A post about a game that came out in 2009? We are so relevant.
Since we’re in that gap where I put off buying games until a next gen console comes my to play them on, I thought I’d dive back into what some would describe as ‘the best fucking game of last fucking gen‘. But I know a few people who hate this game, so lemme tell you why I love it so.
Ok…so maybe it’s not the best game, but as far as third person shooty bang games go, it’s massively ahead of the rest, largely down to the well paced campaign. And the guns, oh my the guns…more about them in a bit. Once you get past the training section in the Hospital, the scenarios it throws at you keep getting bigger and more ridiculous. The assault on Landown, leading the Derrick through the ruined town, ploughing through The Hollow with other Gears bursting through the rocks above, a trip through the recently destroyed city of Ilima (‘They’re sinking cities with a giant worm!!!’), taking out said worm from the inside…the variety of locations is fantastic and this is just the opening few chapters. Later on you fight agiant fish and in the biggest “…no…fucking…way…” moment of the game, ride a Brumak.
“But they’re all just about jumping behind conveniently placed, waist high rubble!” I hear you cry and hey, I’m with you there buddy, but this is where the games secret little trick comes into play: rhythm.
Every aspect of the game is built around a different use of rhythm, the overall gameplay itself for instance: You are at all times making your way down a linear path toward your next gunfight, but neither the fights nor the exposition parts outstay their welcome. Just as you’re thinking ‘this has to be the last wave…’, the battle’s over and just as you start getting bored of Dom drone on about his obviously dead wife (spoilers…LOL), you’re shooting Locust that have just swarmed you. It’s paced like a perfectly written pop song, it’s Weezer’s ‘El Scorcho’ with chainsaw bayonets. The fights themselves add more rhythm in the covering and shooting. The cover mechanic works best when you’re dashing from cover to cover, building momentum as you slam into the walls. Sure, the whole waist high cover has been done to death, but mostly in lesser games…mostly as pale imitation. Gears gets it right by expertly building each battle area with the movement in mind. Adding the genius and ‘risk/reward’ of the active reload to the battles helps crank up the tension, getting it right greets you with a satisfying clunk and snap sound effect…get it wrong and you’re temporarily fucked. It can turn even the smallest fight against Tickers into a frantic mess of diving around and freaking out because of a miss timed button press. All based on rhythm, all building on simple mechanics to create tight, rewarding gameplay
So those guns I promised earlier. Gears 2 has for me, the most satisfying arsenal this side of Doom 2. Every gun feels different, every gun has a purpose. The familiar rattling fire of The Lancer, the meaty slap-in-the-face metallic prang of the Gnasher, the ‘thunk….ticktickticktick BOOOM’ of the Torque Bow. All feel great, sound great and are coupled with some nice visual feedback (always loved the little details on the Lancer as it fires), but all pale to the might of The Longshot. Getting a headshot with this sniper rifle knows no equal in gaming. The crack of the shot, the messy, slippery pop of the Locust head…all combined with some horrid visual feedback.
Popping out of cover, snapping the sights up and nailing a head-shot makes you feel like an unstoppable machine and in the hardest difficulty, totally essential if you don’t want to be haemorrhaging bullets.
Of course there’s some downsides. The story is nonsense, trying to humanise the pumped up, gruff voiced, larger than life cast was never going to be easy and most of the emotional points miss the target completely. The aforementioned ‘Doms Wife’ incident was hammered home so hard in the build up as the ‘BIG EMOTIONAL PUNCH’, but ends with Dom pointing a massive pistol at her head and presumably blowing it into tiny chunks.
It’s totally ridiculous, but the story isn’t really why anyone plays Gears. It’s a method of moving you from one fire fight to the next and as long as you didn’t want anything deep and can deal with guys shouting each others names or ‘BRUUUUMAKKK’ every few minutes, it delivers fine.
Probably most surprising of all, 6 years later it still looks gorgeous. Some of the textures might be a little rough, but over all the art style triumphs over the lack of power. Everything looks big, chunky and in the case of the COG armour, packed full of detail. Solid would be a lazy way to describe it, but the world is all rocks, monolithic stone buildings and metal, so solid it is. And yes, it all looks a bit grey, but it’s a decaying, war torn world. It’s hardly going to be a picture of paradise.
Can’t go without mentioning the multi-player too, which at launch was an unmitigated bag of shite. Getting in a game was damn near impossible. Thankfully, through a multitude of patches Epic did fix it. The two of us behind You Died spent an ungodly amount of hours on Wingman, wading into battles and picking off the unsuspecting opposition. As with the rest of the game, it was amazingly satisfying. I was pretty sad to find it empty when I fired the game up recently, a sad reminder that even the best games will eventually fade into memory.
So that’s Gears of War 2, one of my favourites of last gen. Big, dumb fun. A summer blockbuster of a game lifted above its genre with some ludicrously refined gameplay. I think I ran through this game 6 or 7 times, a few co-op, a few solo, Normal and Insane difficulty and it never gets boring.
Shame about Gears 3 though. That was proper gash.