Gears of War 2’s biggest surprises

Gears of War 2’s gameplay is truly diverse

The Kryll section added a welcome bit of variety to all the shooting and covering and active reloading in the first game. Similarly unique sequences crop up all the time in Gears of War 2, breaking the monotony of run-and-gun gameplay with new controls, new rules or new perspectives.

For example... You fly a Reaver, rotating in the saddle to fire turret rounds off the back and unleash rockets from the front. You control a Brumak like King Kong, crushing entire armies and crumbling entire buildings with incredible ease. You navigate a maze of gaseous tunnels on foot, and a network of frozen lakes in a tank. You sneak from computer to computer, searching for a prisoner’s location while avoiding detection by a Locust patrol. You dash from building to building, searching for shelter while avoiding a hurricane of razorhail. You carefully duck and roll past turret spotlights; you cautiously transport a massive bomb, with only one hand free to shoot your pistol.

The Locust are truly diverse

We’ve already described bosses and vehicular creatures at great length, but the regular, rank-and-file Locust deserve special mention as well. Why? Because they’re not so “regular” anymore.

Take the Boomers, who used to scare the bejeezus out of you with nothing more than a rocket launcher. Now they’ve branched into a whole family tree featuring Butchers, who wield Pyramid Head-sized cleavers, and Maulers, who swing maces and hunker defensively behind impenetrable iron shields. Likewise, the annoying Wretches in Gears of War have spawned equally irritating cousins in Gears of War 2 – the Tickers, half clicking cockroach and half living landmine.

Even the ordinary Locust soldier has new powers and abilities. Some carry flamethrowers. Others ride slobbering mounts known as Blood Hounds. Still others – the Kantus – can chant to revive their fallen comrades from near-death. With so much variety, you’ll need to strategize and keep a kill priority in mind at all times.

The chainsaw is truly diverse

The Lancer might be the most iconic weapon in recent gaming history, but in functionality, it was all show and no substance. You chainsawed opponents because the resulting dismemberment was so horrific, hilarious and humiliating; if you were playing for pure skill or strategy, you’d be better off just hitting the melee button.

In Gears of War 2, the chainsaw serves multiple purposes. You can slice Locust open like aluminum cans, of course, but the blade is also necessary for cutting through barriers, solving puzzles, defeating bosses and performing surgery. We’re only half-joking about that last one.

Don’t forget the Lancer duels and back attacks, either. Sure, they look cool, but they also settle nagging issues like “We both hit the B button at the same time, so why did I die?” or “Why does the guy with the shotgun get a chance to turn around before I hack him into pieces?”

Gears of War 2 learns from the best

Gears of War 2 is, above everything else, a Gears of War game. The transition from original to sequel is seamless and natural. The formula, while improved, feels familiar in all the right ways.

During our 11 hours with the campaign mode, though, we were strongly reminded of other games as well. Like BioShock. Like Halo 2. Like The Orange Box. Like God of War. Like King Kong. Like System Shock. We furiously began typing out some of these parallels, and then realized that almost all would spoil the story for you. So, for now, enjoy the tease...