Gears of War 2, EPIC games second installment in the Gears of War franchise was released in November of 2008. Gears of War 2 was yet another critically acclaimed entry in EPIC game's Gears of War series. Soon after Gears of War 2's release the game had set a new record for the number of simultaneous players on Xbox Live, with over 1 million people logging on to play the game at one time. The opening weekend of Gears of War 2's release saw the game topping 2 millions units sold. Gears of War 2 won multiple awards at it's announcement at E3 and walked away dubbed "The Best Xbox 360 Game of 2008" in Spike TV's Video Game Awards. Gears of War received a metacritic score of around 93 out of 100 and is still played online today.
Now it's almost 5 years later and the 4th entry in the Gears of War franchise is right around the corner. How have the years treated our old pal Gears of War 2? We'll see in my 2013 Gears of War 2 Review!
Chainsaw duels, meatshields, 5v5, and the original Horde, Gears of War 2 was the dawn of a handful of great features for the Gears of War franchise and although not the first, seemingly the trend starter of the co-operative wave based combat we've seen a few times throughout the shooter game genre since it's release. Gears of War 2's Campaign takes Marcus and Dom on an unexpected adventure with a few very emotional moments. Gears of War 2 also is fully featured with many ways to enjoy online multiplayer.
Gears of War 2 looks great even by today's standards. Despite the game coming out in 2008, you will have a hard time finding many games with such appealing technical design on the Xbox 360. Character models looks great, seeing Marcus Fenix land on some cover while grinding his teeth is still pretty impressive. What's even more awe inspiring are the vistas. Gears of War 2 offers a great deal of variety when it comes to places to see and at times, the environments can be jaw dropping. At times the game even features battles against multitudes of enemies, with seemingly near one hundred Locust appearing on screen at once. The graphical details in Gears of War 2 does show it's age from time to time though, things such as 2D smoke, underdeveloped textures, enemies spawning in clear site, and awkward looking animations do a good job at reminding you how long ago this game was released. Overall though, the graphics can still compare to some of Xbox 360's newer releases.
Story: Gears of War 2's campaign starts off 6 months after the happenings of Gears of War. At the beginning of the game you are immediately introduced to first for the series characters, Benjamin Carmine and Tai Kaliso. The main plot is centered around Delta Squad digging deeper into the Locust Hollow to finally neutralize the threat. Alongside the main plot Dom is undergoing his own personal mission to find his wife Maria. The story is well written and a few scenes were masterfully executed. These standout scenes were powerful most in part because of the incredible voice acting and cinematic camera. While Marcus remains badass and distant, the story explores dom's heart and the voice actor really stole the show in a lot of the scenes. Gears of War 2's story had some unexpected twist and provided a world for us to gain interest in. While the story explains plenty, it is also filled with mystery.
Gears of War 2's cover system still feels fluid and the weapons all feel powerful and are satisfying to use, with or without gore. Gears of War 2's campaign is paced well, with many things pulling you away from the standard shooting. You will get to ride in an assortment of vehicles, get an opportunity to use a variety of weapons, and commit to both unexpected and unique objectives. When you aren't in the middle of the ongoing war, the game provides you with some basic yet interesting puzzles. These puzzles take good advantage of the cover system and blended well with the story. There are a few minor drawbacks to Gears of War 2's overall gameplay, the companion AI often times take a long time to revive you when downed in the campaign, and every once in a while the companion AI doesn't seem to even acknowledge your existence. Also, Chainsawing can get a bit ridiculous as getting shot while attempting to rev the chainsaw will bring you into stunned animation, even long after the stun animation has ceased and enemy fire discontinued you will be brought back to the same animation if attempted to rev the chainsaw again within a few seconds, this gameplay mechanic feels weird and can hinder your oh so delicious chainsaw massacre without merit.
The entire Campaign can be played cooperatively with one friend and horde can be played cooperatively up to 5 players. The Campaign's coop mode feels appropriate and joining a friends match is seamless.
The Horde mode pits you up against 50 waves of increasingly difficult Locust with a boss wave every tenth wave. Horde mode can get very hard even if played on the easiest difficulty. The difficulty adds value to the mode as it requires both skill and teamwork although with every ten waves consisting of the same formula as the first ten, Horde mode can get repetitive.
Gears of War 2's competitive modes allow you to take your favorite weapons and mechanics from the single player campaign and use them to compete against real people, however some of the fluidity is lost in transition. Gears of War 2's competitive multiplayer feels slow, choppy, and sticky as the movement speed is pegged down significantly from the Campaign and internet connection is so prevalent in the multiplayer.
There are 6 multiplayer modes beyond the campaign and all of the multiplayer modes share the same maps. The uniform maps can serve as an inhibitor to a few of the multiplayer modes. Wingman for example sees 5 teams of 2 in a single elimination style deathmacth, but because of the core map design and odd number of teams, certain teams can be spawned at a disadvantage. Despite certain modes feeling unsuitable, Gears of War 2's multiplayer maps are numerous, distinct, and well designed.
All of the multiplayer modes beyond Campaign share a ranking system. This ranking system uses experience points to rank up from level 1 to level 100. When reaching level 100 your number is replaced with a cool looking emblem. Overall the ranking system is pretty boring, but it adds value to the multiplayer.
Quitting is a big issue in any online game and to combat this bots are used as replacements when a player leaves a Social or Ranked Match. The bots are a very frustrating solution as they never miss and are capable of doing things the player can't. Another frustrating solution to the war on quitting is the removal of the option itself. In Gears of War 2 you are not even given the option to quit in Ranked matches..now while this may sound like a good thing, there are rare instances in which quitting wouldn't be frowned upon but alas you still have to restart your game in order to abandon a match. One thing that wasn't done to aid the war on quitting was host migration. If the Host of a match leaves, it's game over. This is but one the the annoyances with the host' influence, in Gears of War 2 the Host of a match has a huge advanatge due to both the lack of dedicated servers and the hit detection. The hit detection is extremely inconsistent. Even when playing on your own host, it isn't very rare to see an enemy surviving a blow that should be lethal.
The Gnasher, (Gears of War's most popular competitive multiplayer weapon) happens to be the most poorly balanced. The Gnasher is such a powerful weapon that it trumps both the sniper rifle and assault rifles at mid range combat. At times you may find yourself being downed by the Gnasher at distances you didn't even know possible.
Another big negative in the competitive multiplayer experience is a condition the game refers to as "Stopping Power". This condition takes place when taking enemy fire. This condition is present to keep players from rushing, but instead it inhibits all movement. Even if you're rolling to the side or trying to take cover, "Stopping Power" slows you down.
The multiplayer stands as the most outdated aspect of the Gears of War 2 package. While the cooperative and competitive modes of Gears of War 2 can still be enjoyed thanks to a good cover system, great weapons, and good graphics, many of the subtleties that we've come to expect from a modern online shooter are absent. The overall online functionality leaves much to be desired.
It's been some time since Gears of War 2 was released, but time has been friendly to much of the experience. The Campaign is still great fun thanks to well pacing, good writing, and great voice acting. Things such as painfully corny dialog, awkward animations, minor technical flaws, and limited coop capacity does bring down the Campaign experience a couple pegs though. The competitive multiplayer provides some enjoyment, but is easily behind the times. I give Gears of War 2 a 6.5 out of 10.