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Gears of War 2 review

AT A GLANCE
  • Refined graphical effects
  • Awesome climactic battles
  • Brilliant revamping of mechanics
  • So big it's bloated
  • Cavern levels go on too long
  • Some weak story points

Like Agent Smith in The Matrix, the truly terrifying baddies from the original have been relegated to chumps in the sequel, forced to attack in swarms lest they be steamrollered by Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne, played here by Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago. It’s a great way of demonstrating just how the war has changed and how the ante has been upped, not just for humanity but for the Gears of War franchise itself. Every fight, from the very first minute of the game onward, is bigger than anything you saw in the original, and the pacing is solid enough that you’ll rarely be doing one thing for so long that you’ll become bored.

So why the bloat? While you’ll rarely be doing one thing for so long that you’ll get bored, environment fatigue sets in now and again. Even when you’re pressing into the latter stages of Act Four’s caverns and Gears kicks into all-out shootout mode, it’s possible Epic have given you too much of a good thing; one wave of Locusts is good, two waves are better; but that tenth wave in those same old caverns, you could have done without. Gears 2 is longer, and bloated, sure, but Gears was shorter and even more artificially bloated. It had fewer good ideas in its five hours than Gears 2 does in its eight. The unnecessary padding is a trait both share, perhaps in equal measure, but the extended length of Gears 2 means there’s more good gaming on the disc, and the girth here means the good gaming is even better than the best bits of Gears of War.

The story too is stronger than the original, and doesn’t lapse into Metal Gear Solid cut-scene-pocalypse to hammer home its point. You’ll already have taken all that claptrap about the narrative being ‘richer’ and ‘emotionally affecting’ with a sumo-sized pinch of salt, but Gears 2 does a much better job with its characters. Baird is more whiny without being annoying, Cole is still a three hundred pound five year-old, and Dom’s story – which occupies a colossal chunk of the plot – is actually handled well, and climaxes in a fashion which, while not ‘emotionally affecting’, is credible and treated delicately by the guns/chainsaws/tanks men at Epic.

Like Gears of War, there are aspects of the story that are poorly explained, and elements which are needlessly labored. You’ll visit locations which are largely irrelevant to the progression of the plot, and have deus ex machina to thank for a number of twists. When the story finally reaches its conclusion, it goes out with a literal, if not a metaphorical, bang. Like the original Gears, the final boss fight is as climactic as reaching the top of Everest only to find McDonalds have opened up a branch on the summit and there’s already an acne-ridden youth waiting for your order.

Gears of War 2 is the better game, but the original looks not nearly so sparkly in 2008’s harsh light. Gears of War was a graphical – if not a gameplay – revolution; Gears 2 is a graphical and a gameplay evolution, but only a minor one in both regards. Epic have done nothing more than exactly what you should have expected of them, which makes Gears 2 a welcome return of an old friend. The game sits right in the middle of the conflict between ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and ‘change or die’. You can hardly be upset by a shooter so strong and superior to its predecessor.

Nov 3, 2008

More Info

Release date: Nov 07 2008 - Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Microsoft
Developed by: Epic Games
Franchise: Gears of War
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
PEGI Rating:
18+

85 comments

  • eee - December 9, 2009 6:13 p.m.

    I am a hardcore halo fan and I also love gears of war but Halo got a 10 and gears of war got a 9 suck it Halo haters
  • mjmont92 - December 7, 2008 9:40 p.m.

    Wow! Wow, wow. This game is everything the first Gears was and more, the graphics look beautiful, the enemies are smarter. The bosses are bigger, badder, and prettier (in a grotesque sort of way). The only drawback is the storyline could use a touch more depth, and the ending should be longer and a little more satisfying. I mean, after saving the entire world, you need a little satisfaction. Amazing game play, decent enough storyline -BIGGEST PROBLEM- is the multiplayer on Xbox live is slow as all hell. 9.5 out of 10
  • HotSht95 - November 29, 2008 6:48 a.m.

    "bloated" hahahahahahahahahahahalololololololollolololololollololologhahhhhahahhahhahahahhahahhahahahhahhahhahahahhhahahahahahaahha
  • MadCowDisease - November 28, 2008 2:29 a.m.

    Bought it based from this review, and I enjoyed it very much. Thanks for the review GR.
  • oreomonkey - November 17, 2008 10:56 p.m.

    GEARS OF WAR SUCKS- COD ROCKS
  • thedemonmar - November 15, 2008 5:33 a.m.

    man this game is going to kick lots of a$$
  • Jbo87 - November 12, 2008 3:35 a.m.

    I can't believe the biggest complaint they had was that the game was too long..... what? My biggest issue was the huge number of needless vehicle sections - the tank, the reavers and the fact that the last half hour or so is riding around on a t-rex wannabee. Just let us run, duck and shoot sh*t, its what made Gears great and I would happily play 8 'bloated' hours of that.
  • HotSht95 - November 10, 2008 12:31 a.m.

    tim lemon i know i can still love its just the fact that they didnt give GoW2 a 10 even though they gave the 1st one a ten which they say its better than the orinial
  • HotSht95 - November 10, 2008 12:26 a.m.

    now that i have and have beaten this game i can safely say a big 10 even in the review you say its a better game i dont get this review at all i got it launch day and have not put it down since story is much longer and more fun horde is the most addicting thing since.......Gears 1 and even multiplayer is better. More weapons, enemys and all along better gameplay and variety this deserves a 10 U guys are out of my circle of trust for video game reviews
  • jokast - November 9, 2008 8:10 a.m.

    THIS GAME LOOK AWESOME, BUT I WIHS TO HAVE A PS3 TO PLAY ALSO RESISTENCE 2 THAT ONE LOOKS GREAT TOO
  • elementaly15loa - November 8, 2008 3:25 p.m.

    i cant play multiplayer because of a firewall being to strict and my game keeps freezing when i play with bots. How can i fix this?
  • Timothy_Lemon - November 7, 2008 8:37 p.m.

    spidey wos did kinda suck. all other reviews i read gave it 5/6 scores. maybe the guy who reviewed it was a major spidey fan. gears 2 is sick would of thought a ten but who really cares, 9 still means you should play it and love it.
  • nazarene - November 7, 2008 12:32 p.m.

    lol, no mutiplayer was mentioned... 9.9!
  • Princeton12 - November 7, 2008 1:24 a.m.

    Resistance vs Gears!
  • HotSht95 - November 7, 2008 12:50 a.m.

    so let me get this straight spider man WOS got an 8 and this only got a 10 so ur sayin this is only 1 point better god even halo got a ten maybe because its not bloated WTF hahahahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahhaahahhahahahahahhahhhahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhahhahahhahahahahahahahahahahahhaahhahaha this is y i dont listen to game reviewers say u guys talk about shit real gamers wouldnt even care about and then how did GoW 1 get a 10 this has a longer story more enemies, guns horde mode more multiplayer modes i know i cant change this review but still y'all should think twice about given GoW2 a 9
  • iESCAPEx - November 6, 2008 9:08 p.m.

    WTF only a 9 ?!?!? it deserves a 10/10
  • MuffinMan - November 5, 2008 9:09 p.m.

    FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MUFFINS!!!!!!!!
  • Defguru7777 - November 5, 2008 1:29 a.m.

    Couple of complaints: 1. Where's the Horde/Multiplayer review. 2. You didn't even bring up Chainsaw Duels. 3. You didn't expand on the vehicle bits. 4. If it's anything like Fallout 3, this should have gotten a 10.
  • Donnagen - November 4, 2008 6 p.m.

    i have been reading a lot of your reviews in other publications! WTF is up with that (eg Fallout 3 in the PS3 magazine) are you owned by one corporation that shares all its reviews?
  • Bant - November 4, 2008 4:29 a.m.

    to*

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