Gears of War 2 Multiplayer

by Logan

November 17, 2008

With Travis covering the campaign of Gears 2, I'll touch for a bit on the multiplayer. Epic admitted that the multiplayer in the first Gears was a last minute addition and that it wasn't tuned very well. While they didn't seem super confident in the product, Gears 1 was a very popular game online. With a full development cycle, Gears 2 is poised to be one of the finer multiplayer experiences on the 360.

The core experience of multiplayer obviously isn't changed too much. The biggest change is that the battles are now 5 versus 5 as opposed to the original's 8 player count. This does a good job of making games more interesting, while avoiding Halo 3's 16-player clusterfucks. There are several new modes with the most interesting ones being Submission (a CTF variant) and Wingman (a 5 team free-for-all). All of the classic modes are back and improved upon. A lobby system is finally implemented and makes organizing the matches much, much easier. They added bots to fill in for human players who drop, which is a nice touch. They're fairly competent, but have weird quirks. At times they have a super ability to dodge your shots when they sense their crosshair on them, yet other times they just stand still as you blow their head off. Overall though, they're a welcome addition.

Some more specific tweaks are implemented also. The infamous "Shotgun Roll" tactic is all but wiped out with the inclusion of stopping power. Guns like the lancer now have the ability to stop  a charging enemy dead in their tracks. The only problem with this is that they spent too much time tinkering with the shotgun. The chief complaint was the roll made it far to easy to get close to a person with little opposition. Rather than leaving the fix with stopping power, the shotgun feels rather nerfed. It doesn't have the same stopping power it once had and it basically pales in comparison to the now more powerful chainsaw. Speaking of the chainsaw, out are the "coin-flip" decisions of simultaneous battles and in are Track & Field style button mash-a-thons. This is supposed to give the players an equal playing field once the chainsaws are locked, but I still find it to be a bit random. A charged sniper bullet will no longer down anyone, which greatly reduces its effectiveness. Especially with the hit detection around heads being far more stringent than in Gears 1. The hammer of dawn now has a limited ammo supply, which is certainly a welcome change. The concussive force of smoke grenades and grenade tagging is far less welcome though. The explosion of the smoke grenade now has the ability to send your character flying, which isn't that big of a deal on its on, but I've ran into a plethora of clipping issues. The grenade tagging is rather cheap and encourages the lamest types of camping.

As far as co-operative modes, the drop in/out anytime campaign co-op remains intact and even expands on difficulty options for both players. It works just as you'd imagine and is just as, if not more, enjoyable as the first games. The new co-op mode is the 5 person Horde gametype. This is one of the games crown jewels I believe.  You and four buddies face increasingly difficult waves of Locust on any of the multiplayer maps. It presents a stiff challenge on higher difficulties and is a blast to work as a team. I think that down the road, this mode might wear kind of thin, but it is certainly fun if you have a group together for an evening.

Mapwise, this game is a very mixed bag. Maps like River, Pavillion, Jacinto, and Blood Drive stand out as some of the better ones. Others like Security, Stasis, and Day One are somewhat mediocre. A couple like Hail and Ruins are absolute stinkers. The inclusion of the flashback map pack remedies this somewhat, but Epic seemed to get a little too happy with their new graphics engine and made unnecessary changes to maps like Mansion. These are minor quibbles as most maps are certainly playable and there will definitely be more in the future.

A more agregious technical problem is the matchmaking system. For starters, there can sometimes be problems just finding a match. This is a spotty issue, but can be a very nagging one depending on the circumstances. Sometimes it's quick and speedy and other times it just flat out doesn't work. The rankings themselves seem rather flawed and arbitrary as well. It's basically a 1-5 rating system with little, if any, explanation given on how to actually level up. Of course, when that is flawed, the term matchmaking flies out the window as you're matched up with a random group of people playing and rarely with anyone with similar skills.

On the whole, these are just minor quibbles about an overall polished game. While personally I don't know if they were addressed in the best way in all cases, Epic certainly tried to tackle the issues that people had from the first iterations multiplayer. With GoW being such a big franchise now, I'm sure epic will continue to support it down the road and the enjoyment will keep on rolling.