Gears of War Retrospective (Part 2): Gears of War 2
With the release of Gears of Wars, it was pretty obvious that Epic had planted the seed of a franchise that would blossom into something special. Racking up millions of copies sold, numerous Game of the Year awards, and a growing, passionate fanbase, Gears wouldn't be going away any time soon.
With the campaign beaten, multiplayer matches won, and millions of Xbox's red ringing, the original Gears of War could sustain only its lasting appeal for so. This was especially true when 2007 rolled around and two major games in the same genre were released: Halo 3, the third installment of the Microsoft franchise, and Call of Duty 4, a game that would change the multiplayer shooter genre.
Two years had past since the original Gears of War release, and in February 2008, a sequel was finally announced at GDC. After the teaser, Cliffy B came out on stage, with a lancer in his hands, proudly announcing that Gears of War 2 would be released on November 8th, 2008 -- and it would be bigger, better, and more badass than the original. The mic might as well have been dropped.
Recapping the main story
Gears of War 2 was released on schedule and continued the fight against the Locus, 6 months after the events of the original game. After the Lightmass bomb didn't successfully kill the Locus, the C.O.G decided to take the fight to the Locus. Something was destroying cities, and the Gears had no choice but to head to the Locus terrain and had to find out what they were using and how to stop it. New to Delta Squad was Tai, a Native American soldier, Dizzy, a Rig driver, and Ben Carmine, brother to the first game's Anthony Carmine.
Along the way, Dominic Santiago, friend to Marcus, had his own agenda that was only hinted at in the original Gears of War. Dom's wife, Maria, was kidnapped by the Locus years ago, and word around the battlefield was that she was close. Dom's search was the main emotional anchor for the game.
To get to the Locus, the Gears had to dig underground. Just before they did, a new foe named Skorge attacked the team, with Tai and Dizzy defending while Marcus, Dom, and Carmine went down to the Locus's home turf. While there, they found the source of the sinking cities -- a giant worm. The group reunited with Cole and Baird, where they learned that Locus were torturing people and making them work as slave miners. They later found Tai, who'd been traumatized by being tortured after his losing battle with Skorge, and ended up killing himself.
The team was later extracted, and eaten by the Worm. They managed to kill it, but lose Carmine in the process. After that, they headed towards a secret base, got info about the Locus capital Nexus and had an encounter with an insane A.I. When they arrived at Nexus, the group split with Cole and Baird, who waited to evacuate some stranded NPCs, while Marcus and Dom went in to plant a beacon. The two also learned that Dom's wife, Maria, was there from one of the stranded.
They found Maria, but due to torture and being lobotomizes, she was a nothing more than a husk, leaving Dom no choice but to euthanize her. The two then fought their way through the Capital and activated the beacon. They reunited with Cole and Baird and learned that the Locus were fighting amongst with themselves, as some Locus turned Lambent and Explosive. They also learned from Marcus's father, via a video recording, that the city of Jacinto needed to be sunk before the Locus could evacuate.
The group later encounters the queen and Skorge, with the former getting evacuated and the later being killed by Marcus and Dom. Delta Squad returned to Jacinto to tell the C.O.G the news and evacuate the city, then head back underground via a hijacked Brumak. They used its Imulsion to sink Jacinto and deal serious blow to the Locus.
How it changed the series
Gears of War 2 improved numerous gameplay mechanics, and also introduced a few new toys to play with -- like a two-handed Gatling Gun called the Multcher, and the Scorcher Flamethrower. Taking cover was praised for its improvements, and new mechanics (like using enemies as Meat Shields) were also a nice touch. The set pieces were more impressive, with new vehicles sections (though one section in particular was criticized). The story was also praised for its more emotional tone (via Dom's Search for his wife) and improved writing that felt a little less cheesy.
On the multiplayer side of things, Gears of War also made improvements to its map design. What surprisingly became a game-changer was the new Horde mode. 4 players would have to survive waves of increasingly difficult enemies. This mode became so popular that it made its way into other game series, like Halo, Mass Effect and High Moon Studio's Transformers series.
Gears of War 2 didn't win as many awards, but did win best shooter from outlets like IGN and the Spike Video Game Awards, as well as best 360 Game from others. Since its release, Gears 2 has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide.
Tune in next time for part 3, and be sure to bring some tissues.