Gears of War 2 Hands-on Preview

Written by Joe Martin

September 29, 2008 | 07:59

Tags: #gears-of-war-2 #gears-of-war-2-preview #gow #hands-on-preview

Companies: #epic #microsoft

Fears of War

Unfortunately, though the actual motives for playing the game have been stepped up a notch, the gameplay seems to have stayed mainly the same. It’s the same linear experience, with occasional options to choose which path you want to head down, with a lot of shooty-shooty and stampy-stampy.

The controls are the same and though there is now a new control scheme for those who preferred the cover mechanics for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the game still plays essentially the same. It’s still a case of using cover, firing in short bursts and sticking close to your team.

Naturally, there’s an argument here to say that that is actually good news – the simple and easy to pick up action of Gears of War was what made the game so fun after all. The problem with that argument though is that it has to have a counter-argument by definition... and we side with the counter-argument.

It’s hard to put a finger on why the basic gameplay of Gears of War 2 disappointed us. The levels are still very detailed and fun, with the cover incorporated very well into the level design so that it never feels artificial and the action is still visceral, brutal and explicitly bloody... but there’s a growing feeling that this has all been done before. Admittedly it hasn’t been done better, but it has been done the same.

Gears of War 2 Hands-on Preview Gears of War 2 Preview - Gameplay

The weapons are a major cause for irritation too and though the arsenal has now been rounded out to include some cool new equipment such as mortals, chainguns and flamethrowers, the actual effect of all the weapons except the chainsaw is ultimately disappointing. You can stand there and unload an assault rifle on a nearby Locust and all he’ll do is shoot back or dive behind cover – your bullets seem to have no physical effect in terms of impact.

This issue is made incredibly obvious when using the flamethrower too, which we have to say is an awesomely good-looking and powerful weapon. The actual damage-to-ammo-to-range balancing is fantastic and puts players in the unenviable position of having to close the distance between enemies before setting them aflame.

Again though, the actual effect of roasting a Locust is a little disappointing. You burn them, their textures change and they ripple with fire... and that’s it. No screaming, flailing, running or anything to give you the high-powered satisfaction of burning someone alive. They just blacken, carry on shooting, then fall over.

Gears of War 2 Hands-on Preview Gears of War 2 Preview - Gameplay

The only exception to this rule is when you occasionally manage to put an enemy down without killing him outright, leaving him crawling away for help. In these cases you’ll have to take care of them before they can be revived by either putting an extra bullet in them or executing one of the four executions on them. How would you like your roasted Locust – curb stomped or as a human shield?

One thing which we thought was especially ire worthy was the stupid way that moveable cover has been introduced to the Gears of War 2 world, with the idea of it being that you can now move your cover with you instead of leaving it behind. Some of it is well-handled and you’ll now be able to pick up a heavy shield from a fallen enemy if you want, which provides protection but forces you to rely on just your pistol for offense. A simple idea, done well. Good job.

Other times though, it doesn’t work so well – namely when you get down into the Locust caverns and uncover the rockworms. These are exactly what they sound like of course; huge worms made of rock that are impervious to all gunfire and which you can hide behind and provoke into movement by making food drop nearby.

Yeah, it just sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Worse, it doesn’t even make sense in the game world. These huge rockworms will literally sit still, completely motionless while grenades and bullets fly overhead. You can jump on them, blow them up, drop ink-grenades nearby to give constant damage to anything in the area, but the worms don’t do anything until you knock some food to the floor. Then they’ll move into another pre-set position which coincidentally provides you with excellent cover. Ugh.
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