Gears of War 2 Review (Xbox360)

When Cliff Blezsinski said the sequel to what is arguably one of the best games of this generation of consoles is going to be "bigger, better and more badass," many of us thought he was just flexing the Gears of War hype muscle yet again. And maybe he was. However, when a developer makes such a statement - especially when you're already in the spotlight and your next game is going to sell millions of copies and fans hang on your every word - you better be bloody right.

If the game were to be in any way, "smaller, a bit worse and slight less badass" than the first, then you've got a massive problem on your hand that no amount of PR spin and hype could solve: basically, you would have blown it big time. No one would take anything you say seriously again. Look at Lionhead's Peter Molyneux: his claims over the years that his games would be the best thing since sliced bread has been met with jeers and dissent from the baying crown. Only recently has he truly delivered on a promise with the outstanding, game of the year candidate, Fable II.

The Gorgon Pistol, up close and personal
A new finishing move sees you smashing your opponents face in. Nice.

Epic head Cliff Blezsinski's Gears of War 2 is, simply, superb. If ever such a crude adage as "bigger, better and more badass" could be applied to a videogaming experience, Gears of War 2 is the one. Wave after wave of enemies with attack patterns as varied as the level design from which they emerge with you in the center mouth ever-so-slightly open, partly in awe of the graphical detail before your eyes, and partly because you so sucked in the only muscles that are taught are your fingers clutching the controller.

Marcus Fenix moves from cover to cover exactly as he did the first time round. Epic's excellent peek-a-boo cover system wasn't broke and didn't need fixing. The difference this time however, is that many cover points are angled, and for good reason. The enemy now attacks you from all sides, meaning that simply setting your aim dead ahead won't be enough to deal with the onrushing onslaught of Locust as you'll be getting hit from the sides too so you've now got to prioritise. To add a nice little twist to the mix, you have Retches and new exploding, oversized insects Tickers who scuttle behind your cover forcing you to get out in the open. Gears of War just got tactical.

Marcus Fenix using the shield from a Mauler Boomer as cover.
If you think they're tough when they're airborne, wait until they land!

Tickers aren't the only new enemy you face, there are Reavers: Flying, eight-legged, rocket-launching, spider-like creatures who have a harness and a Locust rider. Rockworms who, with their impenetrable shell, can provide cover for you as you advance on the enemy, only don't get too close to its mouth... A favourite of ours is the Kantus. This new, taller, robed Locust is agile and carries a Gorgon Pistol - a new, heavy-hitting firearm that fires short bursts of bullets and its power is off-set by a slow reload time. He stands and orchestrates the advancing Grenadiers and Drones by standing with his arms aloft and screaming. Nothing is more satisfying that taking his head off as his mouth is wide open.

The three new enemies listed above are just a fraction of the fresh additions Epic has added in Gears 2. And as you might have read: there are new weapons too, lots of new weapons. So as not to turn this review into an itemisation exercise we'll simply say that each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses as you'd expect. There's always a compromise that you have to undertake. However, we found that through most of the campaign we stuck to our trusty Lancer and Sniper Rifle, not because we didn't like the new weapons, but simply because they are so balanced and complement each other excellently.

Another new addition is the collectables for your War Journal. Instead of just COG tags lying around the game map, there are now up to 41 different collectable items from newspaper clippings, to journal entries, all giving the game's story more depth and substance. So after you've completed a session, you can go back to the main menu, open your Journal and see what you've read through, what you've picked up and also see what you've missed. Nothing revolutionary here but again, an addition that make the game a more satisfying, engaging experience rather than the mindless shooter so many people who haven't played the franchise think it is.

Yes, the game looks this good!
Chainsaw dueling. Just repeatedly press 'B' in order to come out on top.

Speaking of story, this is something the can be jarring whilst playing through. Not because the actual plot itself is bad, it's because the dialogue is, at times, cringe-worthy. We know that it's Gears of War: a game featuring over-sized muscle-men with guns as big as cars and a lot of the repertoire between the characters is tongue in cheek, but Gears 2 wants you to take it all seriously and lines like "what do I look like, a f**king Botanist?" really jar your experience and pull you out of the game world that you were having so much fun in. These moments are however in frequent and really won't spoil the game for you. However, they were so noticeable that we thought them worth a mention.

In summation, Gears of War 2 is as good a shooter you've played all year. In fact, it's as good as any shooter you've probably played to date. With its stunning graphical presentation, varied level design and enemies that never get boring are all the ingredients of a game that every Xbox 360 owner should own, and every fan of a shooter should seriously consider investing in. With the excellent Horde gametype - an up to four player game where wave after wave of Locust come at you, ever increasing in numbers - and of course the hours and hours of fun multiplayer has to offer, we simply can't recommend this game highly enough.

Top Gaming Moment: The Abandoned Outpost level: a masterpiece

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By Kres (SI Elite) on Nov 10, 2008
A good one? Well didn't had doubts that it will be.
By Nakerman (SI Veteran Newbie) on Nov 10, 2008
A superb game. One of the best sequels in a long time.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Nov 10, 2008
Following the old ways... Good review.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Nov 10, 2008
Puts MGS4 in its' place. Oh well one day, and in a perfect world, I'd have both consoles and my PC...on a huge HD Televison screen. From there I could play all games, and rule the world. Moohahahah....
By HYDrate (SI Newbie) on Nov 11, 2008
excellent game ...
By lichlord (SI Core) on Nov 11, 2008
looking good can't wait for that XD =-)
By sharpe_ (SI Veteran Newbie) on Nov 14, 2008
LOL. I like the chainsaw duels, just madly hit 'B'. I wonder if that would break it after a while 0.o...
By Revan (SI Elite) on Nov 17, 2008
Awesome, awesome game. It feels like they smoothed out the cover-taking controls. Something that need a little improving. And the graphics! I don't think I've ever seen a game look this good!! Only problem I have with this game, is that now I'm constantly telling everyone to "Eat sh*t and die". :)
By Revan (SI Elite) on Nov 17, 2008
Oh, and I even found out that Megadeth did a Gears themed song for it(they did for Gears 1). It's kinda cool, but also sort of funny. I guess it just goes to show that deep down, rockers are just as nerdy as us! You can check out the song here: tch?v=_ ReNh -xzEBc
By AceofSpades (SI Member) on Nov 25, 2008
I have only one word for Gears of War 2. AWESOME!!!!!!!!
By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 08, 2008
Collosal game! The graphic, storyline, gameplay, sound, AI.... they're just incredible. Way to go, Epic games!
By Jordan_R (I just got here) on Jan 15, 2009
This game is bollocks compared 2 1, oh and herodotus, i saw your comment on lbp and i strongly disagree, it is a fantastic game with endless limits to creation. God is fake, atheists rule.
By Jordan_R (I just got here) on Jan 15, 2009
nobuargaoda u bible basher quit your religion and experience the freedon of not having to fear god
By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Mar 09, 2009
I have two things that you don't have :

1. Faith
2. A self-awareness that never bring religion to the conversation

Semper fidelis
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 09, 2009
Religion is something private, untouchable... Whatever you say will not affect anyones mind. If you don't believe in the existence of a higher force, how do you think life has begun? There is only one chance in gazillion trillions that life created itself, and even then it wouldn't be perfect...
Besides, this is not the place to discuss that, let's talk about games, shall we?
By homebrewer (SI Newbie) on Mar 11, 2009
what more can you ask for in an action game? this is another epic game that i really like. i have to agree, the game is awesome and full of gaming goodness.
By ying12345 (SI Newbie) on Mar 15, 2009
gears of war 2... how to describe it, here goes... immense. END