Gears of War 2 - Single Player Campaign Hands On
Written Monday, September 29, 2008 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Gears of War 2 is a game that doesn't need any introductions and chances are everyone is familiar with the series. If not, where the hell have you been? Recently, I got the chance to trek down to London town to see whether Gears 2 had enough substance to grip the masses once again. The extensive hands consisted of two parts; about 80% of Act 1 of the single player campaign and a good few hours fighting off waves of Locust in horde, but for now, we’ll just focus on the single player campaign.
Gears 2 picks up 6 months after the, now apparent, unsuccessful Lightmass Bombing at Timgad. As a result of this failure, the Locust have consolidated and returned stronger than ever having created a device that creates emergence holes that can take down whole cities. With the Locust hell bent on taking down Jacinto with this new technology, Marcus and the Delta squad must combine to topple them, and by Delta, yes, Baird and Cole Train are back.
You'll be surprised to hear that the campaign actually has a decent story to boot this time with plenty of new and interesting characters. One of the main story arches (other than being the saviour of mankind) involves Dominic Santiago and his missing wife Maria, who has been missing since the trauma of losing their children during the last invasion became too much for her . Carmine also makes a return ... well, his brother Ben does, so don’t get him mixed up with Anthony from the first Gears title. New characters, Tai Kaliso, a spiritual warrior and Dizzy, COG wheelman, makes for interesting additions to an already stellar cast.
The Unreal engine for Gears of War 2 has been taken to another level, with improved character lighting and shadowing, ambient occlusion, destructible environments and dynamic fluids creating a more realistic environment. That being said, unless the two games were put side by side, you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference, whether this is because Gears 1 was so ahead of its time is difficult to tell, but this in no way detracts from the gaming experience cause let’s be honest, Gears 1 is gorgeous even by today’s standards.
Essentially Gears of War 2 feels like Gears of War in terms of control and within 5 minutes of picking up the pad, all you’ll feel right back in to the swing of things. You’ll be roadie running and throwing your character around with the A button as usual, and when an enemy is downed you’ll be taking advantage of the new options. The new actions are allocated a face button, so whether you want a elaborate execution (Y button) or you need a human shield (A button), the fun is limitless. Epic have also done over 400 tweaks to the cover system since the first Gears in the hope of eradicating all the issues and in practice, I rarely had a problem with it.
You’ll start off Act 1 with the choice to either take the training route or jump straight in to action and feeling a tad rusty, we went the route of the training mission. It’s everything you’d expect from a training mission ... slow, thorough, and teaches you the basics. While not really offering the seasoned Gears veteran much, it did give us a chance to take a look at the new COG tag system of the game, which comes in the form of a collectible newspapers which offer some background to the story as well as netting you a few achievements on the way to collecting them all.
Slowly throughout the Act you will push on to through the city to stop the Locust invasion and as you battle your way through the hospital and on to the rooftops, the only real way to win is to take the fight to them. This means taking a Derrick (an underground drop rig basically) up a snowy mountain to launch a counter attack and it’s here where we get our first experience of the Locust hordes in action. Stood on the deck of the Derrick, we used the turret to rip through crowds of Locust who were breaking out of huge emergence holes to try and take us down. The turret controls are as you would expect but they do overheat now, so you’ll have to let it cool down or manually cool it using the right bumper. Chapter 3 of Act 1 is essentially very similar to a traditional rail scene whereby if you fail to protect the Derrick, you’ll have to restart from the last checkpoint. You’ll have no control over its direction, so protecting it is all you can do. Finally, our hands on ended at the top of the trail where we catch a glimpse of Skorge, the new Locust leader who makes Raam seem like a quivering puppy dog.
Skorge is the new Locust kingpin and Bleszinski described him as totally opposite end of the scale to Raam. He stated that “If Raam in Gears 1 was a bit of a sledgehammer, this guy is more of a scalpel or a samurai sword” and so the focus has shifted from strength to agility. Skorge is equipped with a bo staff with a chainsaw on each end and has more acrobatic moves than Lara Croft. Of course, there are also a tonne of new Locust types ranging from new melee motivated Mauler to the more sorcerer style, enchanters who hang back and resurrect the dead. The vast array of enemies to take down this time is really refreshing to see considering the real lack of variation in Gears 1.
Of course, you’ll need more weapons to take these bad boys down and now you have chance to use the new heavy weapon class; the Scorcher, the Mortar and Mulcher. These are a few of many new weapons which are covered in more detail in the multiplayer hands on.
A few pleasant additions to the gameplay for Gears 2 include the ability to crawl away slowly when downed and the ability to be revived by a computer controlled team mate when playing single player. Even better is that the squad controls are no more and now your squad mate AI won’t cause them to run around like headless chickens anymore and we’re told that will actually try and help you. The game also boasts an achievement tracking feature and pops up when you hit certain targets on the way to getting the achievement.
When discussing the campaign length, Bleszinski added that “the campaign is longer than the first game” and of course the game features 2 player co-op as the original did, so you can tackle the story with a friend again. The drop in/drop out co-op also features an individual difficulty system that features in the co-op mode, allowing gamers of all skill levels to play together without feeling out of their depth.
After playing through the vast majority of the first Act, it was easily clear that the game was more plot-driven and the action is quicker and more intense than ever. It left me with a feeling of I must know what happens and that’s usually the sign of a good story. With more characters, more weapons, bigger and more variety in enemies, the campaign has the makings of an epic adventure. When speaking to Bleszinski regarding surprises in the campaign, he told us that we’re in for a rollercoaster ride and we can’t wait to get our hands on the final code. November 7th cannot come quick enough!
Gears of War 2 is available exclusively on Xbox 360 and will be released worldwide on November 7th.