Gears of War is one of the most iconic franchises to ever grace the Xbox and has carved out a legacy amongst gamers that stretches all the way back to the Xbox 360 and, with the release of brand new DLC for Gears 5, it seemed like there was no better time than now to take a look back the entire series and ask “is it still good in 2021?”
My adventure started with the original Gears of War (Ultimate Edition of course) and, after taking another memorable trip down memory lane, I decided that I was going to go for all 5 and truly experience the saga of Marcus Fenix one more time before ending my run with the latest and greatest entry, Gears 5.
So, here we are in the second game of the franchise and I couldn’t wait to play this one again because it is the last Gears game that I’ll be playing for the second time. From here on out, I’ll be experiencing it all for the first time and that’s what I’m most excited for. No more nostalgia trips, I’m going into the other games with fresh eyes.
But what about Gears of War 2, is it as good as I remember? Well, that’s the question I aim to answer with this series and I had a dope time with Marcus and the boys as we geared up (pun intended) one more time to take on the Locust Horde and defeat their evil queen. So, without further ado, is Gears of War 2 still good in 2021?
GEARS OF WAR 2
So, What’s It All About?
Gears of War 2 follows on directly after the first game. Humanity deployed the Light Mass Bomb as part of the last-ditch effort to destroy the Locust Horde. But, unfortunately, the bomb was not as effective as we had hoped and the Locust seem stronger than ever. Now is the time to take the fight directly to their front door.
We rejoin Marcus and Dom as they prepare for this assault on the Hollow which is set to take place through the Locust infested town of Landown. Little do they know that the Locust are back and bigger than ever, and they aren’t ready to go down without a fight.
Gears of War is world-renowned for its intuitive snap-cover and returns in full force for the sequel. Gears is a third-person tactical action shooter and you’re going to be using that cover system a whole lot as you blast your way through mountains of Locust, trying to stop these subterranean creatures from completely taking over.
It’s not all bullets and blood, however, as Dom continues his desperate search for his long lost wife as the number of human casualties seems to grow larger by the second. It’s an action movie in its purest form, similar to Battle: Los Angeles and will keep you on the edge of your seat if you let it.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) January 12, 2021
So, What’s Good About It?
First of All, I have to give a major shout out to the writers of this game’s narrative because they clearly listened to the feedback from the original game. Even back then, the original Gears of War was criticized heavily for not having a good story and I had to bring it up again when I did my review on the first game.
Well, they managed to silence every critic with the compelling story that I got to experience in this game. I mean, I did not expect to feel so emotionally invested in a game that’s main focus is to shoot all the enemy aliens in the face. Especially when most of the characters are square-jawed action movie stereotypes that eat nails for breakfast (presumably).
Every major character dearth that occurred along the way felt like it had so much weight to it. These were characters that I got familiar with through the cutscenes and dialogue as well as the action as they fight alongside me and I felt the loss every time one of them met their gruesome end.
The Artwork & Music
Another major improvement over the original game was the art style and color palette used throughout the game. Nearly every location in the last game felt exactly the same and I could only recall moving from one bland grey location to the next as I fought my way through each act.
This time around, every location feels distinct in its layout and the colors that were used were unique to each environment that you encountered. So much so that I could easily sense that I was returning to certain areas during the game’s finale because their designs were so memorable.
The music this time around felt way more epic than it did before. The intro sequence before you begin the attack on Landown is filled with sweeping orchestral tones that paint a grand picture of what’s to come and gives you a true sense of scale and it’s easy to feel engaged when all this art comes together.
The Weapons & Combat
Thankfully, the weapon and combat variety has been dramatically improved since the first game with more of the Locust arsenal becoming available as you progress and more creative ways to use each weapon showing up as well. That’s what I look for in a good combat system, the opportunity to be creative.
The Lancer is still a ton of fun to use and I loved grinding up meat with the chainsaw bayonet and seeing my co-op partner join in so we could unleash dual chainsaws on an unsuspecting Locust was a treat. Even the flamethrower, I didn’t think the wretches could get more annoying but, as long as I had a flamethrower handy, they were no problem at all.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) January 12, 2021
So, What’s Bad About It?
The Enemy A.I.
Okay, I’ve gotta come out and say it right off the bat. The A.I. in Gears of War 2 simply did not age well. Maybe I’m looking back at it through little kid glasses but I remember the Locust horde being a much more formidable foe back in 2008. This time around, they seemed like a bunch of bumbling fools.
I didn’t need to use much of my tactical brain when some of the enemies would willingly expose themselves for no reason. And I don’t just mean poking their head out every now and then, they would full on just hop over in front of the barrier then helplessly scramble back in place before they got shot!
It truly broke my immersion at times and I wasn’t impressed at all, especially since I was playing the game on hardcore…Hardcore! Did I really need to play this game on Insane to feel like the locust were a significant challenge? And it’s not just the Locust A.I. that’s the problem.
I love Dom and the boys but they are the most frustrating partners to deal with this time around. I don’t know whether it’s an issue with the balancing, but there were times where they were the most overpowered individuals in the game, and other times it felt like I was the only person hitting my shots.
We had a system to call out commands to your teammates in the first game and I wish they brought it back. In the majority of the firefights I encountered, my teammates would just charge in like Rambo, without fear, and eventually, I just started doing the same thing since I wasn’t getting any of the action trying to be tactical and efficient.
So, Should I Play It?
If this is your first time playing any of the Gears of War games then this is, by far, the best place for you to start. You won’t miss much in terms of the story since there is a pretty decent recap at the beginning of this one and you won’t miss out on any key information if you start here in the story.
Even if you’re a long-time veteran of the series, I would highly suggest you check this game out at least once. This is the game that cemented Gears as a franchise to be respected by taking a genre-defining formula and tweaking it to be an even better version of itself. The only problem I had right now was the multiplayer co-op aspect of the game.
With four other sequels on the market and a host of other equally important spin-offs, it’s no wonder that the player population for Gears of War 2 is bleak, to say the least. I went through the extra effort to find a co-op partner through Xbox LFG and I’m happy to say that playing co-op still beats the single-player experience.
So, if you’ve got a buddy to join then strap in for a wild ride with Marcus and Dom to see how this franchise established itself and get familiar with the Gears of War roots.
Have you played Gears of War 2? What did you think of the franchise’s first major sequel? Let me know in the comments section below.