Finally beat Gears 2 over the holiday weekend. Gotta make this quick, so here's five thoughts on Gears 2.
1) Every review I read recommended playing the game on the hardcore difficulty level. Since it came up so often, I went with their advice. They were right.
A challenge somewhere between normal and hardcore would be the perfect fit for me, but I'd go with hardcore over normal. The grunts become extra-absorbent bullet sponges on hard - too much so. They take far too many bullets to go down. But monsters, like the tickers and wretches, and enemy weapons, like the grinder, boomshot, and torque bow, become much more threatening - making for much tenser battles.
2) Mixed feelings on the ending. The final section of the game is truly epic. It feels bigger and more dramatic than just about any other game I've played. Damn, damn fun...but it is in no way challenging. Basically, the only way you could cock up this section is to not press the right trigger repeatedly - even on hardcore.
The first Gear's endgame is an excellent example of the perfect difficulty for a final boss: challenging but not frustrating. Ramm took only a few tries to beat...but only a few. If there is a third game, I hope Epic combines the challenge of the first game's end boss with the scale of the second game's final baddie.
From a story perspective, Gears 2 ends on a pretty interesting note. Spoiler's ahead.
The game doesn't end on a cliffhanger, as I expected. Nor was the the origin of the Locust Horde explained, though it's suggested that humanity either helped create or propagate the Horde.
It's hard to say what Epic was going for with the sinking of Jacinto, but the running motif of this series seems to be the COG's rash, disastrous decisions to combat an enemy that they don't understand. And the sinking of Jacinto may be the COG's worst decision yet, judging by the brief voiceover after the credits. There's still a lot of story left to be told in subsequent chapters. Here's hoping that Epic gets better writers to work with the game designers next time.
3) I'll give the people that worked on this game's story some credit: the scene where Dom reunites with his wife works, and works well. Emotionally, it sticks the knife in and then slowly turns it. It's powerful stuff. Seriously, this scene is almost Squaresoft good.
A shame that Dom is back to his usual "'Sup, bitches!" ten minutes later, and Epic forgets all about Dom's loss for the rest of the game.
4) So, in this futuristic world, there are invisible robots, hammers of dawn, and all other kinds of cool shit with which to be badass with, but the best sniper rifle the COG has is a single-shot, bolt-action rifle?
5) Still glad I bought it, instead of renting it. It's a better game than the first, with a better story that still needs some work. And Epic bucked the trend of the last two years and made a single-player campaign of an acceptable length, 10 hours or more, with exceptional gameplay. That alone makes Gears 2 easy to recommend.
And it's still got a chainsaw bayonet. Really, what else do you need in life?