Gears of War 2 Retro Review

Gears of War
Wikimedia Commons

With Gears of War: Ultimate Edition out, is the original Gears of War 2 actually worth playing? It's worth discussing, which I've done here in my retro review of Gears of War 2, the sequel to the fantastic shooter from Epic themselves -- see if it's a game you'll want to play again or not!

When a sequel was announced, we just knew that the second time would be a charm. And it had to be, because though the original Gears was an excellent third-person shooter, it still had its issues, namely in multiplayer. It was promised that everything we hated would turn into a magical ride on the COLE TRAIN, BABY! Alas, the same problems that plagued the original Gears are still alive in its sequel. Though it’s more of the same, it’s…more of the same. 

However, don’t fret. That’s definitely not a bad thing, as the original Gears remains one of the best (and one of my favorite) shooters on the 360 to date. Gears of War 2 follows suit, but those changes we were promised? They’re as visible as Fenix’s neck. However, what remains is still a visceral, raw, and chainsawin’ good time. The noticeable updates make your trek all the bloodier, and what’s presented is quite the adventure.

Set six months after the events in the original Gears, we’re introduced to the aftermath of the failure of the Lightmass bomb. Inevitably, Locust are crawling everywhere, lurking around every corner. Now there’s even more of them, in much more powerful denominations. They’re even armed with a weapon of catastrophic proportions (of course). Leave it to Delta Squad to protect the planet Sera from all that ails it, including some new recruits the Locust hordes have picked up.

Taking up the mantle of Marcus Fenix once again, Gears 2 feels more like an expansion on Gears 1 rather than a completely new game. Controls are mapped the exact same way as they had been, and the Lancer feels like an old friend. However, there are a few differences. Enemies that were rarely seen in the previous title are now out in full force, such as Brumaks and Corpsers.

You’ll be fighting tons and tons more of the relatively normal Locust drones, but the battles overall feel like more of an attempt to elicit a “WOW!” response from the player rather than impress them with the solid gameplay. The infamous courtyard battles begin to grate on the nerves with their scope and size and the sheer amount of Locust dispatched to take care of. This was one area I felt the first game suffered from – too many enemies at one time, in one place, making the game feel like a prolonged sight-seeing mission where the animals in any given area felt compelled to attack.

Though the core gameplay is the same, there have been some new additions to the arsenal, as well as defense mechanisms. For example, meatshields are now available to use, which entails using an enemy as your personal shield. This is entertaining and a great way to get back at the army that’s plaguing Sera. It’s one of the funnier parts, to me, to take such revenge on some extremely unsavory creatures. And since one of the central themes of Gears has always been cover, there’s even more to use now. But now we have some instances of mobile cover, such as the Boomshield, retractable cover, and the Rockworm.

Using the Rockworm feels strange and unfamiliar, but the Boomshield is fantastic against enemies who have no idea what you’re holding could possibly protect you as well as it does. It’s satisfying to advance toward a crowd of them while they continue to take futile shots at you. As for maneuverability, moving between Roadie runs, and simply taking cover feels a lot smoother now. However, it still feels a bit awkward to me in a game that takes precise, and deliberate movements WHEN you want them and not a second later.

However, the ending does fall rather flat, and seems it was just a hurried attempt at tying the game up just so it could hurry up and get released. This is a major gripe I have with the game as a whole. Inevitably there will be a Gears of War 3, but they didn’t need to make it so blatantly obvious. With that said, the campaign was a fun, albeit very short (five acts long) experience that drew heavily from the original game’s pool, and that was quite disappointing.