Top positive review
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Very solid gameplay; story could have used a little more refining + better integration
on November 8, 2008
To start off, I played the first Gears for the campaign/co-op campaign. And I purchased this game for the same reason, so if you're looking to know more about multiplayer gameplay, check out another review. That said, this game plays very well, very much like a thrill ride for the most part. Story can use a lot more refining and better integration. This gets a 5-star in its own right. But Halo 3 and BioShock are still better games overall than GoW 2.
This game still plays like the first Gears, except with a wider array of weapons and features (ie, chainsaw battles, different modes of executing a downed enemy). This is a third person shooter, for those who have not played the first one. And also, expect a lot of blood and violence, so if you are parents considering this game for your children, this serves as fair warning.
The campaign takes longer to beat this time around (10-20h I think). The graphics are very beautiful and realistic, and a lot more 'vibrant'. The first Gears was in general a very dark and gloomy game. You see a lot more color in this one. Co-op campaign gameplay continues to be addictive and I think a strength in this game. It is still as immersive an experience for all players involved as the first Gears was.
Further, the creators definitely outdid themselves in design of the levels. You should expect to be pleasantly surprised with every single level that comes up. While you can clearly expect to see yourself running around in the streets battling waves after waves of Locust, you will also see another order of magnitude of fighting, with sometimes even as many as 80-100 Locust rushing through your field of view. To emphasize the creativity of the creators, there was also, at various points later in the game (spoiler warning), a section where you had to traverse a pitch-black tunnel to safely escort a vehicle across, and even a level where your squad somehow ends up inside one of the Locust beasts and had to fight your way out...
Overall, this game has been quite an experience. It deserves an A+ and Game of the Year awards.
Given that this game promised to have more leads on the storyline of the series than the first one, it does a better job. A lot of the early story is centered around Dom and him trying to find his wife, amidst all the fighting. The voice acting is compelling for the most part, and you can tell a lot more easily that it's a dark time for humanity on this fictional planet. In the first Gears, playing through the story was mostly humorous because of the way all the guys were joking around in between fight scenes and the light talk that went on. In this Gears, those dialogues are still present, but with a lot more of a sense of urgency mixed in here and there. And cutscenes are well made. The script is definitely that of a cheesy scifi as some of my buddies like to call it.
Finally, instead of COG tags for collection, we have bits and pieces of 'collectibles' like newspaper clippings, ads, so on and so forth that in some cases contribute to the backstory a little bit, kind of like the way those terminals worked in Halo 3. All of these, when found, are put in some scrapbook that's accessible from the Main Menu, and arranged in a more or less logical order.
The reason the story only gets a B+: if you think about games like BioShock and Mass Effect and the Halo series with their very immersive storylines, GoW 2 is still not quite there. But it is closer to that state now than it was previously.
I won't reveal any more in this part, but definitely expect a lot more of a plot that serves as a backdrop to all the fighting that's going on. Epic Games did a good job of piquing your interest and making you want to learn more.
The characters come across a lot more human in this one. I have mentioned that the mood in this game comes across with a lot more of a sense of urgency to beat the Locust. As you play the game, you begin to feel more and more of a connection with each of the characters and in some cases, almost have to just stop playing when certain characters die... Let's leave it at that.
All that said, the game needs a better scriptwriter if it is to convey a stronger storyline.
With the first game, I recall beating it my first time around with a friend on Hardcore, and then on Insane, and then going around and helping each of my roommates and a good number of friends beat the game on both difficulty settings. The same will probably hold for this game. I think it's a thrilling enough of a ride that I wouldn't mind going over it over and over and over...
To sum up, this game is definitely worth the $60.
PROS: This is all about gameplay and the feel of the game. Even on top of all the additional features and improvements, it is still undoubtedly Gears of War. The controls remain very intuitive and easy to learn. It's easily one of the best 3rd person shooters out there, in my opinion.
CONS: I think storyline could have been a lot deeper. I guess they are saving this for Gears of War 3. Violence may be a little too much for the unprepared. Right now, this is all I can think of.
FINAL VERDICT: A. This is a very well-made game. I have the tendency to buy games and sell them back when I'm done. But I think GoW 2 will probably be a mainstay in my library, just as GoW was. For that, plus all the +'s I have mentioned, I think this game deserves an awesome grade. Can I hear Game of the Year?