First Impressions: Gears of War 2

by: John -
The first few hours of Gears of War 2 is over and done with and so far I’m really enjoying the sequel to one of the biggest Xbox 360 games ever. The scope feels a lot bigger and Epic has done a pretty good job at offering something very familiar yet pushes it a little bit further. It didn’t take me long to get back into the swing of things running up to cover, aiming at Locust heads, and manning machine guns.

Graphically, you can see some nice improvements in the engine. The characters are more detailed with Marcus Fenix’s face showing the results of the way with much more detail. New character Thai features a cool assortment of tattoos and might be a new quiet favorite. The large and tough Gear seems to be the opposite of loud mouthed Cole but he looks like he’ll rip your head off without a second thought. The environments seem more realistic with better geometry and impressive textures. The large open areas with many objects moving around are equally pleasing to the eye.

To say you might not see a lot of the new detail really speaks volumes about how great the first game looked. Yes, the textures look to be more detailed and it does look like they tweaked the models to be more visually impressive. The more I scrutinized the graphics the more impressed I was at how well Epic has improved on the previous game.

The lighting effects in the level where you are followed by one of your vehicles down a long, dark tunnel create a really spooky mood with the great use of color. The game’s not all grays and dark colors as you’ll see some items and areas bright colors as well. Gears of War has always used lighting effects effectively and it continues here in the second game. Combined with the improved graphics, it all comes together to produce one of the more visually appealing games out there now.

Some of the trailers feature a large group of Locusts showing you the engine is capable of outputting more characters on the screen than the first game. Most of these seem to take place at a good distance away but it’s still a pretty cool site to see a large group of them running along the ground allowing you to take them out with a machine gun. I’m guessing that since they are far away, less detail was needed thus allowing for more of them to show up on the screen at once. The large groups give you a better illusion of a large scale war happening in the second game. It’s still all about cover and medium to close combat but these instances of large open areas with many enemies on the screen at once is a nice compliment to the other parts of the game.

So far the only new weapon I was able to use was the mortar. You can set it on the ground and the longer you hold the fire button, the farther the aim. It really launches an impressive bombardment of ordinance when you launch one at the enemy.

I was able to try out the new human shield feature but it seemed the rest of the Locust always die by the time I get to them. It was pretty nice to see the Locust reviving one of their own like how you would revive a fellow Gear when he's' down. This makes taking out the Locusts that crawl around even more important so they aren't saved by one of their own to continue the fight.

I do like the new feature where you get slowed down by gunfire. In the original game, I'd be pretty reckless in running up to someone with my chainsaw ready to go. You can't do that as much in Gears of War 2 because each bullet slows you down so you'll most likely get pummeled to death before you reach your enemy with your active chainsaw. It makes it less cheap and I think it's a great design decision by Epic to cut down on instant chainsaw kills. I haven't run into another Locust with a chainsaw to try out the chainsaw duel feature yet though.

Brumaks are featured more prominently in the first few hours of the game and yes you’ll have your chance to take a few out for those that missed the PC version. As mentioned earlier about the visual improvements, the more detailed looking models really make the Brumaks look more imposing .

I really had to stop myself from continuing on as the Gears of War 2 so far is pretty fun. There was a few times where I kept saying I’ll stop when it saves but continue on the path to the next scene and that’s a mark of a good game to me. There’s nothing really new yet but it feels more polished and flows well. I’m really looking forward to trying out the Horde mode and also playing the game with a friend where I know the game will excel. As a fan of the original, I’m having a lot of fun with the sequel so far and can’t wait to see this game to the end and what the Locust have in store to stop Marcus Fenix and the rest of Delta Squad.
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