Microsoft Game Studios Gears of War 2

The must-own title of this holiday season for Xbox 360 gamers.

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Microsoft Game Studios Gears of War 2
  • Microsoft Game Studios Gears of War 2
  • Microsoft Game Studios Gears of War 2
  • Microsoft Game Studios Gears of War 2

Pros

  • Massive battles, superior graphics and sound, smooth controls, addictive multiplayer game types (especially Horde)

Cons

  • Loose plot threads, more unanswered questions, some scenarios don't quite pay off

Bottom Line

The good news is that Gears of War 2 significantly improves upon the original game in every possible way, addressing several key shortcomings that kept its predecessor from being a bona-fide classic. Gears of War 2 is a terrific action game that deservedly resides in the upper echelon of console shooters, and is the best shooter to hit the Xbox 360 so far this year. Action gamers, you've found your next obsession.

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World War

Overall, I was most impressed by the game's grand sense of scale. At certain climactic moments, I battled what seemed like hundreds of enemy Locust creatures using gatling guns, tanks and a walking behemoth called the Brumak (and yes, this particular battle is well worth the wait). Variety is definitely a strong point in Gears of War 2. Though the battles are generally several times larger than those in the original game, other moments lean more towards survival horror. The highlight here was a suspenseful romp through an eerie abandoned research base, and though the tension stayed high, the final payoff left me feeling underwhelmed and somewhat baffled. Still, scenarios such as these keep the game from being a numbing, constant assault on the senses.

Choosing my favourite moment in the game turned out to be easy. The most memorable sequence involves a show-stopping boss battle with a certain aquatic adversary that I will not name here. When you see it, you'll know and trust me, it's everything you could ask for in a boss fight.

Grindhouse

I'm not going to beat around the bush — Gears of War 2 is a damned fine action game. It's a much longer, more satisfying experience than the original game, too, clocking in at a solid 10 to 12 hours. Though the pacing drags a bit towards the end, I still found myself glued to the controller for hours at a time.

Of course, the long-term attraction will be the game's many multiplayer modes, from online and split-screen cooperative play to five-on-five team battles over Xbox Live. The matchmaking interface and party options are vastly superior to the first game, and manage to come within striking distance of Halo 3's high water mark. After playing all the multiplayer modes extensively, I feel that the standout is definitely Horde, a cooperative mode where five players team up against endless waves of increasingly powerful Locust foes. Because there are 50 waves of enemies, and players are scored following each round, it's likely that Horde will encourage the same kind of high-score obsession not seen since Geometry Wars.

What Is It Good For?

Granted, Gears 2 isn't the smartest shooter on the market, but for now, it is probably the must-own title of this holiday season for Xbox 360 gamers. If you loved the first one, then strap in and get ready to continue the battle. Even if you missed the first chapter, there's enough guts and glory here to have you gaming long into the night. Either way, I'll see you online — I'll be the one pumping your ass full of bullets.

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