Every activity that can be thought up can be done through a few button presses. In a video game, one can rescue a princess, kill the undead, turn back a terrorist attack, and engage in any manner of mischievous behavior. Some of my favorite moments involve fighting aliens. No matter what the instance, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for running an alien horde back to whatever hole they crawled from. To this point, my favorite alien killing experience has been Konami’s legendary Contra series.
That series has been the pinnacle of the run-and-gun action game since around 1987, when it hit arcades in America. I remained loyal until a few years back, when Epic Games’ masterpiece Gears of War redefined the action game.
For those who lived under a rock in 2006, Gears of War started out as a spinoff to the widely popular Unreal series, and was supposed to be a squad-based strategy game. Over time, it evolved into an action game and, in turn, was heralded as an evolution in what an action game could be.
The original game featured extremely visceral combat and a duck-and-cover system slightly reminiscent of Namco’s Killswitch. But it did everything that Killswitch did a hell of a lot better.
Fast forward to 2008, and Epic has delivered another amazing experience in Gears of War 2. This game has taken everything that made the first game one of 2006’s greatest experiences and turned it up to 25. The biggest improvement has to be in the story department.
Epic did an incredible job building on the limited story from the first game by using some interesting character development. The sidekick character from the first game, Dom, is more determined than ever to find his wife, who has gone missing since the Locust invasion.
Main protagonist Marcus Fenix returns on a mission to finish off the Locusts, who have gone from simply surfacing to attack cities to sinking them whole. The lightmass bomb that was set off at the end of the first game only made the Locust angry, which has convinced the human forces that the best course of action would be to take the fight to the Locusts, which means that you will spend time underground, along with other very interesting locales.
One gripe was the drab environments, and while the environments have increased in variety, the game overall is a bit dull when it comes to color. That gripe is a moot point considering that the muddy color palette fits the dark theme of the game completely.
The on-screen action is intense, even on its lowest difficulty, and I regularly found myself crawling around while I waited for someone to revive me. The weapons remain primarily unchanged from the first game, but that isn’t a problem in the slightest.
Fan favorites like the longshot sniper rifle, the hammer of dawn, and possibly the best default weapon in the history of video games – the lancer assault rifle – all return, along with mortar guns, grenade launchers and other action game staples.
Most of the weapons have a melee attack attached to them, but none of those attacks are as ridiculously satisfying as the now-legendary chainsaw bayonet attack using the lancer. After a long day of classes, nothing will relax a student like tearing a locust in half using a chainsaw.
Of all the scenarios I played through, I have to say the sequence that places Fenix and company in the belly of a giant worm has to be my favorite. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that by the time you are done with the area, your character will be covered in blood.
The action game is the oldest monster in video games. All true gamers has cut their teeth on classics like Metal Slug, Contra, Ninja Gaiden, and we can now add both Gears of War games to the list. Gears of War 2 is arguably one of the best games to come out in a while, and that is saying a lot since so many great games have come out in 2008. If you don’t have an X-Box 360 yet, one quick play through is enough to tell you that this is the must-play title for any gamer.