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The original Gears of War is two years old, but even today it stands up to pretty much any Xbox 360 game available. So visually stunning, and genuinely adrenaline fuelled was Gears, that it simply took console gaming to another level, while also confirming that Epic's Unreal Engine 3 didn't so much live up to the hype, but actually rose above it. With all this in mind, I have to say that I was a little nervous about the prospect of a sequel; after all, it's a rare thing for a truly great movie to spawn a good, let alone great sequel. However, I needn't have worried, because Epic has worked that kind of Irvin Kershner magic that every sequel strives for.
In fact Gears of War 2 plays out very much like Kershner's masterpiece, creating a world that's more real, more intense and far more dark than it was the first time around. The characters have been given more depth too, while the storyline is driven on significantly, and just as with Kershner's near perfect Star Wars sequel, important questions are explored and answered, but ultimately, you're left with new, far more compelling questions at the end of it. Yes, Epic has got that "difficult second album/movie/game" problem well and truly nailed. So, if you're wondering whether to buy Gears of War 2, I can wholeheartedly recommend that you do.
Of course many of you will want to know why I'm recommending this game so early on in the review, and the answer to that is easy. Much as I want you to read the next few pages, if you do so, that's time that could have been spent playing Gears 2, and that's a very real consideration, and one that shouldn't be taken lightly. But if you want reasons, I'll give them to you - in spades!
Visually, Gears 2 sets new standards, on the Xbox 360 or any other console for that matter. Believe me when I say that the screen shots don't do this game justice, and that it is simply breathtaking to look at - which, in itself is no mean feat, considering how great the first game looked. This time around though, Epic has been far more adventurous with the environment, with many scenes played out in external locations, complete with impressively long draw distances. In fact, even though much of the campaign takes place underground, the sheer scale of the caverns that you explore allows for the action to stretch far into the distance.