Crispy Gamer

The Five: Gears of War 2

The 10-Cent Tour: Marcus and friends return, promising to take the fight underground and hit the Locust Horde in their own hometown. Oh, and they promise to chainsaw off a few heads along the way, too.

1. You know, we thought we were over Gears. But then you see Gears 2 in action, and suddenly, your thumbs start twitching, and you get a direct order from your cerebral cortex that says, "MUST FIND NEAREST CONTROLLER." The battles, from what we can tell, seem far more epic in scale than they did the first time around, and yet they still preserve the intimate moment of lowering a chainsaw into an enemy's face like a hot knife into butter.

2. The Brumak: Large and in charge. Thought Raam was a big, ugly bastard in the original game? Get a load of the Brumaks that appear in Gears 2. Not only will you fight the Brumaks, but you'll also apparently get to commandeer them and ride them around. Before you drive it off the lot, be sure to kick its leg-stumps and ask what kind of gas mileage it gets.

3. The new multiplayer mode that's got Gears fans all excited: Horde. Instead of hunting each other, up to five players are challenged to cooperatively fight off wave after wave (after wave) of Locust attacks. At first, a couple of grunts will bear down on you. But things ramp up pretty quickly. (Uncle Crispy suggests holing up in a nearby building and designating roles for each of your party members for best results. Oh, and be sure someone has the sniper rifle, or else you won't last very long. Trust us.)

4. One criticism from the first game that seems to also vex the sequel: The environs of the game still lack any real personality. From what we've seen so far, it looks like another string of fire-scorched, vaguely urban environments. Maybe BioShock spoiled us, but we've come to expect more than clich?d, Mad Max-style settings in this day and age.

5. And the cherry on top? Players can now stun or wound an enemy, prop him/it up, and use him/it protect themselves during firefights. The term for the poor, dying Locust bastard who's absorbing bullets for you? Meat shield. This new gameplay element was featured prominently during the Gears 2 demo during Microsoft's presser, with Marcus Fenix running and gunning into battle with his meat shield in full effect. Obviously, Cliff and his team are quite proud of the advances they've made in meat-shield technology.

The Crispy Forecast: Mostly sunny, with the slightest chance of redundant rain showers. We thought we were over Gears. But just when we think we're out, the sight of the monstrous Brumak humping its way across a battlefield pulls us back in.

This preview was based on a publisher-driven demo. The game is scheduled to be released on Nov. 7, 2008.