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Gears of War 2: Most improved sequel ever?

[This is just one part of this week's mammoth Gears 2 coverage. Make sure to hit this link to check out our experiences with the brand new Horde multiplayer mode, and here for our exclusive interview with Cliff Bleszinski.]

Gears Of War 2 was always going to be a tricky prospect for Epic. Just how do you approach the follow-up to such an all-conquering media behemoth? Do you take the 'more of the same, but better?' angle, safe in the knowledge that the original was good enough to coast by on, but risking Zelda-like criticisms of over-familiarity? Or do you throw in new ideas all over the place in an effort to move things forward, but take a chance on alienating your audience?

Thankfully, from what we've played so far - around 80% of Gears 2's first act - it seems that Epic has taken an intelligent and well-judged approach to its biggest ever sequel, straddling a satisfying line between both philosophies. During our play-through, Gears 2 certainly delivered us a comfortable framework that we could drop straight back into, but that framework also served as a foundation for a much more textured and multi-dimensional game all round.

Read on, friends, and find out why Gears Of War 2 might be the most rewarding action sequel we've seen in a long time.


The new weapons add a lot to the gameplay

There's a whole new heavy weapons class in Gears of War 2, and despite only comprising a total of three new death-bringers it brings a whole new dimension to combat. Much like carrying a gun turret in Halo 3, using any of these bad boys will considerably reduce your maneuverability, but the sweet, sweet pay-off comes in the shape of immensely upgraded punishment power.

First up, the Mulcher is essentially a hand-held troika, and as such has the most fitting name imaginable. A few seconds' burst from this thing and you'll reduce your target to a warm, lumpy Locust stew. It's an unbelievably satisfying pay-back weapon when you're fighting on the back foot, and makes you feel like Jesse Ventura in Predator every, single, time you use it. Like all of the heavy weapons, carrying it slows your walking pace to a crawl, but if you can make it to a safe vantage point the Mulcher can become a major tactical boon.

Next, we have the flamethrower, which balances its short range with a wide spread and fast kill-speed. It's maybe not the revelation many were hoping for, but it does add an interesting new 'wade in and mop up' element to Gears combat, which is great when getting unexpectedly caught at close range. Just be careful of the way the flame jet can obscure your view ahead.

And last, and probably representing the most radical change to Gears of War's weapon handling, is the mortar. Holding down the left trigger puts Marcus into a crouched position and sits the firing tube on the ground. From there, holding down the right trigger cranks up a guage measuring the distance the mortar will fire, and letting go releases the payload. At first it's as awkward to use as it sounds. Trial and error is really the only way to learn how to target it effectively.

But after a few practice shots you'll get the feel for it, and at that point it becomes an utterly deadly long-range tool. Remember those hairy times in the first game when a squad of Locust would be followed up by two or three Boomers at the rear? Much less of a problem now. Just grab the mortar, fall back to a safe aiming spot, let rip and tear the hell out of the back row before it even gets into the fight. It also works very well against Brumacks, but we're not going to spoil that one for you.

There's also a new grenade which lets out a lingering cloud of poisonous gas. Its primary use is to tactically limit space on the battlefield, and as such it's going to be an absolutely killer tool in multiplayer.

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36 comments

  • bron1417 - September 29, 2008 5:20 p.m.

    all these things will make for 1 heck of a game...im sold
  • Rattlehead - September 29, 2008 7:25 p.m.

    I'm getting this the day it comes out for sure
  • BrokenThumbs - September 29, 2008 10:05 p.m.

    This game is like the most hardcore version of cowboys and indians. Which is awsome!
  • Defguru7777 - September 29, 2008 10:38 p.m.

    I can't fucking wait for this game! The minute I get it, I'm going to bust some Locust skulls!
  • Nitemarish - September 29, 2008 10:58 p.m.

    I curb stomp the haters
  • infinite doo - September 30, 2008 2:36 a.m.

    i gotta go get my xbox fixed by november or im screwed!!!
  • MacGyver1138 - September 30, 2008 6:43 p.m.

    I really can't wait for this game. I just hope I'm finished with Fable 2 and Fallout 3 by the time this gets here, or I'll have to take some vacation from work.
  • Scott1121 - September 30, 2008 8:06 p.m.

    This game sounds awesome I am getting it as soon as it comes out
  • LordRevan111 - September 30, 2008 9:05 p.m.

    This game has me, i'm gettin it.
  • Kail105 - October 1, 2008 2:26 a.m.

    I hope my new laptop comes in, so I can get this. Looks amazing.
  • birdofprey - October 3, 2008 6:48 a.m.

    Dang, I'm happy to be on GR 21 comments and there isn't any extreme fanboyism
  • ELpork - October 3, 2008 11:26 a.m.

    Really want to play this now.
  • Macshittty - October 3, 2008 12:28 p.m.

    GET IN IVE GOT IT PRE-ORDERED
  • sloppy - October 3, 2008 2:33 p.m.

    You want to sign up through my site http://wantafreegift.webs.com and get a free gift. No cash? that's okay you don't need any! want an ipod, iphone, 360, wii, ps3, psp, ds, all you need to do is to complete 1 offer which can be the Lovefilm DVD free trial or block buster free trial!
  • username80 - October 3, 2008 3:04 p.m.

    i cant wait for this game to come out to bad my xbox fried out four the 5 time i love xbox but that pissing me off
  • Ravenbom - October 3, 2008 9:38 p.m.

    Glad I preordered this. Still, my biggest fear is that it's going to end in a cliffhanger, like so many other games nowadays. Nothing pisses me off more than the lack of resolution when you've worked so hard to get through a game.
  • Bag-Head - October 6, 2008 5:15 p.m.

    dude gears 2 is going to rock i'm definitly going to get this game, im going to have to get 60$, soon.
  • jingneji - October 12, 2008 5:34 a.m.

    im glad i pre-ordered Gears but i shouldve pre-ordered the limited one so i can get the golden lancer code (first thing ill do 1. Story mode Co-op 2.Multiplayer 5vs5!!! 3.HORDE!!!
  • sonuvabish02 - October 19, 2008 11:57 p.m.

    I have to say Gears 2 looks good but its not the most improved sequel. It looks more of a Gears 1.5 more than a sequel, the honor of Most improved sequel must go to Resistance 2. It is leaps and bounds more than the original and RFOM was pretty good. I see Gears 2 and COD:WAW in the same plane in terms of improvements from the last game, no huge change in either game.
  • xanderbetke - November 3, 2008 11:13 a.m.

    Gears of War 2 Soundtrack feat. Devotchka Hi All, Devotchka’s soundtrack for the Gears of War 2 trailer has sparked questions surrounding the indie rock band from Denver, Colorado. Having the same song on the soundtrack for the film “Everything Is Illuminated” etched their name into the entertainment industry. Their distinct sound adds the finishing touch to entertainment industry. To thoroughly check out their song on iTunes follow this link: www.itunes.com/devotchka/howitends Cheers

Showing 1-20 of 36 comments

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