Last night I completed Gears of Wars 2 (Xbox 360). I had picked the game up sometime last week, but I’ve been pretty diligent about playing nightly until I completed the single player campaign (Normal Mode).
One of things that I really like about GOW2 was the same thing I liked about GOW.
It’s a shooter, but the Gears team does a very good job of mixing up the content. Gears really puts you on the edge of your seat. I find myself getting stressed in the high stress situations, just like the character would. That’s the mark of an immersive game.
So you need some downtime. You can’t always be in the high stress mode, but you need the story to progress. They handle this with two well presented means of pacing.
The first is within the chapters themselves. They design the maps and encounters to take you logically through the story, but the down time between fights isn’t obvious filler. You start to come down between one encounter and the next. There are a few exceptions, where there is wave after wave, but these are culminating events. Those are kinds of challenges the game needs, but can’t occur *all* the time.
Even some of the ‘boss’ fights in GOW2 are easier than some of these progressive waves. At the time the boss fight is happening, it’s more important to progress the story, and you’ve already come off a ‘stress’ fight. This isn’t a ‘press A and win’ kind of fight, but you can feel like you’re winning and have control, rather than being overwhelmed.
The second major element of pacing is the per chapter maps. Gears of War 2 does a good job of intermixing ‘vehicle maps’. This might take the form of riding in a tank, or handling a turret on the back of the transport.
What makes these work is twofold. First, you aren’t worried about ammo and precision. In all cases, it’s about clearing the path and progressing forward. You are doing bulk damage and covering lots of ground. This gives your mind a chance to ‘relax’ from the focus needed to zoom in with a sniper rifle, for example.
These vehicle maps in GOW2 each offer a similar but unique experience. Riding backwards on a Reaver while escaping, is much different than guiding a Brumak through the rubble.
Overall, I really enjoyed the game and would definitely recommend it. I’m going to start playing the multiplayer now, and go back and pick up some of the achievements that I missed.
The gameplay is is more of the same from GOW. However, overall I felt that the story and progression was tighter. I often felt the need to play ‘one more chapter’, because of how smoothly things progressed and kept me involved.
The visuals are great. Granted, I’m finally enjoying this game on 1080i, where I played GOW on my old 28” non-HD screen. That being said, there are lots of little details that bring the world together. Like wall hangings, or insects buzzing, or the huge variety of textures. My favorite though was the during the Riftworm chapter (aka Chainsaw glory). The armor of Delta force slowly starts turning red from the feet up as they get covered in blood. It’s really obvious by the end of the chapter, but it had been there all along. The subtle addition, early on, added an element that you didn’t even know you were missing.