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You'd be hard pressed to a find a more anticipated fall title among the Xbox 360 masses than Gears of War 2. The game has been top of mind since its GDC debut earlier this year. North Carolina-based Epic Games has been cranking on the sequel to its juggernaut Xbox 360 and PC title since the announcement and recently gave us an update on the upcoming game. While a brief overview on the sequel from Epic's Cliff Bleszinski was nice, the real meat of the experience was the chance to try out a bit of the competitive multiplayer modes.
Our look at the game began with the aforementioned overview from Bleszinski who touched on many of the points Epic's been covering since it started talking about the game. The game's story picks up after the original Gears and finds Delta squad doing its part to keep humanity from being wiped out. Gears 2 will also follow Dom's search for his wife. Beyond that, there wasn't much in the way of new detail offered about the story that will unfold in the single-player campaign outside of the assurance that it will be a longer experience.
There's a bit more info to run through in terms of the tech improvements and gameplay. For those anxious to know the tech stuff going on under the hood of the game, we offer a small laundry list of features being implemented in the latest version of Epic's Unreal Engine. The engine now features a what's what of tech speak that includes ambient occlusion, improved character lighting, improved shadow lighting, liquid dynamics, soft body physics, a new fracture system, a new decal system that marks the world with your handiwork, and enhanced world detail. On top of the hard tech enhancements, the Gears 2 art team is taking advantage of the new engine and adding a host of touches, such as higher res characters, weapons, and enemies, as well as detailed blood decals and tracers. This all adds up to a better looking game although, to be fair, all this stuff may not jump out at you initially. The game retains the same overall look as its predecessor, although weâ€™ve already seen a greater variety in environments, which naturally lend themselves to a broader color palette.
As far as game content goes, our sampling of the competitive multiplayer modes amounted to a dense but frustratingly modest slice of what Gears 2 is going to offer. While we really only tried out three competitive game modes, they offered a pretty tantalizing look at what to expect from the proper game. Before we dive into the specifics of the three modes--Wingman, Submission, and Guardian--we'll lay out the various gameplay tweaks going on under the hood. One of the most interesting is the notion of "stopping power," which now slows your movement when you're hit by bullets. The effect is cumulative, so any hopes of rushing someone in a mad dash are pretty much gone. Along the same lines is a new concussive force element added into grenades, which dizzies you when one hits in proximity. Another element to grenades is the ability to stick them against walls where they'll rest until an enemy comes by at which point they'll detonate.
You'll also be able to take enemies hostage and use them as shields when things are rough. You'll be able to do this when you get close to a foe in battle or when he is near death. In fact, you'll have quite a few options besides using a foe as a meat shield when he's near death on the ground. Besides using him as a shield, you'll be able to execute him in a variety of different ways based on the weapon you're holding or do a curb stomp. One of our favorite additions to the mix are the chainsaw duels, which are button-mashing fests that require you to mash the B button like a mad dog when you lock chainsaws with a foe. The game will keep tabs on who mashed faster and let the winner do the slicing. Another fun and likely soul-crushing facet of having one foot in the grave and desperately hoping a friend revives you in time is the ability to mash the A button and slowly crawl around. While this is ostensibly to help you reach a friend in time, it also makes for some games of cat and mouse because an enemy can toy with you for a bit before going in for that curb stomp. Larger enhancements to the multiplayer experience include a party system that lets you hang with your buddy through the game's various modes. There will be a number of enhancements to the camera system in multiplayer, allowing you to switch among a number of different views once you've been taken out and even take in game photos you can upload.
Epic is also tweaking all the weapons from the original Gears and introducing some new toys into the mix. The Gorgan Pistol is a new pistol, and the scorcher is the Gears take on a flamethrower. The game will also now feature a poison gas grenade and a shield you'll get off a new Boomer type (like they really needed shields). All weapons in the game will feature a new enhancement if you do a perfect active reload and will range from increasing their rate of fire, damage, or even range.
Now what about these new modes? Wingman is a 10-man game that breaks the group up into teams of two, assigning each pair the same character model. Your goal is simple; kill anyone who doesn't look like you. Guardian breaks you up into two teams and randomly assigns one member as the role of leader. Your goal is to take out the opposing team's leader while protecting your own. While your leader is alive, you'll respawn every 15 seconds, but that stops once he's taken out. Submission tasks opposing teams with finding and taking a fallen non-player character hostage. Your goal is to drag him to a set point on the map and keep him there for a set period of time. This isn't easy for a number of reasons, namely because he doesn't go quietly, he's packing a shotgun, there's the hassle of the opposing team, and there are a series of laser grids you'll need your teammates to switch off so you can get to your destination with the hostage.
While what we saw amounts to a tiny bit of what Gears 2 is going to offer, we have to say we're pretty excited to see more. Epic has some smart ideas that it's toying around with, and we definitely like where the multiplayer is going. Look for more on Gears of War 2 on July 14.
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