When it comes to headline games on the Xbox 360, few titles carry more weight than Gears of War. Not only was GoW one of the first games to roll out Epic’s Unreal 3 Engine, but it also showed even the most fanatical PlayStation fan boys that Microsoft’s console really could push the boundaries of video gaming. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that GoW was a more important release than Halo 3, despite the fact that everyone was waiting with baited breath for more of Master Chief’s adventures. One thing’s for sure, GoW definitely moved things on more than Halo 3 did, and you’d be hard pushed to find an action game without covering dynamics these days as a result.
When I reviewed Gears of War in 2006 I obviously played it through to the end, but even after publishing the review I went on and played the game through on every difficulty level - it really was that much fun. Even two years later, there’s little that can stand up to GoW when it comes to all out action and playability, with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune being the only title that bears comparison. So, what can Epic possibly do to make Gears of War 2 a better game than its illustrious predecessor?
The most important thing about GoW2 is that Epic is well aware that if it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it. With this in mind, anyone who’s played the original game will be able to pick up the controller and get straight into the thick of the battle. The second most important thing is that Dom won’t be such a complete tosser this time around.
Epic rolled out Cliff Bleszinski at a preview event recently, so naturally the first question I asked was whether Dom was as mind numbingly stupid in the new game as he was in the original. Bleszinski assured me that Dom is far less suicidal this time around. Even more importantly, Bleszinski made a point of saying that there are very few occasions where you’ll find yourself at the Game Over screen through no fault of your own, which makes a change from the first game where Dom insisted on being stomped by every Berserker you came across.
Bleszinski was also keen to point out that GoW2 has far more expansive environments than the original game. Whereas GoW had a very claustrophobic atmosphere, with dark and sparse locations, the new game will have more open, external settings with longer draw distances and more adventurous lighting. Although the environments in the original game were never disappointing, it’s good to see that now that Epic has had more time with the hardware, the team can push the boundaries a bit further. And that’s no mean feat when you consider how good the original game still looks today!