#1 - New characters fall flat
With some obvious exceptions (detailed in the preceding 20 “best moments”), we really couldn’t care less about the additional characters introduced in Gears of War 2. The game tries desperately to impress you with Tai’s supposed indestructibility, but showing us his legendary toughness instead of merely telling us about it might have helped. No, escaping a small vehicle fire doesn’t count.
Meanwhile, Dizzy disappears after no more than about two cutscenes and a dozen lines of hillbilly dialogue... and all we can guess about Chairman Prescott is that he has better posture and nicer clothes than everyone else.
Finally, how can we become invested in new characters if they’re always doomed to die? When will the Gears franchise truly surprise us and kill off Dom, Baird, Cole or even Marcus?
#2 - Fighting the Sires
Their introduction is creepy as hell. As the half-formed test tube mutants banged restlessly on their fragile prison walls, we almost imagined we were playing a survival horror game instead of a shooter. What would they do if they broke out? How could we possibly escape so many?
Then they actually did break out, and after the briefest instant of panic, we discovered just how unbelievably easy escape would be. Got a chainsaw? Know how to hold down the “B” button? You’ll be fine. In fact, you might even be a bit bored.
#3 - No Action Research Facility
While on the subject of Sires, how much of a drag is their home, the New Hope Research Facility? We loved the mood, the atmosphere and the mystery; we didn’t care so much for the looooooong lull in action. Proper pacing requires ebbs and flows, obviously, but a few extra rooms of Wretches or Tickers would have been appreciated.
On the other hand, this sequence does build towards flamethrowers and razor hail, so we won’t dread replaying it too much.
#4 - Tanks for nothing
First, you’re welcome for the pun.
Second, did anyone actually enjoy these ice lake sections in Gears of War 2? We found the Centaur tank mission more fun than the Junker mission in the first game, but these tightrope walks should never have left the testing room floor. We didn’t particularly like the timed, trial-and-error maze at the end of Halo 3; we don’t like experiencing two more in the middle of Gears of War 2. Adding new and unwieldy controls to the mix, plus a pair of Reavers, merely guarantees the player’s repeated failure and frustration.
#5 - How long have we been down here?
Remember when we talked about how much we admired the architecture and design of the Locust civilization? Yeah, well, that didn’t mean we wanted to move there. Unfortunately, Delta Squad spends at least a third of the game underground, and the desensitizing darkness makes that third seem like a half or more.
The cruelest part is that, before sinking you into these endless shadows for endless hours, the sequel shows you what kind of vast, bright beauty it’s capable of with the mountain scenery in Act I. Don’t be afraid of the light, Gears of War... your characters can still act depressed and downtrodden in the fresh air and sunshine!