Like its predecessor, Gears of War 2 is an explosive, incredibly violent and testosterone-filled cover shooter that every Xbox 360 owner should have.
Gears of War was a notorious Xbox 360 title because it took the formula established by kill.switch and Resident Evil 4 and brought those ideas to a new generation of consoles in an inviting and fresh manner. The result was a bombastic third-person shooter that focused on action, shooting aliens and of course, taking cover whenever you were overwhelmed by enemies. Like its predecessor, Gears of War 2 is an explosive, incredibly violent and testosterone-filled cover shooter that every Xbox 360 owner should have, especially if they have someone to play with locally.
On the first Gears of War, we saw humanity resisting the Locust invasion after Emergency Day, but anyone who remembers that game also knows that by the end, the fight was far from over. At the beginning of Gears of War 2, we see how the human race is forced to live in Jacinto, the last beacon of humanity. The COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) decide to invade the Locust’s main base to try and finish the fight before the alien race sinks every major city on the planet. In the game, you play as Sergeant Marcus Fenix, but he’s joined by Dominic Tai, Carmine, Cole Train, Damon Baird and other members of the Gears of War team.
Like its predecessor, Gears of War 2 is a third-person shooter where using the environment to take cover is paramount. Apart from the needed gameplay rebalancing and graphical update, there are several innovations. In Gears of War, to quickly finish off enemies that were too close to you, you could use the chainsaw from your main weapon to cut them in half. Now there are chainsaw duels, so if both you and your enemy pull the chainsaw at the same time, both weapons will clash against each other. When this happens, a simple mini-game ensues and the player that presses the B button more rapidly will be the winner. Also, reloading your weapon requires you to press the left bumper at the precise moment and if you fail, your weapon will get stuck. There’s also the ability to use downed enemies as “meatshields” to protect you from incoming fire. Finally, there are new weapons: the Mulcher, a flame thrower and the Mortar and each of them adds something different to the combat.
According to a popular expression, variety is the spice of life. Gears of War 2 took this to heart, since in this third-person shooter you’re always doing something different. Most of the times you’ll be hiding behind walls and aiming and shooting from there, but there are also turret sequences, you’ll get inside gargantuan monsters, explore underground caves, fight your way occupied cities and the list goes on and on.
It definitely helps that the game looks and sounds so well. Gears of War 2 is a gritty third-person shooter that’s everything but colorful, but that doesn’t mean that is lacking in detail. Quite the contrary actually. The environments are filled with nice little touches, the camera always frames the action properly and the level design is so solid that at no point you’ll be wondering where to go next. One of my few complaints about the game is that it tends to slow down whenever you hit a new checkpoint.
Also, while the solo campaign is good, but I’d have appreciated if the characters were deeper. After all, you spend 10 to 12 hours with them and you barely know anything about them. Some of them don’t make it to the end, but it’s hard to care when they are so flat and dull. Luckily, once the campaign is over, you can start playing with or against other people. The entire campaign can be played with a friend and this is also a possibility in the eminently entertaining Horde mode where you cooperate with a friend to defeat as many enemy waves as possible. Finally, there’s multiplayer which is available both locally or over Xbox Live.
Multiplayer features a handful of modes, including Warzone, Submission, Wingman, Horde, Execution, Guardian and King of the Hill. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play against other people during the review process because there was nobody in the servers. That’s definitely a shame because the multiplayer is a significant part of the game. Still, you can always play against friends locally or bots, which isn’t the best option, but it definitely scratches that itch.
In conclusion, Gears of War 2 is an enjoyable and satisfying third-person cover shooter that represents an improvement over its predecessor in pretty much every department. There are some issues here and there, such as the deserted lobbies, the flat characters and forced voice acting, but for the most part, Gears of War 2 is a rewarding third-person shooter that no Xbox 360 owner should miss.