I finally finished playing Gears of War 2 and while I wait for you to pick you jaw up off the floor, allow me to fill you in on what the game left me with in the way of an overall impression. While the game felt like it had finally come into its own, Gears of War 2 gave off an air as though Epic knew what they were doing a bit better in regards to the original. Overall, I got the feeling that I was witnessing a Hollywood action film more than a video game. Not in the sense of it being a terrible licensed movie game or a piece of garbage like Jericho, but the cutscenes kept making me feel as though I was sitting twelve rows back and center at my local Cineplex watching an action flick. The dialogue, story and interactions that occur serve to reinforce this, but donít necessarily make the gameplay mechanics suffer. But, having gotten halfway through the title when I purchased it last November and finishing it now has placed me in a position to have some educated insight.
Taking place six months after the events of the first Gears in which you personally beat General RAAM to death and dropped a lightmass bomb into the collective lap of the Locust, you discover that the Coalition of Organized Governments isnít really better off thanks to the previous actions of Marcus and Dom. The Locust are still around and angrier than ever, sinking entire human cities into the landscape with a giant worm. So following proper logic, the COG goes on the offensive in order to preserve the last refuge of survival, Jacinto. From the second an offensive was announced, I had a feeling things wouldnít go as planned for our heroes. After all, does it ever? Nine times out of ten it really does get worse for them before it gets better. But during the lead up to this offensive, you travel on giant mobile derricks and are engaged by literal hordes of Locust. Iím not kidding, this is an epic (excuse the pun) way of showing off the engine while giving the player something to hose their gunfire into, but it didnít cease making me feel as though this was something I could easily see in a movie. But, the offensive stalls and after robbing the franchise of a great original character (Tai), you wind up inside the worm that has been sinking cities. After platforming through the organs of a creature that caused me to reminisce fondly of Galaxy Quest and Mega Man, the creature was slain and died in appropriate Hollywood fashion, leaving Delta Squad in need of a fairly earned shower. Not of course before Ben Carmine is killed, good riddance. One made-to-order creepy abandoned military research installation later and we continued rolling.
But after discovering that the COG experimented on creatures, I began to think that they may have created the Locust and in the back of my mind was finally relieved for a genuine plot point that would flesh out the story a bit more. I was wrong. After the installation, it is never mentioned again. But if it gives anyone any comfort whatsoever, Dom does finally find Maria. However, she is extremely traumatized and has to be put out of her misery by the love of her life. So sad. After that Gears 2 feels like a huge weight has been lifted. I knew what had happened to Maria and could run and gun thankfully through the rest. Right?
Wrong. It appears that Adam Fenix, came up with a brilliant idea to end the war with the Locust Horde by flooding the hollow. So what do we need? Another Lightmass Bomb of course. But before we can do that, we have to fight the Locust Queenís loyal minion Skorge, who eventually escapes and chases Delta Squad back to Jacinto, which is now under full Locust attack. To finish it off, you clear the streets and drop the Lightmass bomb. Well, not before you get to ride a Brumak. This is essentially where Gears 2 takes every game mechanic that has built up throughout the entire experience so far and tosses them out the window. You stomp through the underground, laying waste to the hollow like you own the place. But, after dodging from cover to cover the whole time, this actually feels pretty rewarding until that Brumak becomes a lambent super creature, which is kind of like a Locust, but not. Think of the Lambent as the flood of the Gears of War universe and youíll be a lot happier, I promise.
Being the super soldier the Marcus is, how does he finish off this final boss? What skill will be required of the player? You use the Hammer of Freakiní Dawn to lay waste to the creature via orbital strikes. And then thatís it, cue up final dialogue cutscene and roll credits.
Now before everyone gets a lot more militant than they probably should, I want to say that Gears 2 wasnít a bad game. I had fun. In fact, I wish I had finished it when it came out so I could be talking about it with other people who had just finished it. But who knows, maybe I got lucky and someone else is just now getting to it. What I am saying is that my overall qualm comes from the fact that the boss battle wasnít what I was expecting. The real climax comes about eighty percent of the way through the game when you battle Skorge, even during the ensuing chase you shoot him down, but the closure there doesnít feel complete. To add insult to injury, the final battle doesnít do it the most justice either, but thatís something I've come to expect from movies more than the games I play.
And that just might be the best thing Gears could have done. They actively translated an experience I would have expected to see in a film to gameplay that I thoroughly did enjoy. Yes, the plot isnít ground breaking and the narrative wonít be winning any awards anytime soon, but the feeling that beating Gears of War 2 gave me was identical to how I felt when I walked out of Independence Day several years ago. I felt satisfied. It was like any summer blockbuster should convey via its story: a quick, explosive and fun occurrence that feels very visceral at the time while still being pleasant to look back upon. And I think that is what Gears has left me with.
Granted, any plot points have merely raised more questions, but Iíll hold off on those until Gears of War 3 comes out. And donít think for a second Iíll believe Cliff and Epic are making something otherwise different. Give the people what they want at the right time and no artist ever goes hungry, Infinity Ward can tell you that.