I'm pretty sure that I can speak for most 360-ers when I say that I was very happy to see the announcement of Gears 2 at this years GDC. I was also ecstatic at the fact that we were to see the game that same year. I mean.. I know that deep down everyone knew there was going to be a sequel, and that it was more than likely to come at the same time of year as the first instalment, but that's not the point. The fact that we finally saw Cliffy B himself (I know, I know. He was 'Cliffy B' at the time...) come out and give us the news that we had been waiting for really brought on the excitement for everyone. The final confirmation got gamers everywhere rubbing their hands together in anticipation.
Bleszinski went on to say how in fact the first Gears was nothing but a teaser. Nothing but a building ground for what was really to come and how number 2 was going to be 'way more badass' that the first could ever have been. And he was right.
So - as you may have guessed from the above, I was a big fan of Gears of War. I was blown away by it's huge.. well, guts. The non-stop action had me glued, wide-eyed to the TV from my first play through - and again every time I picked it up. It has never failed to keep me interested - even if I could probably do it with my eyes closed.
The only problems I had with GoW was mainly it's length. At a disappointing 4-5 hours play time on the campaign I always felt a little cheated. Especially since it was clear that the story wasn't completely filled in. This being my other problem.
In brief (since I have discovered very quickly that spoiler free reviews are haaaard!) Gears 2 begins soon after the first game ends. As I'm sure most have assumed by now - the Locust weren't completely defeated by the COGs attempts. In fact, if anything - they seem to be getting stronger. We join our familiar friends Marcus and Dom as they continue to fight and hopefully save their world - before it falls before their very eyes. We learn that the human race is now bordering on extinction, and the safety and survival of one major city - Jacinto - is essential.
From the very beginning, the action is there from the go as you are told to clear the local hospital of a small locust invasion. This feels almost like a warm up - a quick few waves to get you going for whats really to come.
The game play feels natural and smooth. With controls remaining the same, all previous GoW players will be sliding in to cover and hitting the active reload perfectly from the word go. This put together with the beautiful graphics makes a great old-yet-new feeling.
The first act progresses and introduces masses of shiny new things. From characters, weapons and enemies as the game very quickly gains momentum and the action gets heavier. There isn't a dull moment as you continue and it is at this point already that I felt the game has in many ways surpassed its prequel. As the game carries on we move underground once again, to face the locust, and this time seek out the queen and solve the pest problem once and for all.
Along with this all, we actually see some emotion in our burly marines, as whilst fighting the war, Dom is searching for his missing wife. This may sound soppy - and I thought so at first, but this evolved into a fantastic heart wrenching part of the story which is sure to bring lumps to the throats of even the coldest hearts.
There is only ONE word to describe the whole experience of GoW2. And funnily enough, that word is Epic. Just Epic. The games goes on, and the action gets bigger and heavier than you could ever imagine. And then some. You will fight the biggest fight you've ever fought - only for it to be outdone in the next act. And then this is outdone. Repeat for 5 acts and you have the Gears 2 experience. Matching this with it's beautiful graphics makes it nothing but an epic, mind blowing experience. Epic. Just epic.
Where GoW had it weaknesses - in my opinion - Gears 2 certainly has it's strengths. The story is strong and steady. The length of the campaign is far longer than the predecessor.
We also see the introduction of 'Horde' mode. This is a simple wave system., in which the player(s - 1-5) chose a map and waves of enemies spawn. There are 50 levels to the horde, and every 10 levels the enemies get tougher. This can prove to be a real challenge. This requires a great amount of communication and team work to survive the higher levels. Though challenging, it is immensely fun and adds even more to the game as a whole.
Obviously we still have a multiplayer. I was never a fan of Gears online first time round, however we now have the ability to play 'bot' matches with and/or against the AI which has definitely raised my interest in that element. Once again - added even more to the titles playability.
So, summarised we have a longer and better story, more depth to our characters, extra modes and many new additions to the game as a whole. It is captivating, mind blowing and involving. Not a single moment disappoints. If this is yet another taster for things yet to come - one can but dream of what we are still to see.