Saturday, December 27, 2008

I Couldn't Be Bothered On Launch Day

Never let it be said that I don't like innovation. If it were not for innovation we'd still be living in caves and killing each other over the few available women. But in gaming, there is a bad habit of confusing innovation with quality. I can say with a completely straight face that Daikatana was a very innovative game for its time. Unfortunately, most of the development of that game was spent playing Quake while the designers pondered why the game hadn't magically created itself yet. Another very innovative game was Jurassic Park: Trespasser, a game so innovative it actually inspired alot of what we saw in Half-Life 1 and 2. Unfortunately they were trying so hard to be innovative that they didn't try to make the game good in any way, thus bringing us graphics so cruel to processors that a decade later the graphics are only a marginal improvement over Quake and still it manages to suffer slowdown on modern machines, and the physics engine hilariously lacked friction.

And all of that to say that I played Gears of War 2. I mentioned all of that because Gears of War is the antithesis of innovation. You play as a big tough manly man who wields the largest guns a human could realistically carry and battle subterranean mutants and there's lots of blood. There's a good amount of backstory, but that's all squirreled away in supplemental booklets that have been hidden on the dark side of the moon. In short, it's every shooter you've ever played. I would argue that they did a fine job of it. Okay, so nothing is new or groundbreaking, but at least I had fun making heads explode.

I was worried during some of the pre-release stuff. Mobile cover? More vehicles? While we're at it, let's just call it Halo. But everything seemed to work out for the better. The shields you can pick up only work with pistols, so your trading security for firepower. The heavy weapons have enough limitations that they don't turn into game breaking monsters. And I once compared Gears of War to a rail shooter and the vehicle sections stick to that tradition. Of course, some things have changed. The Unreal engine has been streamlined so textures don't spontaneously appear, instead they fade in creating the illusion that the camera is simply focussing. Also, the first Gears of War was about a single team on a single mission and the battlefield felt rather lonely. This time around it actually feels like you're part of a major campaign and you're not fighting alone out there. And then there are the difficulty levels. The original Gears of War had Casual, Hardcore, and Insane difficulties that were supposed to correspond with Easy, Normal, and Hard. Instead they corresponded with Normal, Hard, and Fuck You. Gears 2 adds the unimaginatively named Normal difficulty, with Casual being demoted to Easy. Between the two the enemies are just as smart and durable on Normal as on Casual, but with Casual the player has enough hit points to catch a nuclear warhead between his teeth and only be slightly singed.

To sum up, if you liked the original Gears of War then you'll like Gears of War 2 since they made everything better. If you didn't like Gears of War then nothing in Gears of War 2 is going to change your mind. And if you haven't played the original Gears of War then what are you using your XBox 360 for?


NoobPwn'r1337 said...

The "antithesis of innovation"? You realize you are playing a sequel to an existing game right? - lolz. If you want loads of innovation I would recommend an original title rather than a direct sequel.

For what it's worth, I thought GoW1 felt pretty 'fresh' in terms of an FPS. The take cover mechanics, the superb adult-level dialogue, and face it, having a chainsaw on your gun is just plain awesome. Even better is that the chainsaw is actually quite useful during gameplay, when it easily could have been just a novelty. But it works with the GoW gameplay space. Oh and as far as gameplay GoW and Halo should not even be mentioned in the same discussion. Complete opposite ends of the FPS spectrum.
Overall review rating - 3/5

360 Trooper said...

My "antithesis of innovation" comment was referring to the first game.

And while I disagree that the dialogue in GoW1 was any good, I will agree that the cover system (while not original) is probably the best implementation of such a system I've seen.

As for mentioning Halo, they are both FPS's, even if they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. It's not like I tried to compare GoW to Europa Universalis. The reason I mentioned Halo was to voice my early fears that GoW2 would turn into a Halo clone. It didn't and I'm thankful it didn't, but some of those early gameplay videos had me worried.

NoobPwn'r1337 said...

Cool, I'm glad to see we agree!