a masterpeice which had people questioning whether it was art, a game, a movie or all, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune which is a story driven technical showcase for how powerful the ps3 is and is one of the best looking games although it was released in 2007 all while using an estimated 30% of the ps3's power, warhawk which has battles of 32 players online whilst their are two distinct battles one in the sky in jet's and on the ground all with no lag in sight, as well as the upcoming Killzone 2 which far exceeds most games in every category and I know ths because I was lucky enough to get a code for the closed beta which I played for nearly a mont. These games as well as many others that I have forgotten about at this time are the sole reason why the ps3 isn't going anywhere and to look at, hear and play these games even as a fanboy its hard to deny the widening gap between ps3 and xbox 360 exclusives.

da_iceman017
da_iceman017

It looks as though the devs at Epic decided to emphasize HDR in Gears 2 rather than the pushing of pipeline shaders that was used extensively in Gears 1 because of criticism of their being too many dark colors. I think that Gears 1 looked better but then again the Xbox's pipeline shaders are what gives it the edge in the console wars. In my opinion that was stupid to emphasize lighting over better textures but then again the graphics are still pretty good.

StarlightHunter
StarlightHunter

tizmond, sorry it was my opinion and yeah mgs4's graphics are very good, resistance also looks great but yeah not much else is appealing on the ps3.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

I love em both, graphics apart, ive been playing GOW1 for over 12 months and still love and play it (not many games obtain the same status), GOW 2 just doesnt seem to have the same appeal, although really good both visually & gameplay wise, it just doesnt have that "Edge". Im not a graphics hound, but any game that keeps me playing again & again after 2 years (e.g. R6 Vegas 1, GOW 1, etc) are what i call TRULY great games and not simply 'Flash in the pan' graphics fests.

Xaepheon
Xaepheon

Gears 1 is better in nearly every level apart from the graphics. however, the game play in gear of war 1 is way better end of. gears of war 2 is just a complete failure apart from the horde mode.

tizmond
tizmond

If you want fun multiplayer, play the first one. If you want better campaign & co-op, play the second one. Graphics wise, Gears 1 & 2 are both on about the same level. Gears 2 is more vibrant & has slightly more detail in places (Some of it unnecessary, like the blue lights on the guns & armour, WTF???) At first, when I started on Gears 2 I thought the graphics were better than the original, but after seeing the comparison screenshots in this feature, I'm not so sure. For example: do the MP maps really need all that greenery ??? The locust looked better in the first one as well. They just look a bit too bright in Gears 2. I played Execution on the first Gears today for the first time since Gears 2 came out & I had a blast. I don't know why, I just find the multiplayer much more fun on the first one. It just feels better to play & it feels a bit faster. I'm not alone in my thinking by the looks of things. I had no trouble finding a game, because there was lots of them. I only expected maybe a few games to be running, but the game list was full when I did a search. I'm glad because I'll be sticking to Gears 1 for multiplayer. Although I do LOVE Horde on Gears 2. It's probably the best thing about the game. Makes up for the dull, slow-paced multiplayer. I just think Epic tried to give it too much gloss. And, to the clown that says nothing on the PS3 compares to Gears 2 for graphics.... Get your finger out your ignorant little a-hole & look at Metal Gear Solid 4. As much as it pains me to say it (being an avid Xbox 360 fan-boy) MGS 4 is the best looking console game I've EVER seen. Gears is a VERY close second. It's just a pity nothing else looks decent on the PS3 though !!!

StarlightHunter
StarlightHunter

the stroy in the 2nd one keeps you playing though. yeah the firstone is superior in ways but gears 2 is deffinatly not a no go. its better than anything you can get on the ps3 by many miles. its your call though foogy. rent it if your not to keen but i promise you its just as good.

XFoogyX
XFoogyX

This article has convinced me even more not to buy Gears 2. Earlier, I just wasn't buying it because I was busy tracking titles I was more interested in, but after looking at the comparisons, I REALLY prefer how the first Gears looked. Gears 2 is too bright and cheery. It doesn't fit the mood of the game at all. First Gears of War was way more stylized and gritty.

StarlightHunter
StarlightHunter

i like both games and they look nearly identical. gow2 looks more polished. they are both great looking games.

rholding2000
rholding2000

gow2 is much more varied, bittom line they are both fantastic games but it took me longer to finsihed gears 2 and i couldnt stop playing it (im not a massive fan of the series either) g2 is a tad bit better which is the way it should be. if epic totally reworked their game engine/mechanics we would be looking at a totlly differnt game an probably saying . . .this is rubbish, kind of like when halo2 came out and we were mad we couldnt blast hogs across the map like in 1. People got used to it and 2 is a much more fulfiling experience imo. 3 came and did more of the same but loosened the physics a bit which gave us a hybrid of the two games. These are just the pinnacles of replayable, hogh quality fun games. Gears is much more serious to me and the way epic have done it this time really made me think . . this looks hopeless at every turn, even when we do win, what have we got left? Great games, good times and ill see you all online

InjuredNoodle
InjuredNoodle

Gears of War 1 graphics are so much better than Gears 2. Gears 2 is too cartoony, no horror elements, even the small sound effects such as the roadie running click clack, the active reload sound effect and many more. Gears 2 is still fun but Gears 1 cannot be beat. And I'm sorry but even the lighting in Gears 1 is better. I can't believe how ugly Canals looks in Gears 2 either. It looks fantastic in the original but they butchered the destroyed beauty theme in Gears 2.

omegakie
omegakie

Both in my top 4 best 360 games along with Halo 3 and Bioshock but Gow2 is slightly better

diamond2d
diamond2d

prob because its nothing new and the matchmaking is way 2 slow, but still superb

GRAW2596
GRAW2596

I think that Gears Of War 2 is better then the first one. There are sweet executions you can do and it just looks better.... so why did it get a lower score then the first one.

masterdeath-117
masterdeath-117

canals looks really good wit the icey setting, but the other maps have that clocktower feel and i ain't really feelin' that. otherwise gears 2 looks great and plays great.