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Gears of War 2

Gears of War 2
Developer: Epic
Publisher: Microsoft
ESRB Rating: M
Platform: Xbox 360
Rating: 9 out of 10

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Rarely has a sequel improved upon a game as well as Gears of War 2 had improved upon Gears of War 1. I thought it was a very good game before. Now I think it is excellent, one of the best 3rd person action adventures that I've ever played. It's beautiful, the action is well paced and challenging, and it's really just well planned, well developed, and a pleasure to play. In fact, the only reason I'm scoring it a 9 instead of a 10 is because at times the story is terribly weak.

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Microsoft has a huge list of spoilers that they've asked reviewers not to divulge. I'm going to try to comply with that as best I can, so if you're looking for spoilers you'll have to look elsewhere. That said, I will comment on the story line. It is overall a good story, but there are specific little plots or actions that take place that are asinine. First of all, if you are a professional soldier and the fate of the world hangs on your intervention, would you risk an entire planet to save your wife who may or may not even be alive? Second of all, that is one weak-ass ending. I'm not supposed to reveal any details, but suffice it to say that the ending is like what you'd expect from some horrible art school film directed by a 17 year old where they pretty much end with a screen that says, "The End?" And then there are major plot aspects that are barely explained. Is this because the writers stink or is it because they're piquing our curiosity for GOW 3? Either way, I don't like it.


Game play is great. It can be frenzied or calm, or which I hear is typical of actual war, can be both frenzied and calm at the same time. The whole game is about angles (fields of fire) and cover. The third person action is sort of like Halo meets SOCOM. You don't direct troops, but you do take cover. Every battle develops around a series of defenses or cover - fallen trees, cars, walls - you get the idea. The trick is to take cover, use the right weapon for the right range and enemy, and waste them before they can get to you. This is at times easier said than done.

There are gorgeous effects and scenes in this game. A few times I was literally spellbound. Granted, I do have a 65" 1080p TV and many panoramas are breathtaking, but there were a few moments in GOW2 that impressed me. City-scapes, mountains, huge lakes, setting suns, and even a dizzying descent into a giant pit. The detail on the characters and the enemy is amazing also. I could see veins popping out on bosses heads as they got pissed off that I was beating them. There are some scenes with rippling water, monsters above and below the water, where the liquid effects are dazzling. The only thing I'd call weak is foliage, which wasn't actually a physical object and was only a graphic.

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The actual story mode seemed a little short to me, but then again I ate it up and flew through the game in 3-4 sittings. Online multi-player, as expected, more than makes up for the short story by adding almost infinite re-playability. 2 player split screen co-op is a lot of fun also, perhaps the most fun I've had since Halo 3 last year as far as co-op is concerned. A great feature is the ability to set each player's difficulty level individually. This works out for those of us who want to play on the hardest level because we review games while our psychiatrist buddy who "finds the video game phenomenon interesting" can play on the easiest level. (and for those of you who have read my blog for a while, yes, this is the same guy I used to shoot in the back of the head in Halo so I could steal his ammo.)

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Overall, GOW2 is a great game. With another round of revisions to the story it would have been an excellent game.

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