Gears of War 2’s biggest surprises

We are the bad guys. Or are we?

Two months ago, we published a feature with a rather provocative headline:Why you’re the bad guy in Gears of War. We labeled humanity a bunch of “planet-raping colonials” and the COG an “oppressive, right-wing regime” willing to wipe out “90% of the planet.”

Many of you vehemently disagreed with our thesis in the comments, but after finishing the Gears of War 2 storyline, we’re feeling smugly justified. In the intro sequence alone, we learn that “humanity brought war upon itself” and that the current conflict “began, as always, with desire for power... a need to conquer, a desire to consume.” The bitter voice of the Locust Queen continues, predicting that mankind’s “misguided attempts at retaliation,” including the use of “weapons of mass destruction,” shall lead to its “own extinction.”

So, who’s right and who’s wrong? Who’s good and who’s bad? The sequel doesn’t provide a complete answer - and we wouldn’t want to spoil that answer even if it did. By the end, however, you may trust your own race a little less and sympathize with the Locust race a little more.

Death is cruel... and creative

Remember when we mentioned that Marcus and company could literally drown in their enemies’ blood? Yeah, we still aren’t joking... the violence in Gears of War 2 is seriously, and sometimes bizarrely, over the top.

In fact, we started making a note every time our protagonist died in a strange and unexpected manner. By game’s end, we had a list of over 15 freakish fatalities, including execution by ice, fire, acid, toxic gas, worm teeth, laser beam, missile, tentacle, gravity, car crash, impalement and something new known as “razorhail.” That’s right – darkness may have killed you in Gears of War, but weather can kill you in Gears of War 2.

You might cry

Sympathy is not the only emotion you will feel during Gears of War 2 – unless your heart has been hardened by one too many Xbox Live public matches, you will experience the pangs of loss, sadness and regret as well. Characters make mistakes. Characters argue. Characters are hurt. Characters die.

The first game was definitely dramatic, but the second plays these tragic turning points to the hilt. Cutscenes are longer and subtler in general, directed with more passion and confidence. A moment near the end, depicting a soldier’s idealized vision of a painful reality, is almost poetic... at least for a videogame.

Choices matter

Left path or right path? Right path or left path? Does the decision really matter? While we appreciated the alternate routes in Gears of War’s campaign, they usually didn’t have much impact. You’d have roughly the same experience as your co-op partner on the other side.

In Gears of War 2, however, the paths can feel drastically different while remaining intrinsically linked. Choose “Laser Bait” and you’ll tiptoe through a gauntlet of deadly beams while the guy who chose “Turret Controls” watches your progress and turns switches on and off at the corresponding intervals. Go for “Stairwell” and you’ll brawl up and down a tower full of monsters; pick “Lift with Troika” and you’ll sit safely on an elevator facing the tower, laying down suppressive cover fire.

The safe selection isn’t always obvious, either. We opted to bait a rockworm by shooting fruit from an empty upper floor... and forced Dom into the dangerous duty of actually shooting Locust from behind that rockworm. Our cowardice came back to haunt us when a surprise swarm of Tickers invaded our sanctuary and threatened to hijack our supposedly simpler mission.