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Gears of War 2: Playtest of the first two chapters in co-op


Is Gears of War 2 any good? Do you see Dom have a little cry? Is it good? Are the derrick bits fun? Is it good? Is it good?

We've played it. It blew us away. It'll blow you away too.

First things first: Gears 2 could very well be the game you've been dreaming of for the past two years. It's Gears of War to the power of ten. The hour we spent playing co-op at a recent press event was practically transcendental: it takes puerile fun so effortlessly to the next level the action games of the past 12 months evaporated in seconds. Sorry for the gush, but we really were knocked out.

Why? After our chat with Cliff Bleszinski, a journalist was talking on the phone to his mate.

"It's the first one with tons of new stuff, the graphics through the roof and all the shit stripped out," he said. "It's more than that, though. You won't believe it."

Summed up our thoughts. Find out what it's like to play the first bit after the link. Obviously there are MASSIVE SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON. Read at your peril.

We sit down with the co-op campaign, right from the start. The Microsoft PR tells us each player can select their own difficulty setting: the amount of enemies on-screen remains static, but if you select a harder setting you handicap the amount of damage you take and inflict.

Straight into a massive intro scene. To cut it short, the light bomb didn't kill all the locust and the fight for Sera's stepped up a notch. Music blares, there are hordes of baddies shown, and so on. It's goosebumps from the word go.

It's the first chapter. The act's called "Tip of the Spear," and chapter one's "Welcome to Delta." As with the first game, you can choose to train or not. We decide to train. It's Dom and Marcus again. Ben Carmine turns up, and he tells you he's one of four Carmine brothers. Carmine got very killed in the first title, obviously. He joins in your training.

New bit – your "tac com" is on LB. This is a mission objective thing that tells you what to do, essentially. It's called up in the real-time. The game quickly rattles through how to use cover, and then how to shoot by facing you off against some bottles on a wall. You get to blow up some nasties with grenades, that sort of thing. It's fairly sedate.

Training's over. Tai, the tattooed "spiritual warrior" turns up. He sounds a bit native American. You're in a hospital. You're off. It's immediate shooting, firstly from windows down into a courtyard, hitting gas cans as a make-shift bomb, then corridor fighting against the scum.

Two things are immediately obvious. Firstly, there's been a huge bump in graphical detail. Seriously, your 360's never seen the like. Secondly, the controls have been refined very much for the better. You don't stick on scenery any more and everything just feels "natural," certainly far more so than the first game. It's easy to play: insta-fun.

Instant hard-on

Out of the hospital and into a street-fight backed up by helicopter gunships. The action drive is sensational, hammering gunfire, masses of enemies on-screen, fast progression, full power. We're literally five minutes into the game and we're actually hard. Good news.

It's over. A story bit. Dom: "I miss my family." Marcus: "Dom, are you OK?" Us: "…"

We see a general whipping up an army, talking about "E-Day" and the fight for survival.

"Humanity faces extinction unless we end the war now," he says. Marcus says something about there being "more like ten shitloads" of locust and the general says Jacinko is now under threat. We're assuming this is the last bastion of mankind. The chapter ends and the Gears of War 2 comes up on the screen. It's so fucking on.

Chapter two. It's called "Roadblocks." We're introduced to Dizzy, the guy in the cowboy hat. We're off to Landown, apparently, on rig 314 or "Betty," as she's more affectionately known. Tai's on another truck called "Marilyn". He's down a slope and you're driving along in parallel.

The next action bit see you off the derrick and defending against locust while Dizzy fixes Betty. This section's cover actually shifted about during play, in that a log fell down providing a new barrier just before a fresh wave of enemies came from a different direction. Hopefully there'll be more of this later in the game.

There's a very long action sequence now, with Dom and Marcus on Betty as it moves through an open landscape dotted with woods. You've seen this in the videos released so far: the derricks are attacked by reavers and locust, and this section includes the crowd of locust on the ground shown in the E3 demo.

The first brumaks pop up. There's a mounted gun on the derrick, so one player pans the bigger guys with that while the other runs around on deck, whacking locust as they try to board the platform with grappling hooks. This felt like it went on for ages. The shotgun was good for this. A locust derrick is alongside for a lot of it, so you can blast away when it drives closely.

At the end of the section there's a bridge. It's wide enough for one derrick. You have to shoot the locust driver to make sure Betty gets her place, or you fly down into a canyon and its game over.

We were dragged off to Cliff after this, so that was the extent of our play. All that took about an hour.

We. Want. More.

Notes. We didn't see any new weapons. The lancer's still the star of the show, and has been upgraded with a blue sight, as already seen. The chainsaw stuff's immensely satisfying, and not in the least difficult to pull off. We also tried out the magnum and the shotgun. The grenades were the same as they were in the first game.

We used the "meat-shield" thing once, and we did it by accident. Not even sure how we did it.

We don't care. From what we saw, Gears of War 2 is such an instant purchase it's ridiculous. You're probably going to see multiplayer impressions popping up all over the place as there were a bunch of machines all hooked up, but we just didn't have time, and there was more to the chapter we got pulled away from in the mountain town, but seriously: it's incredible. Whether or not it can maintain the same pace over the entire campaign remains to be seen, but this is likely to be the first game we've pre-ordered since Mario Galaxy.

Failure is unlikely.

Hit this for new screens, released today, and this for all the news from our interview with dev lead Cliff Bleszinski.

Gears of War 2 ships on November 7.

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