Gears of War 2 finally hit the store shelves on Friday and millions of fans lined up to get their copy on launch day. The sequel had already been named one of the must have games of the holiday season before its release, and Epic Games designer Cliff Bleszinzki definitely made it live up to its expectations, and then some.

The story takes place six months after the first game and the Locust Horde have now began to sink entire cities underground.

For those new to the series, the control scheme is fairly easy and the training section does a good job in explaining the game mechanics.
or those who have played the first Gears of War, training mode is skipable.

There have been many improvements to Gears of War 2.

Stopping power has been implemented in the game. So you can no longer charge opponents without their bullets taking effect. Bullets now slow you down and will have you searching for cover to regain health.

The cover system has heavily improved from the first game. No longer will characters lean against the wall when you wanted them to dive. Now the game recognizes which one you were intending to do.

In-game battles have gotten better, so gamers may find their thumbs blistering from trying to take on swarms of enemies.

The ammunition has also improved since the first game. Instead of going long periods of times before finding an ammunition box, you can expect ammunition after every hard-fought battle.

The Unreal Engine 3 does a great job in allowing the beautiful scenery to be displayed. Walking around makes you appreciate how far games have come since the good days of the Atari 2600.

From life-like fires to the demolished buildings, each aspect of the scenery is as polished as can be expected in a game. The best part of the engine is that it allows swarms of enemies to attack you at once, without graphic compensation.

Most gamers will play through the campaign, but the best feature of Gears of War 2 is the heavily improved online multiplayer. Players now choose which character and assault rifle they want.

A fresh rank system, similar to Call of Duty 4, allows players to track their statistics for each game type, per map, and players now have the option to vote on maps and game types.

Gamers no longer have to hope their friends enter a multiplayer lobby at the same time as them. Party mode is in full effect.

The battle system in multiplayer mode has been tweaked a little. Gamers can no longer run around hoping to down an opponent with three shotgun blasts. Weapons are now balanced and gamers will have to choose wisely which weapon they wield in battle.

The best new added multiplayer feature is definitely Horde. You and up to four other people can battle against 50 waves of locusts. Every ten waves, the locusts get stronger and wiser. Teamwork is essential to this game type as it is the only thing that will allow you to survive against the waves of enemies.

While the game is great, there are a few complaints. The story is not as compelling as Epic made it seem. The story of Dominic does have a very sad turn of events, and is as interesting as the first game, but it leaves you with more questions than answers.

The final battle scene disappoints. You play through hours of the campaign only have a one-minute duel with the final boss. Gamers will once again not feel the satisfaction of overcoming the toughest obstacle in the final scene of the game.

Instead, their toughest battles were played throughout the campaign without them being fully aware of it.

And while the online multiplayer is heavily improved, there are major issues with the connectivity. It can take more than five minutes just to find a match online, and even then, you are not immune from being dropped from the game.

Overall, Gears of War 2 is a must buy this holiday season. Even though it does have a couple major problems, the game is definitely one of the best titles ever released on the Xbox 360.

It’s been two years of waiting worthwhile with a third installment of the series hitting store shelves within the next couple of years. But in the meantime, gamers can have comfort in knowing that their favorite chainsaw hacking game is better in every way possible.

Fans amass outside a local video game retailer on launch night to get their hands on ‘Gears of War 2.’ (Charles Digal)

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