We just got back from our very first REAL glimpse at Gears of War 2. Not a logo, not a screenshot, not a trailer, not a fluffy intro with the developer. This time, we saw the actual game in action; better yet, we witnessed the entire second level from beginning to end. Here's the stuff that's already got our head spinning... both the good and the bad.
Let's start with the good.
1) Gears of War 2 is immediately familiar.
As soon the loading screen faded away, we felt right at home. The soothing voice of Anya was relaying information. The growl of Colonel Hoffman was barking orders. Dom was at Marcus's side. Baird and the Cole Train were talking smack over the earpiece. The story and setting may have changed, but the sense of loving (yet macho!) camaraderie was still well intact.
2) The story is definitely different... and definitely darker
The first game focused almost exclusively on the Delta Squad's mission to detonate a Locust-exterminating bomb. Players got no real sense of what else - and who else - existed in the world. In the sequel, the overall war is brought into better focus. You'll learn about the Locust's plan to sink humanity - literally - one submerged city at a time. You'll join mankind's last stand on Jacinto, a supposedly impenetrable plateau metropolis. You'll meet more of the Stranded, families who were left behind when the aliens attacked and who have now made their way to Jacinto.
3) The scale is EPIC
The war for Earth's survival is not something you read about in the instruction manual or hear about in cut scenes. You can see, hear and feel the colossal battle all around you. In just one scene, you may be surrounded by a dozen of your fellow Cogs, a few dozen more Locust crawling out of the ground, a swarm of alien Reavers and military helicopters buzzing past each other in the sky and a couple of skyscraper-sized mechs stomping towards a handful of angry and equally huge Brumak beasts.
Imagine the war for Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back and you'll have a better idea of the large-scale madness you should expect.
4) The action is cinematic
The action we described in #3 is massive, but Marcus always seems to be at the epicenter. The Reavers? Marcus takes them all down, one by one with a shotgun. The Locust? Marcus is right on top of them, mowing row after row with his rifle. The military mechs? If Marcus isn't riding them, he's protecting them. The Brumaks? Whenever one crashes dramatically into the ground or into a tank, Marcus is on the spot, with a first seat view of the spectacle.
The war is bigger, but it still revolves around you.