From the moment we all saw the TV spot for Gears of War back in 2006, we were all captivated. The sombre music mixed with the dark atmosphere created this world instantly in 30 seconds. The game became one of Xbox 360’s best sellers and was the first game to knock Halo 2 off the top stop. It remained the king of Xbox Live for over a year. Even after the release of both halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, it remained one of the most played online games.
When Gears of War 2 was announced at GDC 08 proclaiming to be, “Bigger, better and more bad ass” than the original many people started claiming it was going to be the game of the year 2008. Shoot ahead 9 months later to November 7th: Gears of War 2 is released to the masses to critical acclaim. Initially many people thought it might topple the online charts and dethrone both Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 but pretty soon afterwards it was clear to see that would not be the case. Instead it hung around below them. A few months later, it started to loom in the lower half of the top 10. While the multiplayer was improved, graphically it was gorgeous and horde was one of the greatest modes I’ve ever played, it had many short comings too. I enjoyed the single player but it felt like I was promised something much bigger than I got. I’m going to focus though on the multiplayer only.
What Went Wrong
Broken From Release:
Probably the biggest hit to Gears of War 2 was that it was broken when it came out of the box. People easily spent 5 minutes waiting to just get into a game. This turned many people, including myself off playing it online. Granted, I went back to it and played it quite a bit but it initially left a sour taste in my mouth. Even after they completely fixed it I feel as though the matchmaking system still takes a little longer than it should to get into a game. Maybe I’m just an impatient gamer.
Map Packs Released Too Quickly:
I respect any developer that supports a game after release. Epic did an amazing job with Gears of War 2. They patched the game quite regularly, even including a ranking system, even though some people did not agree with the amount of time dedicated to maxing out the 99 ranks. Every new copy of Gears of War 2 came with a code to download the Flashback Map Pack. This included 5 maps from the original Gears that were enhanced for Gears of War 2. Just over a month later a second map pack was released known as the “combustible map pack”. A few months later “Snowblind map pack” was released. Finally in July, Epic released the final map pack known as “Dark Corners”. This included one campaign chapter and a massive 7 multiplayer maps. This left the Gears multiplayer map collection at nearly 30 maps. With that much DLC what could go wrong?
Well maybe it had something to do with people not having enough money to keep updating their map packs, maybe there was too many maps for people to enjoy and get used to them. I believe it had something to do all Gears 2 content being released within 9 months. Almost 20 maps in 9 months sounds good on paper but take Halo 3 for example. Bungie had a long term plan for Halo 3’s multiplayer. They released their last map pack 2 years after the initial release of Halo 3 and people are still booting up the game. It remains in the top 3 games being played online every week. There have been rumours of a Gears 3 coming out in 2011. Hopefully they’ll have a longer plan for the game if the rumours are true.
Power Weapons = Win:
This isn’t so much as a valid argument but merely something I seemed to noticed when I played online. At the start of each match, regardless of game type there was a sudden rush in a Black Friday like fashion for the power weapon on the map. A match should never start like this. When routine occurs online then you know something is wrong.
There was plenty of glitches in both Gears of War 1 and 2 but one annoyed my more than anything else: the shotgun glitch. For people who don’t know, the shotgun glitch is when you run up to someone, melee them, then finish them off with a shot from the hip. It annoyed me so much in some matches I gave in to the urge to get at least a few kills and start fighting back in exactly the same fashion. It was a dark day.
“Bigger, Better and more Bad Ass?” Not Really:
The amount of times Cliff Bleszinski told us that the game would be that must have put blisters in his mouth. The scale was indeed bigger but when it came to multiplayer the only bigger they got was one extra player per team. Now I know any more than that and it would become convoluted but maybe make the maps bigger. They have the technology to easily achieve this. Have maps that players can control one section but not rule the whole map because of this. I do believe in vantage points though but I would love the see counter vantage points or more than one. I’m sure people would tick off bad ass because of the sheer amount of blood that was spilled constantly. As far as better goes though? Do you think it was better? I personally did think it was an improvement over the original but not as much as it should have been.
Didn’t Take Advantage of Destructible Environment:
Gears of War 2 was announced at GDC 2008 just a few minutes after Epic showed off the new features of its Unreal Engine 3. It boasted quite a robust destructible environment. This made most Gears of War fans excited to see how much of this aspect they will capitolize on it. What they saw come November was disappointing to say the least. Instead of seeing buildings and walls being ripped apart they just saw the corners of cover being ripped off by bullets and very little else.
What They Did Right
Let’s face it, Gears of War 2 was still a pretty good game. Maybe we had our hopes too high for the sequel but that doesn’t mean Gears of war 2 didn’t have all it’s cogs out of place. It had features that stunned us too.
Say what you will about the Unreal Engine 3 but you have to admit when we first saw it in action we were simply blown away. The colours, textures and even the amazing water technology made the Unreal Engine a benchmark in graphical design. Now there is many engines out there that want to topple that engine. Some people may say they’ve succeeded but I hold a lot of love for the Unreal engine. There is something about it that makes me get excited every time I hear a game using it. Gears of War 2 was a stunner to look at. Unfortunately it was the little touches I loves about it. I remember when I first went through the campaign I stopped to look at something for about 5 minutes. It wasn’t the scenery or even the scope, it was the raindrops on the window. I always feel that it’s the subtle little touches that make a game memorable. Give a game a huge budget, epic storyline but if it doesn’t have that one thing that’s never been done or seen before then the game won’t remain in people’s memories. And yes, it can be something as simple as raindrops.
A co-op multiplayer mode than Team Epic were hyping to be the ultimate co-op experience. A team of up to five people must survive wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies. There was 50 waves in all that definitely took a lot of endurance and patience to complete. It was so good that some of the other biggest companies began to follow suit. Halo, Call of Duty: World at War, and Aliens Vs. Predator to name just a few. Although each of them have their own unique twist on it, Epic nailed it and I hope they follow it through to Gears of War 3.
There were plenty of other thing that made Gears of War 2 great like gruesome kills, great bullet impact and if you were a huge fan of online then the vast quantity of maps was a treat. Unfortunately this was only for avid Gears fans.