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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Holiday 2008's Best Picks (Part 3)

The Locust is humankind's worst nightmare.

The mere imagination of the co-existence of monsters has always been enough to freak us out. That’s why game developers love monsters so much – there are so many games that are built around these creepy creatures. This holiday season isn’t going to be spared from all the monster madness either. And in part 3 of this special feature, Powerplay blog is going to show you one of the more prominent and thrilling forthcoming monster games. Are you ready?

Gears of War 2

Remember the Lightmass Bomb that was dropped right into the Locust’s underground base in Gears of War? Well, bad news: Not only did the Lightmass Bomb not manage to wipe out the Locust, it had also caused a portion of the remaining human population to be infected – most probably by radiation. And now, the Locust has found out that we humans are attempting to exterminate them and grown really aggressive. Portholes are swallowing cities by the whole and it seems that there is only one city left that’s still relatively safe: Jacinto. Humankind cannot afford to surrender and die and so it’s time for the COG soldiers to return to war with the Locust again. Enter Gears of War 2.

Need a little roast?

Most of the enemies from the first game return, but this time around, the Locust has something more brutal up its sleeve: a new variant of Boomer which is equipped with more armor and either a flamethrower or a Mulcher (name of a Gatling gun in the game). Both are new weapons, but more on those later. Ticker is another one of those new enemies in Gears of War 2 and this one is a suicide bomber – which means that it will take you down with it if you let it get too near to you. Fortunately, as it name suggests, it will make a ticking sound (ala a C4 explosive) as it approaches so its hovering presence can be acknowledged, giving you that split of a minute to search for it and gun it down before it finds you. Then there’s the Brumak, which if you recall, is one hell of a hulking beast with a pair of big guns on its shoulders – and one that you cannot fight in the Xbox 360 version of Gears of War. In Gears of War 2, however, you will get to go up against the Brumak as early as the second mission – and if you have played the Brumak-enabled PC version of Gears of War before, then you will be familiar with the strategy used to take down a Brumak. For the uninitiated, you need to blast its guns off prior to sending bullets into its head to defeat a Brumak.

Needless to say, it wouldn’t be fair if there weren’t new weapons for the COG soldiers to use to counter the new threats. That’s where the pair of the new aforementioned weapons comes into place. The flamethrower is pretty much self explanatory. While it’s powerful enough to toast many an enemy, equipping it makes you vulnerable to explosions that are caused by the shot gas tanks of the weapon – which means if you want to take a flamethrower-equipped enemy down, you can shoot at the weapon itself. The Mulcher, which is basically a Gatling gun, is a heavy weapon that will slow down and limit the moves of anyone who equips it. My guess is that you wouldn’t be able to roll into cover as rapidly as you’d like to be if you are equipped with the Mulcher. Another thing about the Mulcher is that it can also overheat. However, you can set the Mulcher up as a stationary Gatling gun emplacement and it will automatically gun down any enemy in its way. Place it strategically around corners and it would certainly spell death for your enemies. When in its stationary mode, the Mulcher can also be used as a piece of cover. Unlike the Mulcher, there haven’t been many details that have been revealed about another new weapon, but it is known that this new weapon works much like a Mulcher – except that it’s a mortar gun.

Chainsawing is a new sport

A host of old weapons are back as well – and that includes the Lancer, the weapon which has the nasty chainsaw on its underside. But accompanying these old weapons are new techniques of using them. For example, there are now specific active reloads for each weapon. Landing perfect active reloads would see the abilities of those weapons increased, though exact details of the upgrades are still under wraps. Chainsawing has also taken a new twist in Gears of War 2. When 2 players clash together with a chainsaw at the same time, a duel will take place. During this duel, you will be required to participate in a mini-game where you would need to hit the B button rapidly – the one who hits the B button at the fastest pace will win the duel and chainsaw the opponent. Besides the chainsaw duel, there are numerous other new chainsaw moves. Perhaps more noteworthy is the one where you overturn the Lancer, and proceed to cut the poor guy or Locust into half by moving the chainsaw from his groin up to his head. It all ends in a signature Gears of War blood fountain. Sweet.

The cover mechanism has been given equal, if not more, attention as well. Gears of War 2 will have what Epic Games calls ‘Meat Shield’ – which is well, a human shield (or Locust shield if you will). What this means is that you can grab an opponent, be it human or locust, and use him to shield yourself from incoming fire. It’s a creative idea and one that is definitely going to be enjoyed by many. But the downside is: You can’t grab just any opponent – you have to grab a fallen opponent. And the shield is not everlasting. As firepower pours down on it, it will degrade into a rotting mess until it is no longer usable – and that’s when you know you’ll have to move on and find another cover. There’s also ‘Rock Worm’. While I am not very sure what exactly this thing is, I can tell you that this thing’s neither your ally nor a Locust. It’s a living, moving rock – err, a worm – and it has been confirmed that bullets cannot penetrate it, so the idea is to use it as a piece of cover – but that’s possible only if you can keep up with it. As much as it is of a benefit to you, it is also a hazard. A good guess is that it would probably attack you if you are not careful. Certainly, all these balance things out so the alternative cover options wouldn’t be abused.

Alright, now that we have gotten the new stuffs out of the way, let’s get a taste of what the multiplayer’s going to be like. For a start, there isn’t going to be any 4 player co-op as suggested – but there will still be a 2 player co-op and Marcus and Dominic are the 2 playable characters. BUT this isn’t a reason to despair because Gears of War 2 does have something better – and that’s the Horde multiplayer mode. Basically, 5 players will team up to face waves after waves of Locust forces. As the match progresses, each wave of Locust will consist of more enemies – complete with different varieties of them. The Locust will spawn in at random locations, so it pays to keep on your toes. While it’s essentially a 5 player co-op, there will still be individual scores for each round, so players can compare and find out who killed the most number of enemies. With Epic Games having more time to learn more about the Xbox 360 hardware and harness the said more effectively, technical issues have since been ironed out, so you can expect to see more than 20 enemies on the screen at any one time. That makes for a quite a challenge, doesn’t it? Well, I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

What's the color of this flag?

Accompanying the Horde multiplayer mode are some returning modes, in addition to some revamped ones. War Zone is back, and it’s the same as that from Gears of War and offers what you would typically expect from a standard team deathmatch with 5 players on each side. Meat Flag, on the other hand, is an innovative twist on Capture the Flag. A Meat Flag is a living ‘flag’ – it is a human. When you capture the Meat Flag, you’re not going to be running away with it like a normal flag because as long as you are holding on to the Meat Flag, he will assay to kill you. There’s nothing more of a challenge than battling both the struggling ‘flag’ and your opponents at the same time. The other multiplayer mode is called Wingman, which splits 10 players into 5 teams of 2. In Wingman, players can be revived by their partners should they go down. What makes things interesting in this mode is that there are only 2 of you in each team – which means if you want to revive your partner in the heat of a battle, there is no one else to provide protection and you are vulnerable to gunfire, so there’s a bit of strategy that needs to be implemented in this mode. The last confirmed mode is Guardian. It is similar to War Zone – but there’s an exception: each best player from the last round becomes the Guardian in the next. The ability for players to respawn is reliant upon the life of the Guardian – which means that if the Guardian dies, other players in his or her team can no longer respawn.

All in all, there are some very intriguing concepts thrown into Gears of War 2. While Gears of War 2 may not seem different from its predecessor at first glance, it is. There are quite a number of notable enhancements to the core game mechanics and there are new varieties of enemies, weapons and multiplayer modes. Gear up for this game on November 7.


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