The Gears of War series is one of the most popular franchises to have debuted during the last generation of gaming. A lot of people like the games for various reasons, including the gameplay, characters, and the fact that you get to use a gun that has a chainsaw attached to it for melee purposes. In September last year, I picked up Gears of War 2 and Gears of War: Judgment, and with the recent unveiling of the next official installment in the series, Gears of War 4, I figure it would be a good time to take a look at these two games, starting with Gears of War 2.
The story of Gears of War 2 is set after the events of the first game, despite the apparent destruction of the Locust after the detonation of a lightmass bomb, war still continues on the planet Sera, not only that, but the COG army gets word that many cities scattered across Sera are disappearing. A huge army of COG soldiers gets sent out to fight the Locust army and to find an explanation for the unexplained disappearances of these cities. One of the squads that is sent out is Delta Squad, led by Marcus Fenix, his squad discovers that the cities are being devoured by a giant worm the Locust are using, and their next target is the supposedly unsinkable city of Jacinto, which also serves as the COG army's primary base of operations.
The game's story is enjoyable and it does a good job at explaining the events of the first game and what led up to this huge war that is being fought, which is good for some people like myself, that haven't played the first game. The story is a large-scale journey that sends Delta Squad to a variety of different locations around Sera, but it's also a personal journey for one of the members of Delta Squad, a man named Dom. At a certain point in the story, Delta Squad learns that the Locust have been capturing humans for use in slavery, and Dom believes that one of those prisoners is his wife, who he hasn't seen since the Locust first showed up. I won't spoil what happens when Dom does manage to find her, but it's a surprisingly strong emotional moment that is handled well. All of the members of Delta Squad are likeable and they have their moments during the game, but there was one member of the squad, a rookie soldier named Benjamin Carmine, that annoyed me as it was made pretty obvious from the get-go that at a certain point in the story, something bad was going to happen to him.
The Gears of War games are best known for their third person, cover based shooting gameplay, and there's not denying that it is well done and fun. Taking cover behind walls and pillars is crucial if you want to avoid being shot at and killed, but you won't always stay behind cover, as the various enemy types in the game will have you shifting your tactics around, depending on who you're currently fighting. Enemies in this game include standard Locust soldiers, monkey-like Locust called Wretches, and more deadlier enemies such as the Kantus, who can move quickly and also revive any Locust soldiers that are near dead, or heavy Locust armed with gatling guns or shields and flails. Sometimes you may even have to take down giant Locust creatures including Brumaks, which are the Locusts' version of a tank, or colossal, crab-like Corpsers.
Fortunately there's a solid variety of weapons to use and you'll generally want to try out the different weapons available. Besides the always-reliable Lancer assault rifle, complete with a chainsaw attachment for finishing off Locust soldiers, other weapons include a single shot-firing weapon called the Hammerburst, a bow and arrow that shoots detonating rounds, and a grenade launcher called the Boomshot.
The game does a good job at keeping things varied, so you aren't always just shooting enemies throughout the game. At certain points, you'll take control of different vehicles, one of which looks like a monster truck and a tank combined into one vehicle, and there are some branching paths in a few of the levels. Choosing one path will result in Delta Squad splitting up, with one half accomplishing a different objective and the other half of the squad their own objective. The levels themselves can also shake things up as well. One level involves Marcus and Delta Squad finding a way out of the giant worm after they are inadvertently trapped inside it, and inside the creature they need to dodge the creature's intestinal teeth, avoid drowning in the creature's blood, and do some heart surgery with the Lancer to kill the creature.
The game's visuals look great, and the game does a good job at showing off the large scale of the war between the humans and Locust in certain parts of the game, plus some of the environments are quite massive as well, such as the levels set underground. Equally good is the voice acting and music, there's a lot of entertaining banter between the members of Delta Squad, and some of the squad members spout off some funny one liners during combat.
Gears of War 2 is a well made and enjoyable third person shooter thanks to its fun and varied gameplay, as well as the story, which shifts between focusing on the journey to put an end to a deadly enemy, but also serving as a personal journey for one of the members of Delta Squad.
Final Score: 8.5/10