The first Gears of War, coming courtesy of CliffyB and his ADD-addled chums at Epic, proved to be a brilliantly entertaining romp of a shooter, which came across as a batshit insane hybrid of Halo, Unreal Tournament and Resident Evil 4 and sold remarkably well because of it. It does not take a huge stretch of the imagination, then, to establish that its hugely-hyped sequel is essentially more of the same.
Picking up shortly after the attempted genocide of the underground-dwelling Locust hordes in the detonation of the “Lightmass Bomb,” it turns out that this made very little difference and so massive-limbed protagonists Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago must set out underground, overground and wombling free to try and save mankind in the face of extinction.
The game controls essentially the same as its predecessor, which is no bad thing. Battles are still busy but hugely enjoyable affairs, Epic having balanced the weapons far more fairly now even if some of the newer additions to the roster (the cumbersome and unpredictable mortar, for example) seem slightly uninspired. Nonetheless, the game still delivers stunning set-pieces and fearsome opponents – this time there are far more beasties to gun down in cigar-chomping glee, whether it be giant flying squid-bastards, massive underground worms or dinosaurs holding guns the size of Topsham, you’ll never get tired of mindless slaughter.
What the developers seem to have forgotten, however, is how aneurysm-inducingly woeful the first game’s driving sections were. When I say, then, that not only have they been kept in for the sequel but have drastically increased in their frequency you should run for the hills. Cumbersome, frustrating and – most crucially – dull, their inclusion is baffling and infuriating in equal measure.
The game does, nonetheless, improve remarkably with the addition of an extra player, Gears of War 2 coming equipped with a superb co-op mode which allows you and your favourite mentalist to pair up and plough your way through the game at will. This is brilliant fun, and will have you whooping like infantile American frat-boys at Marcus n’ Dom’s testosterone-baiting antics.
The game’s multiplayer, too, has been vastly improved with the addition of AI-controlled bots to ensure you’re never lonely on those cold Winter nights. Factor in a new gameplay mode – Horde – which sees you and up to five buddies make last stands against wave upon wave of cackling sods and proves to be almost as absorbing as the main game itself and you’ve got a winner. I assure you, soon enough you’ll be wandering around the High Street claiming to be a veteran of “Wave Sixteen, man,” begging for change and swigging White Lightning out of a brown paper bag.
There’s a point in the game where one character remarks that there were shitloads of enemies in a certain area, to which another replies “More like ten shitloads.” Analyse that extract – it probably tells you more about Gears 2 than I possibly can and you could most likely base your entire opinion of the game around that single extract. It’s that kind of game.