I recently touched on Gears of War, which was an excellent early game for the Xbox 360. It was probably one of the most defining titles for this current gaming generation, at least if you owned an Xbox 360. I felt like Halo and Gears were counterpoints to some of the shooters specific to the PS3 like Warzone and Resistance.
The first Gears was one of the driving forces behind my leap into the Xbox 360 - almost all of my friends had it, and we made great use of the co-op modes and online play. To say Gears 2 was anxiously awaited would be a ridiculous understatement. With the recent Gears 3 release, this seemed like a great time to visit this title.
Graphics - 9:
Amazing stuff, really. Even better than the first game, which at the time blew me away. I bought an HD tv for the first Gears (and technically, my 360). This game made me appreciate it even more. The animations were sweet, the angles were presented very well and the oppressive atmosphere of the world around you is unrelenting.
Sound & Music - 9:
I loved the music in the first Gears, and that holds true of Gears of War 2. Constant voice acting is generally good, though there were times it felt a bit more flat than in the original, at least to me. The sound effects were good and varied, making quality use of my surround sound system. Loud, reverberating explosions punctuated with gunfire and dialog - it is good stuff.
Gameplay - 8:
I have to mark the game down a tad here. The game plays a lot like the first Gears, and the firearms combat feels tightened up. That said, I really disliked some of the vehicle/on rails sections. This is not a game with much freedom. Sometimes you make a path choice but essentially you are on a linear path, and that's fine, but I preferred the ground combat to some of the mounted scenes. Some of these parts really, really annoyed me - they weren't necessarily poorly done, but they were my least favorite part of the game.
Intangibles - 8:
The game is a bit longer than the original Gears, but not by much. Again you can tweak difficulties, but yet again I beat the game in a single weekend. The online modes are much more robust though, giving you much better bang for your buck than the first Gears game.
Overall - 8.5:
A technical improvement on the original in pretty much every way, though certain parts of the single player mode did annoy/frustrate me more than the first. Still, Gears of War 2 proved to be an undeniably fun, if brutal (this one is no more for kids than the first game in my opinion - even my son didn't get to play this one when I first got it, and he was like 7 or 8 at the time) experience. It's definitely not reinventing the wheel here - Epic took what worked in the first title and polished it up. This game can be found somewhat inexpensively now as well, and it was definitely worth it for me.
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