Epic Have No Regrets About Making Gears MS Exclusive

January 22, 2010 by Andy Giff  
Filed under News, PC, Playstation, Xbox

Gears of War is one of the biggest exclusive franchises on the Xbox 360

Industry analyst Michael Pachter claimed in a roundtable discussion with GameTrailers that Epic Games “regret” making Gears of War a Microsoft exclusive franchise. He said that they were probably “itching” to bring the games to the PS3.

Well Mark Rein, Vice-President of Epic Games today responded to that claim, and denied it. He said that Epic has a “great relationship with Microsoft” and that they “have no regrets”.

Given that Gears of War is a massively popular franchise already (Gears 2 was behind only Halo 3 and the Call of Duty games in the top games on Xbox Live in 2009), it is hardly surprising that Epic would feel this way. Without the financial backing from Microsoft (remember that “Mad World” trailer for the first game?) it is highly unlikely that Gears would have met the success that it did.

Either way, if you’re waiting to play Gears of War on your PS3, don’t hold your breath…

Gears of War 2

August 20, 2009 by Colin Ward  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Overview

Title: Gears of War 2
Release Date: November 7, 2008
Developer/Publisher: Epic Games/Microsoft
Genre: Third Person Tactical Shooter
Platform[s]: Xbox360

Storyline

Set 6 months after the events of the first Gears of War game,  which saw Marcus Fenix and the rest of Delta Squad fighting the Locust Horde, a shadowy life form that dwelt underneath their home planet Sera. This epic battle saw the humans prevail by detonating a ‘light mass bomb’ – a weapon of mass destruction – in the heart of the planet Sera. The humans hoped it would wipe out the majority of the locust forces and stop them from killing every surface dwelling human .

They where wrong.

Gears 2 as Gears Of War 2 shall be referred to from now on see’s the human race with their backs firmly to the wall, as whole cities are being ‘sunk’ all around their last strong hold, a  city called Jacinto. The locusts have rebuilt their forces, and spurred on by the humans attack – set about the destruction of the entire human race.

Add to this epic battle, the search for Maria, the missing wife of Dom, one of the main characters, and you not only have the making of a great war game, but one that delivers a much more personal emotional story than the last.. Can the humans survive this battle, and take the fight back to the locust’s home ? – only time will tell…

GoW2-Screen-2

Gameplay

Anyone who has played the first Gears game will be right at home with the controls and basic gameplay of Gears 2. Controls are identical to the first game, from the curb stomp move, which has a few new weapon specific displays of violence to head actions that finish off downed enemies, right up to the ‘active reload’ which if timed correctly, will not only speed up the time taken to reload, but will also add extra damage to the rounds reloaded.

Right from the inspiring intro showing the desperate war your stepping into – you immediately feel your back home on the planet Sera, but this time with a few new extra toys. Your weapons now feel a little more powerful, thanks to the new ’stopping power’ – if you shoot a stampeding locust, the bullets have more of an effect on them, they stumble more, allowing you to have some breathing space, a feature that was missing from the first game, and one that may make all the difference.  Roadie run is still here – and works well, it’s a way of covering a bigger distance, at a greater speed – but you loose being able to aim accurately while the camera view shifts to a lower angle and looks almost like a hand held camera, with it shaking and bobbing around.

Other improvements that you will find in the first few minutes are one or two to the cover system, pressing a button will ‘stick’ to any piece of cover and allow you to fire from it in relative safety – some cover is destroyable, so watch out. The cover system seems more fluid than in Gears 1 -  you don’t just ‘stick’ as you run past an object so now you are able to move about in roadie run with much more freedom before latching on to a wall etc.  these improvements along with the new skill of being able to use dropped shields – which are carried by some of the new foes in the game , and downed, but not dead locusts as meat shields, is not only great fun to do, it is also a skill to master, since you are protected from enemy fire by the slowly dying body of a locust held firmly in front of the player.
Add to this a few new weapons, from a flame thrower, that is lethal at close range, a mortar and a full on mini gun that needs to be mounted to cover to fire effectively and you have the makings of a great war game.

Just like before in Gears of War your main weapon the Lancer has not only impressive stopping power and range, but a under slung chainsaw, in the position used in most games for a grenade launcher. The chainsaw is an effective weapon at close quarters, and has new animations for slicing and dicing the locusts – you can now slice them from bottom to top from the rear, as well as the normal front, top to bottom slice.. These moves are very gruesome, as you would expect, and the shower of blood and gore is sometimes over the top, but never less than satisfying.

As in the previous gears game, you will run into locusts using Lancers, presumably from dead Gears, and these sometimes lock blades as you try to chain saw them – this leads to a frantic button bashing mini game, to see who wins this fight. It’s a good addition, to what was previously luck, and timing as to who won a dual.

As you walk about the levels – you will come across some great open vistas, this time Gears2  has a more epic feel,  with the larger levels not only on foot but with drivable vehicles, which pop up a lot more often than in the first game. In fact vehicles make a very early appearance, on the second level, with you riding on the back of a huge vehicle called a ‘derrick’ – basically a huge transporter – these levels have a huge sense of scale, and also open up the world we have seen so far.

Gone are the  Cog Tags which you could collect from the first game – which are the Gears dog tags- now you have to collect information, from posters and newspapers scattered about the levels. This add some replay value, as you hunt for every single one.

As you battle across and under the planet Sera, you will encounter quite a few new enemy types, from small exploding tickers to huge boss creatures, and  all of them just fit the world so perfectly, this game has not just picked random ‘aliens’ – but they have made a whole society of Locusts with each type fitting neatly into it.

Co- Op play  is 2 player only – not the much rumored 4 and it follows the story line of single player identically right down to the cut scenes. A new feature of this is both players being able to set their own difficulty level, so you can play with someone who is new to the game, on casual , while you play on hardcore for example, it works by  the game altering the amount of damage done to and by the players depending on the skill level they have  set – so you both fight the same amount of enemies and this seems to work well, and can make a world of difference, since before you both had to play at the same skill level, and this could put players off joining your game. As before it works as a ‘drop in – drop out’ system for the second player, so you they can leave at any point.

Online, the first major improvement that you will notice is the increase from 8 players to 10 – a small jump – but it does mean  more people to kill! The classic Gears online modes are here, along a full set of maps and five extra remade maps from the first game,  Canals, Gridlock, Mansion, Subway, and Tyro Station all of which have had a face life, not only in textures, but the amount of detail on the map has improved as well, some look completely different under the new lighting and environmental effects. Canals for example is now set in the winter time, and the water is frozen over, and like the others, these all play as before, so Gears 1 fans should be right at home on these, they are available by a download token in the box, so don‘t throw it away. All of the features from single player transfer over to online multiplayer – like the cover system and active reload, as well as the new additions, like human shields, using either your own downed team mates or the enemy, to the new weapon based ‘curb stomps’. The chain saw duals also carry over from single player, and should end the frustration seen in Gears of War online, when it seemed to be pot luck, as to who won a chainsaw dual.

If you get down but not out, you can now try and crawl away to safety – unlike the original, so you can now hammer the button and try and crawl behind cover before you bleed out. This works well, if your downed at a distance, but in close up fights – the enemy will just follow your blood trail, and finish the job, unless your team mates get to you first.

Another improvement over the first title, is the camera when you die. Rather than having a static camera that follows your team mates – you now have control of a few fixed cameras, and one flying free roaming ghost camera. This ‘ghost’ camera can zoom about the map so you never get bored watching someone else’s back. There’s also a new photo feature, which allows you to take in game pictures of the action, and upload them to the Gears of War website for sharing, this is a handy addition for people to brag with.

The full list of multiplayer modes are as follows

War zone – classic team death match, 5 vs. 5 basically kill the other team, without dying first and you win the match – you have no respawns – but if you get downed, but not out, your team can revive you, if they get to you in time. It plays just as well as the first game, but the extra person might catch you out, since most people are used to only facing 4 players on the other team.

Guardian  – 5 vs. 5 – this is a slightly altered version of ‘Assassination’ from the first game. one member of each team is the ‘leader’ – It’s the leaders job to stay alive, while they are, you have respawns – so it’s in his team’s best interest to protect him, since if the leader dies, you lose your respawns – and when either team is completely wiped out, the other side wins. This is a great game type – makes your team work together and protect the leader, so could turn out to be a firm favourite in Gears 2

Wingman – a new game type -  5, 2 player teams fight against each other, until one team reaches the winning amount of points. You have to get one shot kills or close range to kill the other players, points are awarded for kills and winning the round, so winners can sneak up on you – so eliminate them as soon as possible. For this mode both players in the one team have the same character – so it’s easy to spot the enemy team – if you split up.

Submission – another new game type- in this mode,  5 vs. 5 battle in a game which was originally called ’Meat Flag’ it is a twist on capture the flag and sees a an AI controlled flag – armed with a gun running around the map – both teams compete to down this ’flag’ and drag him back to their flag zone, and hold him there for a set time – however he can escape, so be careful. Team that reaches the points needed to win first, win!

Execution – 5 vs. 5 fight each other similar to warzone, however you can only kill an opposing team member in close up or with a one shot kill, if they are downed – they revive automatically, so get stuck in and finish the job!

Annex – 5 vs. 5 fight to capture rings at set points on the maps – hold those rings to get points, once all points have been allocated, a new ring will appear on the map, repeat this process, and hit the points target to win.

King of the hill 5 vs. 5 capture the ring, but this time you need to stay in it to score points, execution rules apply, so close range kills and one shot kills only. King of the hill has only one capture point per round. Team to hit the target score first, win.

And finally a brand new co-op mode – Horde  a 4 player team take on wave after wave of steadily increasingly harder Locust, with the aim of trying to survive for as long as possible. Weapons are scattered around the map, as well as ammo – these supplies respawn before each wave. The goal of the game is to clear the map of all locust, before they kill you – downed players respawn before the next wave, or you can revive them while in the middle of a fire fight. This is one of the more anticipated game modes, and lives up to the hype, it’s great fun to play – if a little hard at the higher skill levels, all in all a great ‘bonus’ mode!

GoW2-Screen

Graphics

From the outset the stunning Gears of war’s graphics appear to be back, but they are not.. This is an updated unreal engine 3 game and it shows,  graphics are more detailed than in the first game, showing much more levels of details the more you look , there’s more colour,  and more feeling.. The old adage of ‘destroyed beauty’ returns with some stunning vistas and amazing models.

As you progress further into the game and encounter the new locations and enemy types, of which there are many, ranging from very, very large ’things’  down to the small ‘tickers’,  you are never left with any doubt this is a triple A title. Sun glints on metal , blood splatters on walls and floors, flesh wobbles – and it’s all done in stunning quality – there’s the odd graphical glitch that have rolled over from the first title, such as texture’s slowly loading at the start of a level /match – but hopefully the NXE’s New Xbox Experience install to hard drive, will speed this up, and there’s also a small amount of clipping to be seen, but these are not game breaking or too major, and none detract from the stunning design and artwork used for the graphics.

There is a new violence filter which when turned on, removes the blood AND dismemberment, adding in sparks for blood and making enemy’s shake when chain sawed – so if you get woozy at the sight of blood – this option may be the one for you!

Gears of war is back, and it’s never looked so good!

Sound

From the main opening theme, to the voice acting, your in for a treat. Music is stirring and moving, and really does set the scene for the battles ahead, classic gears themes run through out, but with new arrangements and twists, which all add up to a rather rousing sound track. Voice acting is as good as ever, if a little cheesy in parts, such as Doms ‘I’ll shoot you in the asses’ comment early on – but it’s to be expected from a Gears game. The AI also talk a lot more now, shouting out directions and enemy locations, as well as the odd bit of smack talk – word of warning, there’s quite a bit of swearing – which can be removed by the ‘swear filter’ in the options screen – but why would you? The locust also seem to have had voice lessons as well, since they have a much wider range of sounds, depending on the type, and the ticker, well speaks for it’s self!

Weapons also sound much more beefy, with the new chain gun the ‘mulcher’ sounding like it should belong in the old Arnie film Predator, each of these sounds, reinforce the graphical display of power, and as a whole work really well, adding to the game a lot.

Overall Score & Replayability

If you’re a fan of Gears of War 1  you will love this, it’s basically more of the same, with a few minor tweaks, here and there, but the old adage ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ springs to mind. This is not only a visual upgrade – Gears of War 2’s levels of details are a lot higher than the original, from the suit’s the player wears to the walls, rocks and locusts – everything in Gears 2 seems to have had a full makeover. Add to this the new features in single/player and co-op, and you will have a game that is worthy of game of the year. Some have said it’s a little short an approximate 10 hours for single player – but the online side of things will continue to entertain you for many months to come.

Speaking of multiplayer – there is  the dreaded host advantage, which still rear’s it’s ugly head a few times, but it’s not as bad as in the first game. Online is fluid, once you get into a game – but the menu system to set up games etc, can be a little confusing at first. So take you time and learn what button does what.

GOTY Edition of Gears of War 2?

August 18, 2009 by Dave Burns  
Filed under Xbox

Play.com has listed a Game of the Year edition of Gears of War 2.  Although Microsoft hasn’t confirmed this as of yet we suspect it to be real and while no details have been announced we reckon it will include all of the DLC that has been released to date including the Dark Corners / All Fronts collection recently released.  While we are only speculating the possibilities of this extremely high when compared to Gears of War 1.

All Fronts / Dark Corners DLC for Gears of War 2

August 14, 2009 by Dave Burns  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Title: All Fronts / Dark Corners DLC for Gears of War 2
Release Date: 29th July 2008 
Developer/Publisher: Epic Games / Microsoft
Genre: Third Person Shooter 
Platform[s]: Xbox 360

Ever wondered what Gears of War 2 would be like with a stealth option? Wonder no more!  Dark Corners is a campaign chapter that starts with a question… Do you want to go deeper in the hollow via an all new stealth mode or in a more traditional way or all guns blazing?  We opted for stealth first of all and basically you just walk to your destination pulling levers, avoiding Locusts and walking through doors, we get the feel that this ‘deleted scene’ was deleted for a reason, it’s quite simply boring although it is nice to see a few new Locust animations as you get a bit too close to the enemy and obviously seeing our heroes dressed in Theron Guard uniforms.

The other option is to go in guns’ blazing which is more like the Gears we know and love! One of the main differences in this and the stealth option is being dropped into a prison at one point which see’s you battling your way out against a few waves of Locusts, pretty much the same as the rest of the game really.

screen

One thing that both routes have in common is meeting an old friend from Gears of War that has been captured by the Locusts; we can’t tell you who it is but fans of the series will be pleased to meet the person.

In terms of length the campaign mode, dependant on difficulty, should only last around 15-20 minutes per choice (Stealth or Guns’ Blazing) so don’t go expecting a whole chapter.

The other part of the DLC is 7 multiplayer maps including the reworking of the original War Machine map from Gears of War.  From playing all of the maps we didn’t really find a single map that we clearly didn’t like and quite frankly we see these maps as the saving grace from the All Fronts DLC pack.

All the maps range in size from small close quarter combat to quite large maps with plenty of cover and hiding places.  For example Way Station is a small map spawning the teams just a few meters away from each other but with a train in the middle separating the teams, the train can of course be moved by operating a lever at the opposite side.

screen2

Our pick of the bunch has to be Sanctuary which features wide open space in a brightly lit section of Jacinto.  The map has 3 levels; ground, upper level and basement all of which hold power weapons so the race will be on and expect huge firefights trying to control these areas.

All in all the length of the campaign mode really goes against the price of the content but its saving grace is the quality and amount of maps that come with the pack, hardened Gears fans will be massively satisfied by the pack but casual gamers may feel slightly let down by the price and amount of content.  So to summarize this DLC only buy it if you’re really into playing Gears 2 online as the campaign mode is too shallow to prove a buy on its own merit.