Gears of War 2 is set to be one of this year’s hottest game releases. Its namesake released two years ago to huge critical acclaim and remains one of the most visually impressive titles on the Xbox 360. With the sequel everything was promised to be improved in every aspect. With all the other impressive new games on the scene this month, Gears of War 2 doesn’t really need to bring its A-Game in order to get decent sales – It could have pulled that off on residual excitement alone. Luckily for us though, Epic Games did not rest on its laurels for the sequel and actually tried to push beyond the hype and existing loyal customers in an attempt to actually expand its fan-base.
As nice as Gears of War was when it originally made the scene, it is no secret that it had its share of problems. Multiplayer, for instance, was an undercooked afterthought. Most notably though, story was sorely missing in the original. With this franchise turning in to a signature series, a lot more effort was invested this time around in order to make it a deeper and richer experience. Though, of course, not perfect, this sequel just may have accomplished it’s much touted goal of being in improvement in all aspects over the original.
Yes, you read that right. Story. The original Gears of War had almost no story to speak of. It almost didn’t even try. Sure, there was story elements hidden in the intro-video, in the manual, on the game case, and in novels, but in the actual gameplay there was virtually none. Character motivations and plot developments were previously a joke. This time around is certainly different. Each character stands out a bit more with individual personality. You get a better idea of what is going on and why you’re involved. You get the sense that there are things going on outside of the space between trigger and barrel. You even get a little more insight in to the antagonists. It goes much further towards making this game the complete experience and a fiction in which once could actually find themselves interested. Of course we still get that cheese ball machismo dialog peppered throughout but there is more to it this time, even going so far as to include subtext if you can believe it.
Many of the games in the past two years have been criticized from being too desaturated with respect to colour palette, and the whole grey on grey post-apocalyptic war torn aesthetic had gotten homogenous. Gears of War was seen to many as being a major offender but Gears of War 2 really does make much better use of colour and contrast. Cinematic moments are much more artfully composed with dynamic orchestration. Environments are a lot lusher now with lighting and texture giving each space some personality. Lighting has really been improved with this sequel. If you thought the original was visually monotonous you shouldn’t ignore this sequel which makes a point of addressing this problem.
The audio is also improved but not perfect. There are still some issues of sounds being misleading, sounding like they are closer than they are with players often being able to hear things they shouldn’t be able to or not hearing things they probably should. While the audio isn’t particularly problematic and it’s definitely improved from the original, it could still use some work to make it more precise. The actual sounds are very well done though. The sound effects are very visceral and well articulated which goes a long way towards immersion. The soundtrack too has seen a significant upgrade from Steve Jablonsky and performed by the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The presentation of Gears of War 2 from visuals to audio is really exemplary and sets the bar high – even with many titles struggling to catch up to the original game’s level of polish.
There aren’t too many surprises with Gears of War 2 gameplay. It’s a third-person arcade style shooter, fairly balanced for both casual and obsessive players with a macho stylization (read: tree trunk necks and arms to match). Gameplay is fast and action-oriented yet tactics help as taking cover and teamwork go a long way towards success. Multiplayer is less of an afterthought now too and seems much more refined. It seems built for lasting multiplayer appeal addressing many of the problems people had with the original. This time fans may stick around longer with the multiplayer having a more fleshed out and refined experience with fewer issues to complain about. You still can’t jump.
If you liked Gears of War you’ll probably love Gears of War 2. It takes the original and expands it. They said that’s what they were going for here and they pulled it off. It’s everything a good sequel should be. It is bigger and better in every respect. Of course the game is not for everyone (particularly not those who faint at the sight of blood) but if you had even a passing interest in the original you owe it to yourself to give this one a look – they’re likely to capture some new fans and appease lose ones with all the enhancements. It seems like Microsoft Game Studios and Epic games are putting their all in to this. The Toronto launch event was legendary, being held in Lower Bay Subway Station of all places. They certainly are making a big deal out of this game and it seems like they have good reason to. There are no paradigm shifts in the game but if that’s what you were expecting, you’re looking in the wrong place – this is a sequel remember. For better or worse, this is Gears of War with everything turned up a level or two and will soon be a ubiquitous title in all your friends’ game library.
We’re holding a contest on Ohmpage for a numbered limited edition Gears of War print from X08 of artwork by Canada’s own Jeff ‘Sinnix’ Jenkins from 360Prophecy .com. There were only 150 printed and this one is signed by Sinnix (The artist of this illustration), Clifford Bleszinski (Gears of War 2 Design Director) and Lee Perry (Gears of War 2 Senior Gameplay Designer). We’ll even throw in some other surprise Gears of War 2 swag to sweeten the deal.
This is where you’re wondering how you could win this stuff. Well it’s pretty simple. Since we’re giving you some Gears of War 2 art we want to see some of your own art. Show us a drawing, diorama, sculpture, or any other artwork you have themed on Gears of War 2. We’ll pick out one of the entries to receive this stuff. Caveats are that we’ll only ship to a Canadian address. Multiple entries are allowed but within reason. Bonus points for including ‘ohmpage.ca‘ visible somewhere in your entry too. There may (or may not) be a consolation prize for the first runner-up too. Please submit your art to email@example.com soon for consideration. Good luck!