In playing (and now reviewing) Gears of War 2, I began envisioning the game as a sort of girlfriend. As time (and levels) passed, the game’s success and failings felt a lot like the “getting to know” process of a potential spouse. Like any burgeoning relationship with a prospective partner, I discovered that the game requires some compromises if one is going to ultimately feel comfortable within its confines.
Right up front, I must say that the game isn’t going to impress your co-workers at this year’s Christmas party. She doesn’t have a lot to say and what she does say is often crude and graphic. In terms of dialogue, Gears is as bloody, clichéd and stupid as any summer blockbuster. Even during moments that attempt to be poignant, the laughable “acting” and tired story-telling undercuts the believability of events. It doesn’t help that you can see plot points coming from so far away that much of the drama feels unnaturally stretched and thus falls flat.
And it’s not just that she doesn’t have much to say. It’s what she’s saying.
You’ve no doubt heard it before – the game’s level of design isn’t exactly novel. Many of the stages have been done before and not just in other first person shooters. Moments from classic gaming such as Mario Platformers to House of the Dead rail shooters make occasionally awkward appearances throughout.
And then there’s the blood.
If Gears had an occupation, she would be a discount Tijuana surgeon. This is definitely a mature game as the inclusion of curb stomps and chain saw bayonets would indicate. However, there are moments in the game where you are literally wading through blood, leaving lead character and hero Marcus Fenix absolutely coated in the stuff. It’s a big part of who she (the game) is, and it can be unsettling.
So, she’s crude, repetitive and not the greatest conversationalist. But she certainly is pretty!
The game is gorgeous. From the character design to the feel of the levels to the little details that can so often go overlooked – like the realistic raindrops falling against a window or the picturesque landscape you’ll ultimately end up shooting the hell out of. There is some real artistry in all the details. Oh, and she’s loud too. She’s certainly a commanding presence in a room – in a good way… unless you have roommates, or neighbours.
At the end of the day, despite her many flaws, Gears’ game play is really too much fun to fault. To continue the date metaphor would result in some spicy language but suffice it to say that in a season filled with gaming options, I found myself missing Gears and her “stick and move,” “run and gun” game play. Epic Games have taken the formula from the previous game and amped it up resulting in a visceral, engaging experience that can’t be found on the countless number of competing shooters. This feeling increases exponentially when you consider the multi-player options.
So, ultimately, Gears is more hometown hottie than smart socialite. You will likely end up defending her to your friends and occasionally wish she had more to say. At the end of the day, however, you’ll find yourself missing what she has to offer because you won’t find it elsewhere.
In short, there should be no debate – put a ring on it.