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The original Gears of War was a huge leap in game design. It was an almost perfect way of controlling a digital avatar in a 3D space while not sacrificing camera control or intensity. The bar has been raised for shooter controls and Gear of War will always be emulated. So how does Epic make an almost perfect shooter better? Well, essentially more of the same. What Gears of War 2 does is try to make the context of those tight controls feel more epic and more literary. Check on the former, not so much on the latter. Cogs vs Locust: Let the cubes of meat fly.
What I liked:
Everything stuck to the wall…:
What took me so long to review this game? I just never found a need to beat the single player. Hoard mode is why. To the game’s credit, the 6 months of co-operative wave destruction of online Hoard mode was enough to warrant the purchase of this game. The inclusion of a multitude of multiplayer options, including competitive, co-operative story and co-operative multiplayer is an amazing feat in itself. This is just one example of the unbelievable amount of creativity there is to the game overall. There are so many great ideas fleshed out in the single player campaign in terms of gameplay and environments. I also found large variations in the enemies and it helped that, at the least, the AI was as good as the first game. The variety in the game never allows players to be bored and makes the already solid gameplay feel fresh. While I do admit I was reminded of Bioshock, Resident Evil 4, and Halo 2 throughout various parts of the game, it never elicited the usual “ZOMG RIP OFF!!!11!” commentary from me. I don’t know how the game transcended even my cynicism, but I have a hunch that I was just having too much fun to care. Overall, the game is a big boiling pot of amazing ideas that were cleverly organized throughout the campaign especially, which kept me engaged.
(Point A à FUN! à Point B) X :
I get bored very easily with games. I need quick gratification at all times (eg. Peggle, Call of Duty multiplayer, Smash Brothers) or I just move on to the next game. This is why I was pleasantly surprised by my many hours plastered to the campaign, never getting bored or feeling under whelmed. It was a perfect balance to me, and the principle reason for this was the game’s pacing. While being incredibly linear, the direction was dictated very cleverly through the environmental changes. Aside from the odd ‘Y’ prompts that help you find a switch or lever, I was happy that the game seldom walked me through every step. Too often in non-open world games do I get taken out of the game world by watching an arrow at the top of a screen or a mini-map. Gears of War 2’s effective pacing eliminates any tedious bread crumb trails. The objectives are very quick, always rewarding, and kept you immersed. Overall, the clever, dynamic game world design ultimately makes the game more fun to play. And what else can you really ask for in a game?
What I didn’t like:
“A Sci-Fi Channel original movie…..”:
Creativity at Epic studios seemed to end in the gameplay department. The story is ultimately unsatisfying and poorly told. While the gameplay is great at giving a contextual narrative, the literary narrative is non-sequitor and inconsistent. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that Dom’s story and characterization was shallow and seems so out of place with his character that it doesn’t leave a meaningful impact with the player. Marcus’ character arch especially goes nowhere and contributes to the shallow Cops and Robbers tale, lacking any morality or thematic depth. The world has a large potential for interesting morally-driven science fiction, but I fear the third instalments will not reconcile the step back this game was in terms of story. I’m sure there is better fan fiction out there for this universe. Anyone??!?!
Gears of War 2 did not disappoint. It was FUN! Not very cerebral, not overly pretentious, just plain fun. My eventual appreciation for the game is, however, an incredible surprise to me. While usually being a story snob towards gaming especially, I have been reminded that maybe not every triple A title needs a to tell a literary classic to be enjoyable, just most of them. The only inclusion that can exempt a game from needing a deep story is, as in Gears of War 2’s case, tight gameplay. Unlike books, or movies, games have a 2nd dimension of interaction; control of the character. Gears of War 2 does this 2nd dimension so well that, in a way, the gameplay itself is telling a poignant story to the player. Games have the potential to be more effective story tellers than movies, but as it stand right now, that transcendence has not happened yet. Story-telling is one of the oldest traditions in human existence, and thanks to interactive media, it is still evolving. Fortunately for Gears of War 2, the gameplay language trumped the games literary shortcomings, and I recommend it to anyone who wants a fun and rewarding videogame experience. Sounds like reasonable expectations to me.