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Nega-Review: Gears of War 2

Kyle Orland

"Don't expect the perfect shooter" out of Gears of War 2." (3) "There's a lack of depth here -- an amalgam of recycled mechanics and ideas that ... never really gets anywhere." (1) "The game has what seems to be a disappointing lack of polish, what with the minor glitches that have crept in." (6) "The execution is frustrating" (1) and "one can't help but think that the team is still honing its level design, its pacing, its combat and its storytelling." (3)

"Overall, Gears of War 2 is ... essentially the same as its predecessor." (6) "It's as if the original Gears has gotten a face-lift, and been expanded upon, without much real change." (1) "The game's opening teaser ... could have been sliced out of the original title" (4) and "the basic gameplay, with the focus on taking cover and precise re-loading, as well as the dismal gray visual design, is little changed from the first Gears." (2) "The whole freshness and aspect of 'new' that came with the first game won't really come across here." (6)

The game's "major shortcoming is a mawkish and cliche-ridden story." (2) "The characters [are] as macho and stereotypical as ever," (3) and "so uninspired you can almost predict their next response or action -- usually some variation of a grim, determined assertion of their physical prowess." (1) "Do we really have to have the shit-scared new cadet who's barely old enough to shave, the general giving a rah rah speech consisting entirely of jingoistic clichés, and the loud-mouthed hick who calls his rig Betty (and has a fetishistic love for it)?" (3) "There's barely a single character beat that isn't cringe-inducing." (2)

"The problem in Gears 2 is the focus on style over substance." (1) "The plot is formulaic," (2) a "heavy-handed morality play" (7) whose "clumsy mysteries are old hat to anyone moderately well read in science fiction." (7) "The love story that's been tacked on reads like teen fan fiction, right down to the wall-punching angst and eventual grim conclusion." (1) "The dialogue is also pretty atrocious for the most part" (3) and "the voice acting usually treads just above mediocrity." (8) "The title's relentless immaturity can grate after a while." (7) "I never got over the feeling that I was playing an extended Mountain Dew commercial." (1) In short, "the emotions [are] overwrought and the characters [are] shallow, badly voiced and occasionally offensive." (2)

"The level design itself is still fundamentally linear... result[ing] in levels that don't feel particularly real." (3) "Oddly enough there are levels and portions of levels that feel like they were designed only to showcase [new] features. It keeps them from feeling a part of the core gameplay and instead they seem like accoutrements to their specialized stages and are forgotten for the rest of the game." (8) "Being funneled along by doors that don't open and streets that are magically blocked off by cars and rubble feels a little lazy, particularly when Epic is capable of more inventive solutions." (3)

"Your computer-controlled allies "are still prone to gaffes (such as a reluctance to rush to revive you)." (6) Yes, "there were... occasions where Dom refused to revive Marcus, even when we were crawling around his feet. That's not a show of battle-hardened friendship – that's just callous!" (5) "You'll occasionally see your squad mates being completely ineffectual, standing, surrounded by clawing monsters, not fighting back - or even, seemingly, taking damage. (3)

"Enemy AI is also a mixed bag. ... you know that an enemy will always pop up out of cover before too long, or that a particular type of enemy will always commando roll to the side when under attack." (3) "Occasionally guys will think they're behind cover while you're planting hundreds of bullets into their exposed shoulder." (8) "You also know exactly how enemies are going to spawn into an area once you've played it. A little more variety wouldn't have hurt." (3)

"Unfortunately, for a game as high profile as this one, there seems to have been something missed in QA." (6)
"The framerate ... does dip in one particular section when the environmental destruction is simply too much for the engine to handle. There's also the infamous texture problems that happen with UE3." (8) "Through out our play through, we had to restart at the last checkpoint no less than three times through the one play through because of glitches. Once was because our vehicle got stuck and once because Dom decide run off a platform and the game leaving us stuck." (6) "I've also seen upside down enemies in Horde, my player model sliding around (not user controlled), and shots not registering properly." (8)

Welcome, Gears and, um, Gear-ettes, to the not-yet rustlung-infected Joystiq Nega-review. As usual, we've taken the small negative points from a variety of laudatory reviews for a high-profile game and assembled them into an entirely negative whole. We do this to save humanity from extinction... er, that is to say, to provide an entertaining and easy-to-read counterpoint to the waves of laudatory hype today's blockbusters receive.

The most interesting part of assembling this Nega-review was reading the conflicting opinions on the story. While many reviewers thought it was out and out atrocious (see paragraphs 3 and 4 above), others described it as well written, emotional, engaging, etc. etc. Just goes to show you, there's no accounting for literary taste, especially among game critics.

(1) Wired
(2) Variety
(3) IGN AU
(4) EuroGamer
(5) TVG
(7) Game Informer
(8) IGN
(9) GameDaily

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