Whether it be the top notch action or the excessive gore, there's something for everyone to love in Gears of War 2.
You play as Marcus Fenix – troublemaking soldier given a second chance. He and his partner Dominic Santiago don't exactly play by the rules, but they do more than prove themselves in battle. Following up directly after the first game, the Light Mass Bomb detonated underground just hit the Locust pretty hard, but they are not wiped out yet though – and the COG take the fight to them. Gears 2 retains the lovable ultra cheesy lines – but it's very evident that they had a good writer on board this time. Besides form the main point of trying to take out locust, the story also focuses a lot on Dom and the search for his missing wife, although it's hard to concentrate on this with all of our overdeveloped trigger fingers, but if it's noticed, it's actually not bad
Gears 2 is a tactical third person shooter heavy on taking cover, meaning run and gun isn't the way to go. The campaign offers an optional tutorial, which is a nice way to ease you into the slightly complex controls. After quickly getting used to them, the controls are easy to use, so in no time you'll be tearing locust scum to pieces with much panache.
From a technical standpoint, Gears 2 looks fantastic. Intriguing level designs are supported by the excellent textures and lighting. Epic absolutely nailed it when it came to facial design as well. It's a bit disappointing that destructible environments didn't play a bigger role, but it's easy to overlook this minor shortcoming. Sound will impress also; the music will fit well into the tone of the situation, while voice acting is solid. And there's nothing can stop that smirk covering your face when you hear your friend chain sawing someone behind you.
Multiplayer is a strong point in Gears 2, and it's a lot better than in the first iteration. There are plenty of game modes including Warzone – your basic deathmatch, Annex – a game of control points, and several other great modes. The only big letdown is that the matchmaking system is terrible. Instead of seeking out a match, it seeks out individual players to match you up with – very similar to Halo's, except double the waiting time. Scary right? Good thing Epic jumped right onto patching it up though. Private Xbox Live matches with friends are still better though, especially since bots can fill in the shoes of any missing players.
The competitive multiplayer just the appetizer though – good for a while, but not the reason you came. The true feast lies in Horde mode, and it's one that you'll be done with anytime soon. After joining up with up to 4 players, you can take on increasingly difficult waves of the Locust Horde on the map and difficulty of your choice. As long as one teammate survives the wave, the team will progress. There are 50 waves in all; and even if you beat them all, Horde is something that's easy to go back to over and over again, due to varied maps and challenge. Although it basically repeats itself every 10 waves (the only difference being a slightly vamped up difficulty), Horde is extremely fun, and excels in utilizing teamwork.
The campaign will probably last from around 7-9 hours of play, and unless with a friend, it's a bit of a bore to play through a second time. There are also several collectibles scattered around each level of the campaign. Some of these can be interesting to read, but they're easy to ignore considering the game's primary focus on fast paced action. They do provide a bit of background story and have a few achievements buckled in with them. The bulk of Gears time goes into competitive multiplayer, co-op campaign, and most of all, Horde.
Speaking of achievements, Gears 2 has a pretty good list, considering most of them build up to something over time instead of being a "one shot" type of achievement. Some are just plain ridiculous though, such as playing 1999 multiplayer matches, or getting 100,000 kills. So I tip my hat to anyone who's unlocked them, but in my book you just lost all credibility of having a life.
Gears of War 2 does the best job of any in providing the thrills everyone needs. Nothing tops curb stomping that crawling enemy, or chain sawing an unexpecting idiot. If for some strange reason you don't dig that kind of thing, there's even an option to turn gore and language off (although you won't get the true gears experience). It's that and superior action pack that go hand in hand and form one of the best shooters of the year.