I've been playing through Gears of War 2 recently, and though I have finished yet, I'm definitely not quite as impressed with Gears 2 as I was with the first one. This is surprising because video games are the one medium where sequels are usually an improvement over their predecessor. I'm not the only one either, I've heard a lot of people seem a little down on this game (case in point, the outrage that it not be nominated for Game of the Year, or even XBox 360 game of the year.)
I have enjoyed Gears of War 2, which is why I'm continuing to play it, but there are a lot of things that it does that takes away from what made the first Gears of War great. Here are my top 5
Note: I hid any MAJOR spoilers, but there are still some things that might be considered spoilers. You've been warned.5. The characters are getting even worse.
Let's face it, the characters of Gear were never that great. They were mostly just over done caricatures and action stereotypes, but at least they were consistent. You had Marcus, the rough-edged leader, Dom, his loyal friend, Cole, the cocky, arrogant, super athlete, and Baird, the whiny, annoying tech guy. They weren't original, but they were entertaining for the first game. Right off the bat in Gears 2, we get two new characters- Tai, the spiritual Samoan, and Carmine, the inept rookie- and none of them really suck you in. Of course, it seems the creators of Gears noticed this as well, as they wasted no time bringing Baird and Cole back into the equation. And now for some spoiler-rific character rants:
[spoiler] So, after being petty and annoying about finding his wife through the first half of the game, Dom finds her, then mercy-kills her after seeing she is a near catatonic shell of her former self. Then, it seems we forget all about her. How about making him gloomy and self-destructive the rest of the game, constantly being too aggressive while attacking and getting himself and Marcus in to trouble, making smart-ass remarks when there's hints that there might be a giant cover-up, and being defiant and angry when you meet up with central command? Instead, he is silent and boring. Just goes 4about his business like nothing is wrong. [/spoiler] 4. No Berserkers, barely any Hammer of Dawn?!
My favorite parts of the first Gears of War were the awesome battles with the Berserkers, and defeating them with the Hammer of Dawn. Granted, I'm not finished with the game, but I'm the majority of the way through, and there hasn't been a single Berserker battle. Also, I've only recently gotten to use the Hammer of Dawn, and there hasn't been anything truly epic to use it on, though I'm sure that will change. Of course, the majority of the game you couldn't even use the Hammer if you had it, because of the setting. Which brings me to... 3. Just a little too Lord of the Rings-ish for me.
Am I the only person who thought that the ascension of Mount Kadar and looking for an entrance to Nexus was a little too close to Mt. Doom and Mordor? That, you know, two guys sneaking around armies of big, ugly, freaky looking dudes who look like they were born from mud seemed a little to familiar? That's right, I just compared Marcus and Dom to Frodo and Sam, what of it? There's one particular scene where they look down on an army of soldiers marching by that feels right out of Return of the King. It could just be me, but the entire setting of this game felt a little off, and this level is a prime example of it. 2. We get it, there's a cover system.
I love the Gears of War cover system. I love that stop-and-pop style of game play. I think the addition of a cover system to GTA IV, while not implemented to perfection, was a great idea. But Gears of War 2 is trying to drive this great little game play idea into the ground. Let's remember why the cover system mechanic works so well in games like Gears, Rainbow 6: Vegas, Uncharted, and even GTA IV: because it forces you to attack enemies strategically, it increases the sense of desperation in intense fire-fights, and it raises the sense of immersion in the game. Gears of War 2 gets this wrong by throwing millions of things to take cover behind at you. The Palace level where you have to continually pull levers to make miniature walls pop up and other miniwalls is a prime example of this. First of all, there's no explanation of what the things popping up are, or why they're there, except that the original architects of the Palace were planning on an invasion, and set those up beneath the ground in for the defense to hide behind. It's too bad that this section of the game makes absolutely no sense, because it's one of the best battles and the constantly switching cover points makes for interesting game play, but in creating exciting game play, the game's internal logic is sacrificed.1. Ther first Gears never made me walk through a giant worm.
Honestly, I'm surprised I kept playing after the journey through the giant worm. Outside of being pretty gross (You're crawling through a giant worm, why are there tickers?), it was basically a level of mediocre platforming and timing puzzles (two things Gears ain't great at to begin with), while having very limited actual shooting (you know, the thing Gears does extremely well?!) I want to be in the meeting where they thought up that level (note: this conversation contains spoilers.)
[spoiler] Developer 1: You know how we came up with a Giant Worm that collapses cities? Developer 2: Yes, the Riftworm. Developer 1: Well, to kill it, why don't we have a level where the Gears get swallowed by it, and they have to journey through it and destroy it's heart? Developer 2: What would they be shooting at? Are there going to be some sort of grubs that live in the worm? Developer 1: No, that wouldn't make sense. I guess they wouldn't shoot at anything. Developer 2: So an entire level with no shooting? Developer 1: Yeah, then we can say we have "more varied game play." Developer 2: Brilliant, let's do it. [/spoiler] So there you have it. Gears of War 2: fun game, not anywhere close to the original. Or maybe I'm just being too hard on it, and being nit picky. I don't know. I'm not hating my time with Gears of War 2, but I just think the game itself could be better.