You’ve read the review and you know the game is good. You’ve studied all the screens and you know the game is pretty. You’ve watched all the videos and you know the game is big, loud and gory. When Gears of War 2 releases this Friday, you know exactly what to expect, don’t you?
Not so fast. Like you, we thought we were ready, and yet... when we sat down to play through the sequel a month ago, we were genuinely shocked by the ultimate experience. After so much waiting and after so much research, we were still caught off guard, for many reasons and at many, many moments.
Please note - the following is a list of surprises, not spoilers. The point is to share our excitement, not ruin yours. Rest easy and read on!
Gears of War 2 is even bloodier than you expect
With skin-shredding chainsaws, gut-spraying grenades and the unique ability to unleash flesh-microwaving laser beams from the sky, the first Gears became synonymous with blood. You couldn’t play five seconds without covering your screen in bright red splatter.
While the sequel obviously goes further, the degree of “further” may take your breath away... or make you want to gag. We can’t spoil the circumstances, but at one point in Gears of War 2, the four main characters are soaked – literally from head to toe - in the enemy’s blood. They wade through blood. They can drown in blood. We kid you not.
Gears of War 2 is even gorier than you expect
The quality of the gore is as extreme as the quantity of blood. The first time we aimed a derrick-mounted turret gun at a charging Brumak, we almost had to look away. “Meat cube” technology was in full effect, and the sight of a skyscraper-sized beast being torn apart – bit by individually gooey bit, chunk by individually flying chunk – was not pretty.
The new Mulcher gun deals the same, disgusting deal of damage, but is portable. Watching a tide of Locust run into your fire is like watching a lawnmower cut grass; they don’t die so much as they instantly disintegrate into a million unrecognizable pieces.
Gears of War 2 is even bigger than you expect
No, we don’t mean length (though, if you’re curious, the game took us 11 hours to finish on normal difficulty). We’re talking about sheer size. Remember how huge the spidery Corpser and the trollish Brumak seemed the first time you fought them? In Gears 2, you exterminate those things all over the place, often facing down two, three or more at once. That’s right – the absolutely biggest baddies from the original game are mere routine in the sequel.
The real giants of Gears of War 2 could eat Corpsers and Brumaks for dinner, and still have room for a Berserker dessert. Our favorite is the Leviathan, a water monster so impressively gargantuan that it creates waves without surfacing and can capsize your boat with the flick of just one tree trunk tentacle. Its mouth is large enough to hold a separate battle (hint hint) and staring into its hideous, screen-filling face is disorienting enough to give you vertigo.
Yet even the Leviathan is dwarfed by other creatures in Gears 2 that we’re not allowed to write about yet. Suffice to say, some enemies cannot be contained within the scale of a single level...