Gears of War 2 - Xbox 360

  • Publisher: Microsoft
  • Genre:Shooter
  • Developer: Epic Games
  • Release Date:Nov 6, 2008
  • # of Players:1 player, 10 online
  • ESRB:M - Mature (Blood and Gore,Intense Violence,Strong Language)
  • Platforms:
Game Description: Epic's mega-hit franchise returns for a second round as Marcus Fenix and the rest of the COG forces continue to fight against the massive Locust horde occupying their planet of Sera. The game also ups the ante on the multiplayer side, upping the competitive modes to 5-on-5 and including a new cooperative "Horde" mode that pits players against 50 increasingly difficult waves of Locust enemies.
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Gears of War 2: Dark Corners Hands-On Preview

Gears of War 2: Dark Corners Hands-On Preview

By Andrew Pfister - Posted Jul 21, 2009

Gears of War 2: Dark Corners Screenshot

Shaded by a blanket of deep green pine trees and tucked away in a sleepy corner of Cary, North Carolina, the offices of Epic Games don't exactly exude the same sense of energetic violence that made Unreal Tournament and Gears of War the blockbuster franchises they are. Maybe it's the summertime humidity and backed-up freeway that drive the company's designers to envision things like guns with chainsaws and giant city-destroying worms, because as we found out on our trip to see the new downloadable content package "Dark Corners" for Gears of War 2 (available July 28), the city of Cary is downright peaceful.

Perhaps we weren't there long enough to get the full North Carolina experience, but we did have enough time to take a tour of Epic's existing studio, as well as the new construction they're working on to accommodate their ongoing expansion -- if their main building was the "House that Unreal Built," this is assuredly "The Summer Home That Gears Financed." We also sat down to chat with company founder and CEO Tim Sweeney, design director Cliff Bleszinski, and executive producer Rod Fergusson. The topics ranged from what makes good content for an expansion pack, the best (and worst) of Internet communities, and what the games industry has in store for the next five to ten years...but first things first, we played through "Road to Ruin," the Gears 2 deleted chapter included with Dark Corners.

Highway to Hell

We begin with what we'll dub the "Maria" scene in the latter half of Gears 2, as to not give anything away (but if you're reading about additional content for Gears 2, chances are good you've played through it already, so don't be sensitive about spoilers!). Marcus and Dom are underground, plowing their way through the Locust hollow when the opportunity arises to gear up in Theron armor and sneak through the defensive line, a very un-Gear-like thing to do. Using the game's path-decision process, you can then choose how you want to go through the next scenario: left trigger lets you sneak around, right trigger is the kill-'em-all approach.

If you're still cringing at the thought of shoe-horned stealth in your Gears of War, Epic is one step ahead. "We didn't want to reinvent some sort of stealth mechanic, it's not a totally new game," says Fergusson. "It's about staying in cover and moving through the environment without getting spotted or getting too close to the enemy." What that means in practice is that the Locust are now blessed with working nostrils, and even though their cognitive and sight functions are severely lacking (a pair of Theron guards popping in and out of cover isn't suspicious?), your foul human stench is enough to set off the alarms.

Gears of War 2 Screenshot

But this isn't old-school Splinter Cell -- just because you get spotted doesn't mean you have to restart. "I'm personally not a fan of games that have this kind of black and white of success or failure for sneaking," Bleszinski explains. "It ultimately winds up to this game design where as you're going through this level and one guys sees you, the previous 20 minutes are completely invalidated and there's no way of recovering."

That wouldn't make sense in Gears, which is why if you happen to get too close to a patrolling Locust, he'll sniff out his suspicions, alert his buddies, and open fire. Then it's time to scramble for cover and clear the area in the traditional, blood-everywhere/active-reloading way. With the battle zones sectioned off by giant sound-proof walls, you can resume your attempts at being sneaky in the next area. The scene starts off slowly, so slowly in fact that it felt very weird to be playing Gears of War and not be shooting something. And while it was definitely an interesting way to weave through the Locust, it got me wondering just how long I could go without firing a round, and if Epic was asking too much of my -- and by extension, other gamers' -- patience.

"I think it's a departure," admits Fergusson. "It was sort of tricky for us, too, because most of the time you see the Locust, they're just charging straight ahead at you and guns firing and yelling at you, so [the challenge was] how would the Locust move and interact in a way that you can stand amongst them and see what they're doing...that was actually part of the bigger challenge, trying to convey a little more than just combat."

Gears of War 2: Dark Corners Screenshot

But after pulling levers to open giant doors and lowering concrete blocks as distractions, the game eventually transitions back into familiar Gears gunplay, including a climactic open-area, multi-wave ambush to conclude the scene.

Not having prior knowledge of Road to Ruin's length, I was surprised to be done with the stealth path in little over 30 minutes (my second playthrough running-and-gunning was at a slower, savory pace). And anyone who has been around the Internet for a while knows that gamers can get...sensitive when it comes to game value as it pertains to length (also: everything else).

Cul-de-Sac to Complaining

As we've watched this console generation play out, the expectations for downloadable content vary from publisher to publisher, developer to developer, and player to player. What's deemed substantial and fairly-priced by one can be seen as a "cheap cash-in" by the more cynical, and as a developer with an active and vocal community, finding that sweet spot can be difficult.

"In terms of what we're doing with Dark Corners, we really wanted [Road to Ruin] to be seen as sort-of bonus content -- for the price of Dark Corners, you're getting 7 multiplayer maps...the whole idea of this chapter is really more of a bonus, there's no cost to it at all." That's Fergusson, quickly dispelling any argument that Epic's trying to pick up a neat extra off the cutting room floor and pass it off as a whole new story. And when played as you might watch a deleted scene or extended cut of a favorite movie, Road to Ruin is definitely put in a better context.

But he doesn't rule out expanding the Gears universe in a meatier way through future DLC. "We've always talked about, even from the Gears 1 days when Baird and Cole go off in the factory and the sewers...it'd be really cool as a player to go and play that mission. We're definitely talking about stuff like that, but it's about what the team's focused on."

Gears of War 2: Dark Corners Screenshot

With a healthy supply of implied backstory and a growing pool of supplementary fiction to work with (we're up to two books now), there's definitely a lot of life left in the Gears franchise, even beyond what eventually Gears of War 3 turns out to be. And it seems that the future will be shaped more and more by the community. Filtering feedback, though, is a process.

"It's great to get player feedback in any form, whether it's the forums or e-mails or going out on press events...we've always been focused on making sure the silent majority is represented even though the vocal minority is in your face. But the vocal minority has a lot of very valid points."

That vocal minority has been busy since the launch of Gears 2 last November, taking aim at the game's more annoying bugs and sometimes-erratic netcode -- just another example of the sea change occurring as games ship with longer shelf lives in mind. On the subject of how much control the community has over the development (and continued support) of Gears 2, multiplayer lead Jim Brown understands the importance. "We're constantly scouring the forums, tracking gameplay trends, playing online, and recording user opinions and emergent strategies." This is a process that now begins before the game even ships, Brown continues, "Our pre-release QA is fully integrated with testing in the field...We also organize real world testing across Live prior to release and get as many people involved as possible." Whether or not that's enough to appease the dedicated, perceptive player who notices more than the silent majority might remains to be seen. But it's clear that the dialogue is vital.

Turnpike to Teamwork

Our day at Epic concluded with a stress-relieving, wisecracking tour of the 7 new multiplayer maps that comprise the core of the Dark Corners package. Using a round of Annex as an excuse to quickly tour the maps, it was difficult to tell how the team strategies will emerge (other than "if a G4 editor is on your team, pray"), but the locations and layouts were given plenty of attention.

Gears of War 2: Dark Corners Screenshot

"There was definitely some thought put into the settings," says Brown. "Highway and Way Station are both set in the Locust underground to coincide with the deleted scene from the campaign, for example." And lumbering in the back of the Highway map is a massive Brumak, an atmospheric touch that carries through the rest of the maps. Like the skin-shredding precipitation from the Gears 2 map Hail, new map Nowhere features a vision-obscuring dust storm that provides fortuitous moments of natural cover. Which is good, because if you're going to attempt to reclaim a fortified rooftop, you're going to need all the help you can get.

This is an in-house Epic favorite, along with Memorial: a Gears of War setting with open courtyards, the Hammer of Dawn, and refreshingly blue skies. (It's Cliff's favorite, too, because "it feels like a new place I've never been to in the Gears universe.") Filling out the roster are Allfather's Garden, a memorial graveyard for fallen COGs with lots of columns, small stairwells and gated chokepoints; and then the two refurbished maps from the first Gears of War. War Machine returns as a fan favorite ("Overwhelming," says Brown), and Sanctuary comes from the PC version in hopes it will catch a new set of eyes.

And while we exclusively played the Annex game type, the maps are built with everything in mind, and can even be altered slightly depending on the chosen mode. The gates in Allfather's Garden, for example, are closed off for Annex to funnel players toward the control points, but will be open for other modes.

Gears of War 2: Dark Corners Screenshot

Avenue to Anticipation

The day we returned from North Carolina, Microsoft accidentally leaked the Dark Corners pack for a very small window of time, but some fortunate and attentive Live Marketplace browsers jumped all over it, so the community is already at work devising the best strategies and paths to weapon locations (and probably already making a list of things they don't like). When you have a passionate audience, these things can happen. And hopefully, maybe, Epic will take it as a sign that more substantial single-player content would be very well received. Because really, Gears 3 is still a long wait.

Dark Corners will be available on Xbox Live Marketplace on July 28th, for 1200 Microsoft Points ($14.99 USD).


Comments are Closed

  • julioakadork

    this game is going 2 be bad ass

    Posted: July 30, 2009 6:46 PM
  • Joelouis012185

    Dialed in check it out ampt it up gears of war 2 obliterating the ratings....

    Posted: July 29, 2009 9:37 AM
  • zergandfro

    ok once and for all gears isnt a bad game but never the less is a good game i mean the graphics arn't too bad or anything but the third person improves the game the only bad thing about it is every thing is way 2 big and blocking not necessasary requiring skill just run in their and hope u don't die the cam angle is fun 2 play with but is not good becouse u can't ever be watching your back and in front of u at the same time theres no real sneaking the maps way 2 small for how big the game is man if gears could some how pull out like two or three big maps and different game modes make the stroy line a little more interesting by throwing a love passion or somthing like that becouse it just like the same thing over and over again how about a bunch of new new weapons and a third party like a how about the aliens get a hold of some nukes or keep or found somthin like that and launch them at the humans but some out side fore saves them or somthing like that becouse the story line getin really old about now i mean it was ammazzing for gears one but gears 2 was kinda of pushing it and i havent yet played the expansion yet so i guess i can't really say anything about that now but you nofrom what i hear it has some origanality too it so good for you.

    Posted: July 28, 2009 3:58 PM
  • ultra man 38

    i winner of the g-wars 2 all fronts collection. yes i w-to day cool. love g4,

    Posted: July 27, 2009 4:26 PM
  • TheAlienPredator

    It will be nice to be able to play a different map for once. Usually I'm stuck with the same map over again with little variation and even more unlucky, the same game type. These seven new maps, I'm sure, will be a good thing. Actually a great thing. And I'm also looking foward to War Machine as I never got to play it as much in the first Gears. But come on, wouldn't it be awsome to bring back Escilation and Raven Down and even Garden?
    The new campiagn chapter sounds like fun as well. I'm sure there will be more acheivements to get right? That will be fun to get as well.

    Posted: July 27, 2009 2:18 PM
  • gtzpanditbhai

    Gears has made real progress. it is easily one of the best 3rd person shooters out there in my opinion. I also believe it easily tops other games such as Army of Two (which was alright but Gears is much better). I was just wondering, does anyone know if Dark Corners comes out exactly at midnight or not?

    P.S. I really can't wait...it looks so so good.

    Posted: July 27, 2009 1:51 PM
  • gtzpanditbhai

    Gears of War has made real progress and it is an amazing game. It is truly one of the best 3rd person shooters I've played. It easily tops Army of Two (which I might mention, I didn't like so much). Does anyone know if Dark Corners comes out exactly at midnight though?

    Posted: July 27, 2009 1:49 PM
  • Gyrorobo

    It's 1600 microsoft points ($20), which I think is a little bit expensive. I mean shivering isles for oblivion was 1600 points and that had alot on it. This better be coming with alot.

    Posted: July 24, 2009 11:29 AM
  • DevilMan18

    this game is bad ass

    Posted: July 23, 2009 2:22 PM
  • marcusmfd

    how much this costin?

    Posted: July 23, 2009 7:55 AM
  • magmaboi

    When is that contest 4 gettin the maps early?

    Posted: July 23, 2009 5:46 AM
  • Stannz

    I think WhiteAura hit it right on the Head. Gears of War 2 was a good game, but in a way you might as well Call it Gears of Halo 4. Most games fix what was wrong and leave alone what was right. HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU GET IT BACKWARDS AND FIX THE MESS UPS (One hit Active Down with Sniper, 5 on 5 instead of four on four, bot replacements when people quit, HORDE MODE IS AWESOME), BUT MESS UP WHAT WAS GOOD (Party system i.e Halo 3 and Call of Duty=LAME, More glitches, Shotgun SO WEAK=WTF???)

    OverallI loved the game, and more than likely I'll get the DLC just for more multiplayer maps cause the Gears Maps are more awesome then not, but next time I would advise that if Cliffy B wants people to experiment with other weapons in multiplayer then add to the point system for what weapons you use as opposed to weakening the hell out of what are normally strong weapons (i.e. damage/kills with certain weapons offer more/less points or something). I remember when Halo got rid of the pistol from part one I was furious. They did the same with the Shotgun in Gears. All I'm saying is its fine to want to get more people involved in the game, just don't diss on the people who got you the acclaim in the first place.

    Posted: July 22, 2009 10:58 PM
  • TheStrauss

    ya same here justin i was watching and there saying stay tuned for a huge announcement?????

    Posted: July 22, 2009 5:13 PM
  • kappakoin

    yes, the gears games are fun to play. but the lack polish. I would of waited until 09 even 2010 for gears2 if they were polishing it and writing better net code. really all that work they talk about in the vid docs seem hard to believe. just play the game for a day instead your usual game and you'll see what everyone is talking about. online connection based off a single host is so old school its not even funny. you'll find a good game yes but why most of the time?
    being beat by someone who has host is not fun or fair. not only that but its so hard to face good people and think they are host, because its hard to see the difference between a host and a skill player. it sucks that the game can't find a new host after the 1st one quits,
    And from all of this I can only think of halo 3. bungie did a great job with the netcode for halo 3, why cant epic do the same? I really hope that like bungie with halo 2 that epics GOW2 will be a learning curve and GOW3 will have the polish and networking ability that we expect from such a well awesome game. the game play when in single player or horde mode is fun, because the game works like it suppose to, but online it never feels like that.

    Posted: July 22, 2009 4:25 PM
  • XxKillaNationxX

    how do we get the code

    Posted: July 22, 2009 4:19 PM
  • Justin996

    This so awesome but, i wanna know about that xplay thing on the 27th? I was watchin today and they said they were going to give out like free download codes for dark corners or something? I didnt catch it all, and i cant seem to find it on the website, so if anyone knows about it, it be a real help :)

    Posted: July 22, 2009 4:17 PM
  • T22Headshot

    I Wonder Who The old freind is or why they deleted this part.

    Posted: July 22, 2009 12:05 PM
  • ninerfan209

    New games come out, i buy them play them but always go back to gears. I cant wait for this DLC.

    Posted: July 22, 2009 10:38 AM
  • Cledez

    In my opinion i think they should be thinking more about fixing the game for the fans, rather than making more money...the way i feel about it is that they tricked me by giving me a great game like gears and then coming out with this "improvement"(gears 2).
    It just makes me sad to spend another $20 on this game when i already have $80 into it, and what would be the point of getting these maps if it is not even possible to have fun with them.
    Lag switcher go to hell you panzies!!

    Posted: July 22, 2009 10:37 AM
  • lcromy

    I would love to buy this, but Gears of War 2 has more bugs and glitches than any game I have ever played. I refuse to take another 1500 pt deduction for nothing with that game. Once Epic turns this game from an epic fail into an epic experience, I will be more than happy to pluck down $20 for an expansion pack. Until then, "EPIC KISS MY NON GLITCHY ASS!"

    Posted: July 22, 2009 10:03 AM