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Jeremy Jastrzab
01 Oct, 2008

Gears of War 2 Preview

360 Preview | Hands-on with the first act.
Epic’s Gears of War was one of the major success stories not only for the Xbox 360 but for the HD generation in general. Upon the time of its release, it was easily the best looking console game on many levels and only a few games have managed to come close since. Epic combined these blockbuster visuals with intense gameplay and a brutal multiplayer experience that is still among the most played on Xbox Live. Two years later, and after a surprisingly good Unreal Tournament 3 port, Epic return to the Xbox 360 with the inevitable follow-up to their runaway hit. Recently, we had a chance to play through the entire first act.

Even though some corners have been clamouring for a prequel, Gears of War 2 picks up right after the end of the original. The forces of Earth have combined to fight against the extinction of the human race at hands of an alien enemy known as the Locust. Team Delta, comprising of Marcus Fenix and his partner Dom Santiago, have just finished off a Locust General and helped with the mass bombing of their troops and are now preparing to defend against what seems a desperate assault. For the most part, the original (and probably the sequel) followed a rather standard meat-head plot. However, the sequel has us fascinated by a story that’s playing on just which side has the upper hand, not to mention undertones of Robotech (for those that are old enough).

The story was never the major factor driving Gears of War. While it was marginally better then a pure vehicle taking you from point to point, in reality, it was the action in between sequences that kept the game going. It’s was easily one of the best implementations of stop-and-pop shooting that has since been seen a fair bit more then before. However, while it was incredibly visceral and intense, there were a few discrepancies that bothered more than a few.

Locust burn well.

Locust burn well.
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For better or worse, Gears of War 2 plays essentially the same as the original. The overall controls seem to have remained unchanged, though there are a few new and improved animations, especially concerning finishing moves. However, the design through out the first act was sharp enough so that there were very few moments that really exposed their weaknesses. That is, unless you did something rash like rush out too quickly. Admittedly, it remains to be seen whether this holds through out the campaign and those who didn’t like them in the first place probably won’t change their minds.

One area that was a definite improvement was that of the friendly AI. In co-op, Gears of War was quite enjoyable, but when you were on your own, the friendly AI was quite pathetic. Through out the first act, it was very noticeable that you are now accompanied by trained and battle-hardened soldiers. Obviously, there were still instances that required you to the bulk of the Rambo work (lest you end up at the restart screen), but it definitely did a lot to improve the atmosphere of the game. While it did make the game somewhat easier (even on normal difficulty), it certainly beat the frustration associated with needing to revive your stupid allies while fighting off massive hordes on your own.

The better AI complimented with what seemed to be a better thought out level design. You’ve still got your choice of different cover implements, but at the same time, you were rarely exposed and you still had a minor element of choice in paths. Gears of War 2 seemed to do quite a reasonable job of throwing in a mix of set pieces. With the style of play, you can’t do too much else other than trudge from one encounter to the next, but it was the nature of the encounters that was impressive. Gears of War 2 we assume will take things to the next level, as the first act covered virtually everything that you would have seen from playing the original.

And this is just the beginning.

And this is just the beginning.
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At one stage we were defending a hospital from what seemed to be a Locust suicide mission, only to be thrown against Reavers and Nemcyst. There was also an exciting on-wheels segment that involved several Brumacks and a Corpser. Later on, you got to take on a Brumack with a little less fire power. Right at the end, we were introduced to a new enemy who looks like the game’s replacement for General Ram, and it looks like it's been inspired a bit by the Predator. Gears of War really does pick up just where the original left off.

One area of Gears of War 2 that will definitely not disappoint is in the visuals. Gears of War still looks fantastic two years after its release and is probably the best example of the grossly overused Unreal III engine. One issue with the original was that even though it fit in, the dull brown tones got a depressing after a while. As trivial as it may sound, the colour added to Gears of War 2 make a very appreciable difference to quality and atmosphere. It seems that once again, Gears will set the graphical standard for this holiday season. Not to mention, the game sounded quite hectic as well.

Gears of War 2 isn’t going to break any new ground or win over those who couldn’t get around the control scheme in the first place. However, it does make a couple of necessary improvements both aesthetically and in terms of gameplay and it sticks what it does well. That is, providing a visceral visual blockbuster with intense edge-of-the-seat action and that’s before anyone has touched the tweaked multiplayer. If the first act is anything to go by, we’re all in for one heck of a ride.
Overall:
Gears of War 2 looks to pick up exactly where the original left and provide one heck of a blockbuster ride.

Related Gears of War 2 Content

Gears of War 2 DLC going cheap
13 Oct, 2010 Another massive bargain for Xbox Live.
Xbox Avatars getting Gears of War armour
26 Jul, 2009 Finally a chance to look like Marcus Fenix.
Gears of War 2: Dark Corners DLC screens
22 Jul, 2009 Not as dark as you might think.
33 Comments
5 years ago
Sometimes I feel like the only person on Earth who thought Gears of War was a bland snore-fest.

GoW2 being essentially the same puts it way, way off my radar.
5 years ago
you aren't, i don't like it either.
5 years ago
I wonder if the PC will get this... in two years time.
5 years ago
I didn't fall in love with the original Gears either. It got pretty repetitive after awhile, and I had to force myself to finish the game, but I'm still looking forward to the sequel, something needs to give me an excuse to keep my 360, and for now this is it. Hopefully the campaign is a lot longer than the original Gears, as I breezed through it without any real challenge.
5 years ago
I've only ever played it 2 player co-op and It was awesome. I don't intend to play 2 any diffrently.
5 years ago
I'm so excited. And I just can't hide it! I know I know I know and I think I like it!
5 years ago
Gears was an awesome, awesome game. Seriously i dont know whats wrong with the people who didnt like it. You probably didnt expereince the multiplayer, probably the best online experience on 360 so far. So simple yet so fun
5 years ago
I've been intentionally trying not to get too hyped for this one, but with the influx of new articles, and a steadily approaching release date, I genuninely can't wait for this one now.
5 years ago
I can understand those who didn't care for Gears, but I thought it was very good for what it was, and exceptionally gorgeous, too.

Very excited for Gears 2, hopefully it can add a bit more in the way of variety to the set-pieces and deliver a story that I actually care about.

Or indeed a story at all.
5 years ago
Gears was essentially brain dead in the story department but I absolutely loved the game play and the visuals still look stunning to me. I'm excited.
5 years ago
Blink wrote
Gears was an awesome, awesome game. Seriously i dont know whats wrong with the people who didnt like it.
Everything was brown and the A button did everything. After 5 minutes of not seeing what the hell I was shooting at due to the lack of colours I dropped out of our co-op and played some more Galaxy.
5 years ago
Playing gears 1 solo was pretty boring, but co-op worked well and I'm guessing it will be the same this time round. If you have a mate to play with pick it up otherwise you may be disappointed.

There are so many other games coming out this Christmas season, so I probably won't pick it up until probably the mid-year sales next year.
5 years ago
Nothing is wrong with people who didn't like it.

Gears is ok, but its very reptitive and while the visuals are nice, its bland colour doesn't help it.

I enjoy the game for what it is and think the controls are nice, but I won't be buying Gears 2, well not straight away at least.
5 years ago
EatChildren wrote
Sometimes I feel like the only person on Earth who thought Gears of War was a bland snore-fest.
You're not.

Granted I came late to the party and didn't have anyone to play co-op with. Single player grew dull *very* quickly.
5 years ago
I will pick it up but not straight away I reckon as its due a day after resistance 2. I didnt mind the first one looked pretty good but as everyone has said the colours left a little to be desired. If GOW2 looks like UT3 does ill be happy as UT3 used alot more colour.
5 years ago
Pretty sad that Gears 2 is the only real headliner exclusive that MS has at the moment (ok, maybe Fable 2 but that would really make me yawn). Gears 1 was so linear it felt like a train ride (and the end act was).

More colour would definitely be a plus though.

If I still had a 360 that worked it might be worth a rent.

I'd put money on Gametrailers getting a few handouts from M$ to artificially inflate the score !!
5 years ago
Wow, alot of hate in this thread. I guess i miss all the faults you point out. The online gameplay was extremely addictive, with a decent team of regulars you play with/run in to.

I found the single player/co-op gameplay to be addictive, challenging and well-structured. Plus when you get a mate to play with, its great.
5 years ago
Wow at the gears hate. My favourite game of all time. I finished 4 times by myself 3 times with Co-op and spent countless hours with Slapshakle and Jim online.

Gears is the only game that made me feel like a hardcore gamer.

Everytime I read these threads it makes me wanna play it.
5 years ago
Call me ignorant but when I play games I honestly don't have the patience or energy to bother with a story. Less story means less headache and more integration of my own imagination into the game...(imagine things how you like them in games, its fun icon_biggrin.gif). So while it might be a boring old repetitive shooter for some, I reckon simplicity is sometimes a good way to go.
5 years ago
Im in the same boat as Dane Oss. And too all you guys complaining about a lack of colour,

This is a gritty story of a world being destroyed by strange monsters that come out of the ground terrorise people, and you are an Ex-con going aroudn chainsawing and blowing up people. It doesnt exactly make for all the colours of the rainbow. The colour scheme adds to the dark, gritty feel of the game and it looks absolutely stunning
5 years ago
jomonjin wrote
Granted I came late to the party and didn't have anyone to play co-op with. Single player grew dull *very* quickly.
You came late to the party? I still have yet to play it for than 5 minutes after EB screwed me around when I bought it from them (first they gave me a preowned disc when I bought a new game and then gave a new disc in worse condition han the preowned one) and I haven't bought a new copy since then.
5 years ago
Blink wrote
Gears was an awesome, awesome game. Seriously i dont know whats wrong with the people who didnt like it. You probably didnt expereince the multiplayer, probably the best online experience on 360 so far. So simple yet so fun
Gears, along with Halo, are basically the gaming equivalent of a Michael Bay film; a big budget shiny Hollywood blockbuster that has lots of things blowing up but not a lot of depth.

Much like those types of films, some people enjoy them more than others. I had my fun with Gears, enough to finish it, but once it was over that was that. Every level played basically the same, and for me personally there was nothing to make me think “Wow! I can’t wait to find out what happens next!”
5 years ago
EatChildren wrote
Blink wrote
Gears was an awesome, awesome game. Seriously i dont know whats wrong with the people who didnt like it. You probably didnt expereince the multiplayer, probably the best online experience on 360 so far. So simple yet so fun
Gears, along with Halo, are basically the gaming equivalent of a Michael Bay film; a big budget shiny Hollywood blockbuster that has lots of things blowing up but not a lot of depth.
<- Owns thr transformers DVD.

HELL YEAH!

I mean depth is all well and good, but sometimes you just want to shoot people in the face and watch shit blow up.
5 years ago
Blink wrote
Im in the same boat as Dane Oss. And too all you guys complaining about a lack of colour,

This is a gritty story of a world being destroyed by strange monsters that come out of the ground terrorise people, and you are an Ex-con going aroudn chainsawing and blowing up people. It doesnt exactly make for all the colours of the rainbow. The colour scheme adds to the dark, gritty feel of the game and it looks absolutely stunning
But when it completely ruins the game play for me, in that the game becomes me shooting randomly and stains on walls because I don't know that that's what it is, then the graphics are failing. I'm not saying that it has to be incredibly colourful, but if it looked like Bioshock or Resident Evil 4, games that I've played and loved, then it might have been better. How ever it didn't and to me it was unplayable and this seems to be a sad trend for games at the moment, everything has to be in sepia tone or it's considered "kiddy" by the "hardcore" Xbox and PS3 owners who seem to reject anything creative.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  7/11/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2008

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