By Sam Coles:
The Gears of War series has been going for 12 years now, I remember when the first came out and my 13 year old mind could not believe the visuals being shown. Although crude by today’s standards, you can’t deny the visual spectacle that the Xbox 360 was pushing with the original Gears of War. Two years later Epic would follow up with a sequel, and I have to say it’s probably one of the darkest games in the series in terms of subject matter. What stood out to me when the game was announced was the trailer with a voiceover, and one of the lines that sticks in my head to this day is “I have a rendezvous with death”. This line is rather fitting as you see your squad mates and comrades in general dying around you.
Gears of War 2 takes place after the events of the first, where it turns out their attempt to wipe out the Locust Horde was unsuccessful as the light mass bomb only killed a sizeable chunk. The leader of the Locust Queen Mira reveals herself along with her chainsaw wield general, who is more agile and flexible compared to the hulking behemoth that was General Raam. It turns out that the Locust are kidnapping humans, processing them and torturing them, this part of the story is very grim and dark as you see people wasting away or ending it all due to the sadistic acts that the Locust conduct. The story is really good, but leaves me feeling a bit cold due to some the dark moments compared to the first game due to the subject matter.
Gameplay has been tweaked compared to the first, I feel that Epic Games got a real feel for the gunplay in Gears of War 2 as everything feels snappy and fluid compared to the first where it felt stiff. They added a few new weapons such as the Grinder Minigun, Boomshield and the Gorgon Pistol which fires three bullets with each use. Squad commands are now gone, but to be honest I never used them in the original games as my A.I teammates would never listen to me.
This was also the introduction of Horde Mode, where you face 50 waves of Locust as it climbs in difficulty. This was a period where all games were either trying to copy four player co-op like Left 4 Dead, imitate Modern Warfare and of course the Horde Mode in Gears of War. It’s not a bad mode, however it does start to get a tad repetitive and boring after a while.
The only real issues I had with the gameplay is that A.I squad mates would run in with the tactics of a suicide bomber and be in a downed state, that is something they did not fix with the first game. The other issue is the camera when you sprint, it is like someone who is drunk behind you filming who has kneecaps made of elastic, where it is almost headache inducing when it bobs up, down and side to side.
Presentation is still superb considering the game came out a decade ago it still holds up in the visual deparement, even the character models look pretty good still. What I like about the visuals in this game are the Locust structures, there is a gothic like look to them similar to Warhammer 40k, which Gears borrows from heavily. The only really issue I had was performance, this was 2008 and games were shooting for good graphics (at the time) and unfortunately sacrificed framerate, Gears of War 2 is no exception and the game stutters like a bicycle rear derailleur that hasn’t be indexed correctly in certain parts of the game.
Gears of War 2 is still a great game to play a decade after its release, it does have framerate problems and questionable friendly A.I but it has a dark and interesting story coupled with intense and gory gameplay. You can pick this game for insanely cheap these days, I see it going for 50p in a lot shops and if you own an Xbox One it is playable on that via backwards capability and is also Xbox One X Enhanced.