Gears of War 2

Saturday 19th March - Completed GOW 2

First things first, must say, I really enjoyed itYou can pretty much take everything I said about GOW below and repeat it here, only add the fact that GOW2 is bigger and better in many respects. As such, I'm not going to go into any detail on the mechanics or core gameplay elements of GOW2 - it should all be familiar. However, there are a few interesting differences...

The Plot and Characterisation is more full on...

Firstly, the game feels longer and more mature than its predecessor. This is definitely a good thing and the one or two plot twists that do arrive feel interesting, if not totally organic. In particular, I liked the race to sink Jacinto - it was nicely ironic that both Locusts and Humans were seeking the same short-term tactical solution, albeit with different ends in mind.

Secondly, although the characters are painted with broad brush strokes, at least time is taken in this game to explore their motivations (Dom fighting for his lost wife and Marcus fighting for himself, Anya and his father). Even some of the more 1 dimensional characters (Cole &  Tai) get some emotional development beyond the "trusty sidekicks" that they felt as in the first game.

All in all - GOW 2 looked to expand on the GOW Universe both thematically and on a character level, and for the most part, it worked.  In particular, the subtle take on Marcus's character hit home for me - his emotions when Tai is lost, his trying to support Dom and, at the very end when Anya is feared missing, are all very naturally underplayed and believable.

More action, more epic fights - some sleight of hand

The fighting is also generally more intense and on a larger scale - it all works really well and while GOW is not a War simulation, it does try hard to capture, what I can only imagine is the intensity of a simulated battle situation. However, one recurring frustration with the game is the team AI. Your team mates AI is generally good but it there are a number of occasions where my squamates went hurling off into a fire fight or point-blank refused to follow me until I had passed some imaginary way point. Very frustrating, but, generally forgivable.
My second point on the fighting is that while yes it is more epic, you generally only have between 4 and 6 or 7 bad guys at a time. This itself is fine BUT there are occasions, particularly towards the end of the game where you are shown hundreds of locusts pouring forward. On these occasions, you are either at a high vantage point and can't engage with them or in a video sequence. This is no bad thing - but I was left feeling a bit cheated. Imagine a full on battle with 2 gears vs. 100 locusts - now that would be intense....

The Setting...beautiful but misses one trick...

In the first game, I praised the art design, the look and feel and the fact that it felt like Sera itself was almost like a character. The second game, for better or worse took a more expansive approach to art design, and you will find yourself wandering though underground caverns, the inside of a giant worm, the side of a mountain, an old GOW landing site and, even, a Locust Palace.

Yes, this variety is great and yes there are some distinctive places to fight through (and blow up) but, the fact that you relentlessly fight your way through these places means that although they are beautifully rendered, they feel more like places to fight through than places that actually exist on Sera. There are some exceptions - the Locust Palace is definitely one, but so is the last stand of Jacinto. However, these are merely 2 in a plethora of locations. It is just a same that, in this case, while variety is great, consistency would have added depth to the world of Sera.

Final Thoughts...

In most respects, GOW2 is a better game than GOW1.  That said, I still think I enjoyed GOW1 more - sure there is less plot, less action and the final boss is ropey, but there was something beautiful about the world that was being ripped apart around you. GOW2 takes all the great elements of the first, expands on them and improves on many (chainsaw battles are satisfying if infrequent), but a small (very small) part of me wished for a more compact urban battle, rather than the expansive world-changing cavernous battle that GOW2 was.

Best Moment

Battling through Jacinto while hearing the gravel tones of Marcus shouting "we are the re-enforcements!". He is a mans man...

Worst Moment

Dom, I love you, but one section took me literally 20 attempts to complete as you kepy charging into a hail of enemy fire without any concern for mine or your own well being. PLEASE STOP DOING THAT.

Favourite Thing

I loved Cole Trains relentless enthusiasm, ridiculous quips and self parodying attitude - it could have been so stupid, but is actually a source of hilarity. That and a chainsaw on the end of my gun - NEVER GETS OLD. Love it.