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Gears of War 2 Review

Gears of War 2 by Epic Games is the sequel to the gritty, third-person action shooter known as Gears of War. The player is once again placed in control of COG soldier Marcus Fenix as the war for human survival against the Locust horde continues.

Much fun was had across the entirety of the single player campaign, both in solo play and in two-player cooperative mode. As with the original, I find that the gameplay being centered largely on various forms of cover produces a unique atmosphere and play style. Methods like staying close up to walls, peeking out to take shots, and even just blind-firing from cover feel like much smarter warfare. Teamwork among squad members is heavily emphasized in Gears of War 2, a facet nowhere more obviously observed than in the fact that downed team members may be revived by teammates. The second game isn’t just full of the old stuff though; a few fresh quirks have been added, like sticking grenades to surfaces as traps (or even to enemies), picking up downed enemies as shields, and a handful of new weapons. The AI should be mentioned though: in battle, they fight with reasonable skill and sense of strategy. However, when you are down, the willingness and ability of teammates to navigate their way to you and revive you is hit-and-miss, to say the least, unless you are within a couple of yards to begin with. Also, these methods of battle come with some awkwardness, as transitions between states, like running and getting into and out of cover, do not feel smooth, and the player always has to wait for an animation before he starts something else. This problem is especially noticeable since a single button is used for dive, run, get into cover, dive out of cover, jump over cover, run quickly to another cover, crawl quickly, and pick up a meatshield, depending on context. Ouch.

The story elements were not by any means the best I’ve seen, but they were more than adequate. There was well more emotional content in the second installment than in the first, and with the excellent music composed by Steve Jablonsky, they managed to pull it off without seeming too out of place. There are a few of these moments that come off a smidge awkwardly, but I don’t worry too much about that, because I don’t think that’s what most players were coming for to begin with.

Before the recent update on March 24th, the multiplayer portion was… dubious. You could never quite tell when it would be fun or not. Matches were often marred by exploits, inconsistencies and lag, and the annoying habit of players to leave as soon as the game started, or shortly thereafter. However, the update is an enormous help to the playability of the online game, and is much appreciated. Lag is heavily reduced, and bots will join if a player drops, among other nice fixes and additions. But how is the gameplay itself? Generally solid. There are a number of interesting gametypes to satisfy your particular preferences, and it is filled with action similar to the campaign, though that control hurdle still waits to bushwhack you at the worst moment. Horde, in which players team up to survive waves of Locust increasing in difficulty, is among the best of the set. It focuses on what Gears of War 2 is the best at: cooperative teamwork and killing stuff.

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