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Review – Gears of War 2

posted on July 28th, 2009 by jackson

Gears of War 2 takes place in a grim future where humanity is at war against an unstoppable force of monsters called the Locust. The endless fighting has torn down cities, painted the Earth’s surface a consistent shade of gray and brown, nearly killed off the human race, and made the survivors intolerable douchebags. If the people in Gears of War 2 are the ones who are going to save Earth and restore society, then it honestly might be better if the Locust just win. The game’s writers were apparently content with cookie-cutter characters who are easier to laugh at than sympathize with, at least until a few hours in when their simple personalities simply become annoying. And like too many games of this type, the bad guys are way cooler than than the good guys anyway.

But now on to the actual gameplay, the stuff that’s supposedly the most important part of any videogame. Cliff Bleszinski claims that his goal with Gears 2 was to make the player feel like he’s constantly in the center of a blockbuster action movie. But you don’t need to read his words to realize this. The game is undeniably a lot like a typical action movie. The plot is secondary to the action, the action is primarily choreographed, characters can take massive amounts of punishment before finally dying, only a few people are able to fight off hordes of bad guys and it’s inevitable that the good guys will win.

Gears 2’s rigid script is reminiscent of an old school adventure game. The bad guys always appear at the same place every time and the good guys must always shoot them at same place every time. It’s like an arcade shooter in how you constantly move forward and you only win as long as you just keep your fingers’ reflexes sharp. It’s like an FMV game where the player is supposed to appreciate the video sequences and in-game cinematics rather than worry so much about the complications of the game’s mechanics. It’s like a massive quick time event where a video rolls on the screen and the controller’s buttons trigger scripted events.

To me, Gears 2 is like some sort of bizzaro game from a backwards reality. I don’t particularly like it, but at the same time it’s extremely polished and clearly a lot of effort was put into it. This isn’t some small time game that can be easily overlooked and ignored. But the entire thing just seems shallow and forgettable. Its entire premise of being an action movie videogame seems only slightly worthwhile to me, and its execution is a monotone of mediocrity. I don’t want to call it out as being a bad game, since I generally reserve that term for games that simply do not achieve the designer’s goals or are very poorly made, and Gears 2 certainly lives up to its design. If only the design were something a little bit more interesting.

THE VERDICT

Presentation: 9 out of 10 explosions

Graphics: 10 out of 10 polygons, 1 out of 10 colors

Sound: 9 out of 10 growly voices

Gameplay: 8 out of 10 walls to hide behind

Lasting Appeal: 9 out of 10 bad guys to get shot at by good guys

OVERALL: Gears of War 2 is the kind of game that makes me glad indie games exist

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9 Comments

  1. ECM said on July 28, 2009:

    Wow, an accurate, reasonable, review of Gears of War 2…my heart be still.

  2. Cunzy1 1 said on July 29, 2009:

    Once again, I will state for the record it’s a glorified on rails shooter.

  3. christian said on July 30, 2009:

    I will defend this game to the end, and this comes from a guy whose five out of the last seven game purchases have come from Atlus.

  4. Cunzy1 1 said on August 3, 2009:

    Okay, defend away. It’s a given that you liked it and that’s fine. You can like whatever you like and nobody has got the right to tell you you are wrong for it so lets keep it friendly. Here is my attack phase 1 sir.

    1) It is a glorified on-rails shooter (in single player) which is fine except every other on-rail shooter gets lambasted and laughed at purely on the merit of it’s genre.

    2) The story is hilariously bad. So bad. Yet Epic take it seriously. Experiencing the story makes you less intelligent.

    3) Horde mode is a cheap shoe in. Virus mode on TS2 was infinitely better plus with a level editor.

    4) The game is not challenging. This is a problem with loads of new “hardcore” games in that they never challenge the player at all.

  5. jay said on August 3, 2009:

    I will let Christian field his own defense but couldn’t help getting involved based on the first point alone. People who disparage on rails shooters based on genre alone are stupid. That being said, it is a genre often used as a toilet for cheap spin offs. The mentality of “making a new x would be hard so let’s do an on rails shooter” sort of sucks, but Space Harrier, Panzer Dragoon and Sin and Punishment do the complete opposite of suck – they rule.

    OK, now you guys can get back to Gears of War.

  6. Michelle said on August 10, 2009:

    I’m in agreement with Jay that you need to leave on rail shooters out of this, all of the examples I can think of are brilliant game that push the boundaries in other ways.

    I noticed you left Rez out though, not intentional I hope.

    Personally I love Gears of War, but it’s a bit of a marmite game I suppose, not sure if you boys will get that reference 😉

  7. Cunzy1 1 said on August 10, 2009:

    The point I was trying to make is that HoTD, Umbrella Chronicles, Dead Space Extraction, Sin and Punishment get laughed out of the forum because they are rail shooters for the Wii.

    Gears of War 2 which is a rail shooter gets all round accoloade because it is a gritty gun game for the 360.

    I love marmite btw.

  8. christian said on August 10, 2009:

    I guess I’ll mount a quick defense. I just meant that I would if I felt it was needed, but this isn’t a review that I find myself at odds with. I’ll comment on the rail shooters thing I guess.

    Rail shooters put you on a literal rail that moves you on its own, with enemies that (in general) pop out and attack in the same way. Gears of War is incredibly linear in places, and the enemies pop out of similar areas each time, but, at least on the medium – hardest difficulties, where you move and where the enemy moves to as you try to kill each other can vary greatly, which makes for firefights that don’t always play out the same way.

    Horde mode is no doubt the best way to show off the game’s quality. The enemies don’t stop coming for 50 rounds, and the weapons and ammo are placed such that you cannot stay in one safe area forever. You have to get out into the open (as many of the Horde mode maps are), and that is where you usually end up dying.

    Gears of War and other games of its ilk do have a serious problem with linearity, one that I believe the developers do a fairly good job of hiding from most players. I agree with Cunzy’s observation, but don’t agree with the classification. But that’s what makes discussions so good.

  9. Cunzy1 1 said on August 11, 2009:

    Indeed!

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