Gears of War 2 takes place in a grim future where humanity is at war against an unstoppable force of monsters called the Locust. The endless fighting has torn down cities, painted the Earth’s surface a consistent shade of gray and brown, nearly killed off the human race, and made the survivors intolerable douchebags. If the people in Gears of War 2 are the ones who are going to save Earth and restore society, then it honestly might be better if the Locust just win. The game’s writers were apparently content with cookie-cutter characters who are easier to laugh at than sympathize with, at least until a few hours in when their simple personalities simply become annoying. And like too many games of this type, the bad guys are way cooler than than the good guys anyway.
But now on to the actual gameplay, the stuff that’s supposedly the most important part of any videogame. Cliff Bleszinski claims that his goal with Gears 2 was to make the player feel like he’s constantly in the center of a blockbuster action movie. But you don’t need to read his words to realize this. The game is undeniably a lot like a typical action movie. The plot is secondary to the action, the action is primarily choreographed, characters can take massive amounts of punishment before finally dying, only a few people are able to fight off hordes of bad guys and it’s inevitable that the good guys will win.
Gears 2’s rigid script is reminiscent of an old school adventure game. The bad guys always appear at the same place every time and the good guys must always shoot them at same place every time. It’s like an arcade shooter in how you constantly move forward and you only win as long as you just keep your fingers’ reflexes sharp. It’s like an FMV game where the player is supposed to appreciate the video sequences and in-game cinematics rather than worry so much about the complications of the game’s mechanics. It’s like a massive quick time event where a video rolls on the screen and the controller’s buttons trigger scripted events.
To me, Gears 2 is like some sort of bizzaro game from a backwards reality. I don’t particularly like it, but at the same time it’s extremely polished and clearly a lot of effort was put into it. This isn’t some small time game that can be easily overlooked and ignored. But the entire thing just seems shallow and forgettable. Its entire premise of being an action movie videogame seems only slightly worthwhile to me, and its execution is a monotone of mediocrity. I don’t want to call it out as being a bad game, since I generally reserve that term for games that simply do not achieve the designer’s goals or are very poorly made, and Gears 2 certainly lives up to its design. If only the design were something a little bit more interesting.
Presentation: 9 out of 10 explosions
Graphics: 10 out of 10 polygons, 1 out of 10 colors
Sound: 9 out of 10 growly voices
Gameplay: 8 out of 10 walls to hide behind
Lasting Appeal: 9 out of 10 bad guys to get shot at by good guys
OVERALL: Gears of War 2 is the kind of game that makes me glad indie games exist