In: Uncategorized by David LaMont2 Dec 2008
A couple of months before E3 2005, Microsoft started a viral campaign to hype up the (then unnamed) Xbox 360. It was called “Our Colony,” and I played along with everyone else.
In fact, I recently found the video that was the prize at the end of the campaign where J Allard came out and showed us the Xbox 360.
Sure there had been leaks galore prior to that, and anyone who was following closely wasn’t all that surprised by its look, but it was a fun game to play and began the backbone of community that Xbox 360 is built on.
There were campaign game screenshots galore, some for Oblivion, some for Perfect Dark Zero. But the one I remember being most curious about was the shot of a large reptilian like creature with pale skin, pale eyes, and spots on its skin; it was holding what looked like a mean looking machine gun.
This was our first glimpse of the Locust.
We had seen the creature before; they had been part of the tech demo for Unreal Engine 3. Microsoft had been impressed enough with the demo to ask if it could make a game out of it, and Cliff Bleszinski seemed to think so.
He was right.
Gears Of War was a fun and engaging game, truly embracing the summer popcorn movie look and feel. The story was sort of there, but not exactly in your face. The weapons were fun and the game play gave you the sense of a big hulking man rushing from cover point to cover point, getting hit, getting hurt, and giving back as much if not more than he got.
It was an amazing version 1.0. It deserved the kudos it received and easily became a favorite of mine on Xbox 360. I spent a good month trying to finish that game on insane difficulty just to be able to say I did, and that was with the help of a co-op friend on the last level.
All was not perfect by any means. The cover system, while brilliant, sometimes had issues. It sometimes threw you in cover when you didn’t want to or wouldn’t when you needed it most. Sometimes you would be roadie running and run right into cover that you didn’t want. When in cover it was hard to know exactly how much of you was exposed (and on insane level, this was crucial). And lastly, in multiplayer, the man with the shotgun was most likely about to ruin your fun.
So, story and slight technical gripes aside, the title was a success both as a game and financially; a sequel wasn’t so much warranted as “destined.”
With Gears of War 2, you can take a majority of your Gears of War 1 complaints and flush them down the toilet. Gone is the shotgun advantage, gone is the invincible chainsaw kills, gone is the weird cover system glitches. In their place is a solid action game that excitedly moves you from point to point, is relentless in it’s intensity, and is absolutely awe inspiring.
For those who have read so far and haven’t completed the game, I will not spoil anything story related. I will also not specify on gaming elements relating to its location or actions. I will be as vague as possible.
Cliff promised that Gears of War 2 would be a bigger, badder, and more intense experience, and I am hard pressed to figure a point in the game where he failed in that promise. Yes the “platform game” moment was a little off-putting from what had come before, but I thought it was a nice diversion from the “kill-move, kill-move, kill-move!” action that had dominated to that point. I think the philosophy that Cliff adapted for this game was “beat the ever living shit out of the gamer and then give them flowers to let them know we love them and want them to keep playing.” It happened on more than one occasion where I would come out of some intense and amazing combat and get into something, that was… different.
The ending was a perfect example. Some would say it ruined the experience but I’m not convinced. Yes, after the pain that was the last level in Gears 1 it was almost cathartic to have a Gears 2 level where the hardest thing was deciding what to shoot at first and laugh at the puny uselessness of the Locust counterattack. But when you finished that part and realized that the game was over, it was almost as if you were one breath away from orgasm and your partner asked you to stop because she had to pee.
Oh, and you should stay until after the closing credits. I’m just saying.
I’m not giving a number or a grade; I find that idea repulsive and belittling to the audience. I think that basing an opinion on a number or a grade is like trying to grade a meal at a fine restaurant; what if the restaurant’s signature dish is fish and you hate fish?
So what I will do is focus on what I liked and didn’t like.
Screw Marcus Fenix. Cole Train is the baddest character in the game. Explaining why would ruin his best parts in the game.
Cover system goodness. Easy in, easy out. Easy to know when the Locust can get a shot at you. Kudos to Epic for fixing this.
Chainsaw dueling: It didn’t happen often, but when it did it took an exciting moment and managed to ratchet it up two notches. I actually screamed “Shit!” When it went into Duel mode and almost forgot about having to hit the B button.
Defending the Derricks: Normally rail-based gaming turns me off. I think Cliff and company wanted to find a way to make rail gaming work, and I think they did.
Dominick Santiago: I’m sorry, I can’t say much more than just that. Dominick has always been the yin to Marcus’ yang. He was always there in that true bromance type way. Here he gets to shine as much more than Marcus’ partner, and his story hit me in a way I never really believed gaming could ever reach. You can throw around the word “cliché” all you want; like a movie, some things work for some, for others it won’t. Dom’s story worked for me.
Tai Kaliso: I feel like, just as I was warming up to this guy, he disappears. Poof! There was all this talk of his bad-assery that never materialized. I know what they wanted from the guy, and frankly it only slightly worked. I’d cross into spoiler territory by revealing more.
Skorge: This is the Predator-looking guy that was hinted at in some of the videos. The idea behind him was to make General RAAM seem like a cakewalk. The short answer is: No, he didn’t. Not easy to fight, but nowhere near as “OHFUCKOHFUCKOHFUCK” as RAAM.
The unnamable: There is a character that the review guidelines for Gears of War 2 ask you not to talk about.
Since this wonderful Gamehounds empire is partially dependent on a relationship with game developers, I’ll respect this particularly strange request, though I frankly don’t understand why the secrecy because this character has this almost omnipresent feeling throughout a level of the game. Then finally, when the character does appear, it disappears almost as quickly, leaving you filled with nothing but more Lost-style, “answer some questions but ask more” plot bullshit. Out of respect to the guidelines, I will not name the character, but that character and its interaction with the game… blows.
The Plot: I know, I know — it’s an action game. It’s not supposed to make sense. Blah de dah. I am aware, but there is a moment that occurs in the game that told me that it could be so much more than just a generic shooter. Had it stuck with its original “organically unfolding plot” I probably wouldn’t have complained, but that one shining moment tells me that it’s capable of more, and now I am expecting it.
The last level: It was fun, it was engaging, and I could have given the controller to my son and he would have finished it without looking at the screen. After the nail biting last battle of Gears 1, it seems like Cliff and company wanted to go easy on the people. Only I think that went from frustratingly hard to sleep-inducing easy. For Gears 3 (Oh, don’t act surprised, you know there will be one) please find a happy medium!
I’d love to go into further detail but for those who haven’t experienced it they really have all they need to know. It’s best to experience the game with zero knowledge of any upcoming events. There is an event that I alluded to on the podcast and in this review that nearly made me cry, and having no knowledge of the game made that possible.
Now the next part you’re wondering about is multiplayer. And the answer is: I haven’t had the balls to play it yet. I know it’s 50 percent of the game package, and it’s hard for me to justify saying, “Buy the game!” based only on the single-player experience. But think of it this way: Without having played the multiplayer I still think it’s worth the 60 bucks.
That’s really all you need.
Bottom line: Buy the game.
If you’d like to discuss the finer points of the game in a spoiler-filled environment, you can fire me an e-mail or post something