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Despite the fact that it physically and emotionally hurts us, our trip to see Gears 2 was so jam-packed with facts that X360 has had to almost entirely forgo its usual jocular verbosity in favour of actually getting straight to the point. So hold tight, because even across eight pages, we’re cutting it fine.


While it’s fair to say that the majority of us purchased Gears on the strength of its excellent single-player campaign, it is to the multiplayer that we owe the sleepless nights still occurring a full one-and-a-half years later. The X360 team are enormous fans of Gears Of War, which always makes things a little difficult when attempting to look at a game in a wholly objective light. However, grabbing Cliff Bleszinski’s replica Lancer and roadierunning through the hallways of Epic Games’ North Carolina headquarters was enough to sweat out the doe-eyed fanboy, sit down, shut up and calmly shoot the living crap out of our fellow journalists.


The multiplayer maps and modes of Gears Of War were really the last element to go in. More to the point, they were crowbarred into whatever time remained after perfecting the single-player campaign. It begs the question that if Cliff and co managed to create such an insanely fun multiplayer experience as an afterthought then what could they achieve if it were treated with equal importance from day one? After eight hours of multiplayer mayhem with Gears 2, we can honestly say that Epic has answered that very question. And then some.

Gears has always shied away from commonplace multiplayer staples. Notions such as respawning and flag-capture labelled as unfitting to the game’s frontline play style. But Annex has, to a lesser or greater extent, proven that respawning mechanics are viable in Gears’ multiplayer world, providing they’ve been sufficiently thought through. Where once there were four, now five make up a team. Some may complain that other games have eight versus eight and so on but to do so is really to completely misunderstand the fundamental beauty of Gears’ design. Each map is specifically designed to be the most fun for eight, and now ten, players. No more. No less. One aspect of Gears that we’ve always loved is the simple predicament of staying dead. One life per round… that’s it. It’s a system that makes the player far more cautious, while at the same time accentuating feelings of heroism when moving into the fray against the odds. Risk versus reward is the lynchpin of any great multiplayer experience. We’re glad to report that, for the most part at least, respawning has been excluded from the game’s bread and butter multiplayer modes, instead sidling its way with necessary consideration into some of the new ones.

Of the original Gears Of War game types only Assassination – a game mode in which the round was won when one or the other team’s leader had bought the farm – has been significantly altered. The round no longer ends at the death of either leader. Instead, the new mode, renamed Guardian, keeps the grunts respawning so long as the leader remains alive. As a preventative measure to ensure that habitual hiders don’t perpetuate a never-ending round, the leader’s position is marked on the enemy’s HUD. The back and forth that comes about through allocating team members to attack or defend the leader provides a constantly shifting ebb and flow. What’s more, the death of one leader often leads to desperate and occasionally successful charges from the now leaderless, and therefore mortal, peons.

Wingman is an entirely new game mode in which your two teams of five are instead split into five teams of two – each taking on a different avatar identical to their partner’s. For example, we played as two Marcus Fenixs, going up against two Doms, two Carmines, two Raams and so on. Not only is this mode great fun, it also ticks some boxes that should really help a wider audience to appreciate the game’s delights. Going online to find a single buddy to make up your deadly duet is obviously far easier than finding four. The most effective tactical discussion in any game is always a twoway affair. Planning and intel simply flow more readily between two people, meaning that the competitive co-op mechanic works exceptionally well. Each round is played until only one team remains and the winner decided by the first team to reach a designated number of kills, which in our case, was 15. And Gears Of War 2 employs a new Halo-style team-matching system that should ensure that getting a game together is as easy as a tuppenney whore.

As before, unless blown to smitherines with a grenade or Boomshot, your opposite number will go down to his knees before dying. Only now you have a variety of additional ways in which to finish them off. As before the X-button will give you a curb-stomp – a finisher that Epic is loath to change due to its popularity. The B-button still finishes them off with a melee attack using whatever you have in your hand, but this time it’s weapon-specific. For example, if you’re holding a sniper rifle, hitting B next to a downed enemy will cause your character to toss it into the air, catching it by the barrel, then shatter his head into a thousand bloody pieces with a Happy Gilmore golf drive. The Y-button, previously functionless against a downed foe, will now flip your prey’s helpless body and administer several brutal punches to his dumbstruck face.


Tapping A will cause you to pick up your quarry and use him as a shield. When holding a ‘meatshield’ you may only fight using your pistol and with stunted movement – the pay-off being that it’ll stop all frontal damage until your hostage has disintegrated to little more than a flapping spleen. Which brings us onto the third and final game mode we played. Known simply as Meatflag this is Capture The Flag, Gears-style. Realising that standard Capture The Flag game types are simply not given to Gears’ particular brand of trench warfare, the problem has been worked around by having only one flag.

But what really makes this game mode stand out is that the flag takes the form of an AI-controlled player who’ll move around the map and attempt to kill anyone who comes near him. If you’re able to bring him down, you can then hit A and use him as a meatshield, dragging him back to the ring of light on your side of the map and winning the round. What’s really interesting is the way in which the trade-off of speed versus protection comes into play. Shoot the meatflag enough times while the opposition is dragging him homeward will set him loose, often causing him to go berserk against his captors to hilarious effect. The meatflag even has his own place on the intermission leaderboard; the more kills he scores, the more embarrassing it becomes for both sides. Respawns occur in this mode, although the more you die, the longer you’ll have to wait to come back.

Weapons now cycle, which means that while power weapons, pistols and grenades will always spawn in the same place, which specific one will change randomly each round. This has addressed the problem of players who whore the active sniper or boom because, simply put, those weapons won’t always be there. In addition, each weapon, new or old, has a degree of stopping power that will prevent people from running or diving toward you if they are under fire. Just as in real life, the force of bullets will slow them down. It’s a huge improvement over the previously superhuman ability to run through a hail of bullets to claim victory with a single shot. Players in the lobby will now have the opportunity to choose between the Lancer or the Hammerburst as their starting weapon – the latter having undergone significant design changes. Fanning the right trigger will now allow the Hammerburst to fire as fast as your trigger finger will allow, with the trade-off being that the faster you tap it, the more recoil you’ll experience. Skilled players will be able to reap significant advantage against Lancer-whoring opponents.

The Lancer’s chainsaw is largely unchanged. However, sawing someone from behind will now provide you with an animation in which the saw is inserted through the spine and emerges from the stomach. Previously, two players attempting to saw one another would have to leave the outcome in the lap of fate. Gears 2 instead launches the players into a chainsaw battle mini-game in which both players must mash their B-buttons as fast as humanly possible to gain an advantage.

The Medusa is a new pistol, which could reasonably be considered a powerweapon. Firing five or six rounds per shot, it’s incredibly effective at taking out kneecaps and forcing the opposition to kneel, and seems designed to counter some of the disadvantages of the meatshield. The game also incorporates fully fledged bullet shields. These metal bucklers provide an impenetrable barrier against attack. But again, there is a price to pay. With only one hand free it’s pistols only and walking like you’re in quicksand. Unlike its fleshier cousin however, the bullet shield may be planted into the ground to create a movable piece of cover. Your enemies can, if they get close enough, kick these over.


Grenades can now be stuck to stuff other than player’s faces. Once in place they act as proximity mines; floors, ceilings, doorframes and walls are all fair game. As before, all players begin with one smoke grenade, but now they also carry a stun effect that ragdolls any player within their blast radius, taking control away from them for a few seconds and allowing you to move in for the kill. The Poison Gas grenade, an entirely new addition, causes a cloud of smoke that will kill anything that lingers within it. This is especially fun for ’nade tagging, because not only will it have them run around with their arses on fire, it WILL eventually kill them. And there’s the added bonus that you’ll often see them running into their allies and depleting their health. Last but not least we had a chance to try out the Scorcher, a flamethrower that sports the most realistic fire we’ve ever seen in a videogame and can be used to reduce your enemies to little more than charred, creaking ash.

Bullets and explosives will now chip away at cover, but not in the same way as the OTT balsa wood environments of Stranglehold. When we say chip away, we mean exactly that: aim at the same spot with your Lancer and eventually you may be able to wear away enough cover to see your enemy’s head. Death is no longer as boring as it once was. Previously you would only be offered the option to see through the eyes of a team-mate until the round was over. Instead you can still have that option if you choose, but you can also view a dynamic battle-cam, a blimp-like overview of the fight. Best of all, though, is the ghost-cam. It allows you to move around the map as a disembodied camera and view the action however you please. You can even take screenshots, which will be automatically rated by the game based on their level of action and content. Like Forza Motorsport 2 or Halo 3, these can then be uploaded to the community, as well as being ranked on their own leaderboards.

Three maps were shown to us in total, two new, one nostalgia-inducing. First up was the latter. Assuming that time has passed since the tale told in the first game, it looks like the same is to be said of the original multiplayer maps. Gridlock is still Gridlock, only it isn’t. Sure, the walls, flowerpots, cars, sniper tower and boomshot arch are all still in the same place, but time has taken its toll. Ivy has crept its way across the environment, the flowerpots now have trees growing from them, blades of grass have pushed their way through the cracked concrete floor and zephyrs kick loose paper and dust into eddies that swirl through the orange glow of twilight. The effect is stunning.

In terms of ‘new’ new, first up is River which, like most others, is a roughly symmetrical map offering each team of players a thin strip of land incorporating both a house and a sniping tower. Dividing the two is the river, which is shallow enough to wade about in and houses a power-weapon underneath the single bridge that crosses it. We found this map to be particularly suited to Meatflag due to the sheer volume of both places in which the meatflag could run to, and the sheer difficulty of getting him back over a bridge without being taken down.

The last map we played was our favourite even though we were comparatively bad at it. Security is a long, thin map with teams starting at opposite ends. To the left and right are stairs that provide access to verandas running almost the entire length of the map. The verandas are ideal for flanking, but unfortunately you are barred access by deadly red lasers, acting like prison bars. On one side of the map is a power weapon barred in a similar fashion, while on the other, another power-weapon sits protected by automated gun turrets with a deadly level of enthusiasm. Somewhere around the map’s centre is a button and pushing it will deactivate all security for 20 seconds or so. No more laser bars, no more angry turrets. Flanking then becomes possible, but you’ll also have to bear in mind that in pushing the button, you’ve just unlocked a deadly weapon for the opposing team as well as one for yourself. This map was hugely enjoyable, but will take more sustained play time than your average Gears arena to form competent team tactics.


With the promise of many more new weapons that are going to “blow your mind” along with a dozen new maps, it’s hard to believe that what we played is still a whole six months from completion. As it stands, our time with the game was hands down the best multiplayer shooter experience we have ever had. There’s no doubt that Gears Of War 2 will own your world.

Dan Howdle

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Just more proof why GoW is the best series on Xbox...that other shooter can't even compete.

It has been the best shooter on anything since it released. I'm psyched out of my mind for this one, but I'm a little weary of all the new stuff. Hopefully they don't overdo it. Definitely could do without the proximity mines. Hopefully you can turn that off in the game settings.

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It has been the best shooter on anything since it released. I'm psyched out of my mind for this one, but I'm a little weary of all the new stuff. Hopefully they don't overdo it. Definitely could do without the proximity mines. Hopefully you can turn that off in the game settings.

I'm sure you can... ^_^

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