A handful of lucky game journo’s had the distinct pleasure of playing single player and multiplayer GoW2 last week whilst listening to Cliff Bleszinski explain what the Epic team has done with the hottest game to launch this year for Xbox 360. I’m super jealous. The lucky few got to play the following multiplayer maps along with others they aren’t allowed to speak about until after E3: Gridlock 2.0, Security and River.
I’ve pasted in a few tidbits from Tom’s review over at Team Xbox.
In the last game, when two gamers encounter each other with the chainsaw attachment on their Lancers, the outcome of who won that head to head battle was randomly chosen if both people hit the button at the same time. Now you actually get a little arm-wrestling type mini game, where you have to hammer on the B button really quickly to fight the enemy back and cut him in half.
In Gears 2 you can stick grenades to almost anything, creating a simple proximity mine that goes off when an enemy walks by. As long as you have friendly fire turned off, it won’t go off on anyone else.
You can stick grenades all over a choke point on a map, hoping someone will trigger it as they fight through. But if you use poison gas grenades you create a much bigger and longer lasting obstacle for your opponents to get through. Grenades also cause a concussive blast now too which can knock a player down or even over something.
Now you have a variety of different finishing moves, some weapon specific, all of them completely brutal. When knocked down you can actually try and crawl away now though, and if you can survive long enough you can even revive yourself. But if you come up on someone who’s down, do one of the following: you can hit X for the good old fashioned curb stomp, B for the weapon specific finisher (i.e. if you have a shotgun, you’ll swing in like a golf club at an enemy’s head) or Y for a special beatdown animation that’s different for different characters.
The other interesting addition to the gameplay is bullet stopping power. The designers at Epic always wanted people to play the game the way they designed it: taking cover, running low, flanking enemies, etc. But as many will tell you, it doesn’t always work out that way in multiplayer. Gamers play the way they want t play, and will charge at you willy-nilly and it used to work. To counter that they have instituted stopping power into the bullets. Each round you shoot will slow an enemy a little, and a steady stream of lead can slow him down to a crawl. Should help against those people that love melee attacks too much.
Playing over Party system has been included in GoW2.
Want to know about the three game modes they played?
Bleszinski described this as sort of like “Assassination 2.0. Both teams have one “leader” who is armed just like a real player – he’s not some dude in an El Presidente uniform holding a crowbar. But even though the leader is just another player (and will cycle equally through your team) if he dies, it’s bad news for your team. As long as your leader is alive, his escorts will continue to respawn, keeping up the fight. So teams have to strike a balance tactically between guarding the leader and hunting down the enemy leader, making for some interesting team play concepts.
Playing four on four, a lot of the players in our session played one of a couple ways. Some people stashed the leader away in well covered position, with grenades planted on the walls and obstacles leading up to his hidden position. Other teams were more brash and just kept all of their players together and stayed mobile. This often worked for two reasons. Staying mobile meant they usually got to the better weapon pickups more quickly, and if they ran into anyone along the way, leader or not, they rolled in force.
This mode really showed off the advantages of the new tactical command (or Tac/Com) system that gives you information on the location of your teammates. In Guardian mode you always see the location of the enemy leader in an icon in the upper left corner of your HUD that has a rotating arrow on it that always points in his direction. But if you want to see where your leader is, as well as the rest of you squad, you just have to hit the left bumper button and icons with rotating arrows pop up for all of them. A very useful tool when your leader is under attack.
Submission (Meat Flag)
There is something really charming and funny about playing Submission Mode, colloquially called “Meat Flag”. The description is simple: single-flag CTF with two teams, the flag is a dude. But here’s where it gets good: he has a weapon and he doesn’t want you to capture him, regardless if you’re C.O.G. or Locust. So you have to run up to him, knock him out, then grab him in a choke hold and slowly back your way to your team’s capture zone.
One of the new levels that we played this mode on – entitled Security – had an added wrinkle. The capture zones that each team had to return the hostage to were behind laser barriers that would instantly kill you if you tried to walk through them. Watch your step. There’s a button to take the shields down for a certain period of time (not long, maybe 30 seconds) but when we were playing it up at Microsoft, the team I was playing with was having a hard time finding the button. We could see one inside the gate, but since there was no other way of entry behind the beams (trust me, I looked. A lot.) it was obvious there had to be one somewhere else. So I sent my mates out to find it while I stood by the gate. You see, I had the meat flag and I was waiting by the gate with just my pistol and some dude in a headlock. Believe it or not, I killed six incoming enemies over the next couple of minutes (my teammates were having a really hard time finding the button), without losing control of my prize. Even two at one time when I shot the propane tank at their feet. Eventually, I ran out of bullets and had to find more. I saw some on the ground but realized I couldn’t pick them up while I had homeboy “in the clinch”. So I let him go, quickly grabbed the ammo, knocked him out with the but of my shotgun because he was already getting ornery, then grabbed him real quick again, backed into a corner and waited for more bad guys and screamed at my team to find that damn button. Nice.
Everyone loves deathmatch or free for all modes and probably always will. There’s something about the lone wolf mentality in that. But Gears of War is a game where your character is meant to always be part of a group. You know, for the flanking and the reviving of buddies and stuff. So what’s the least amount of teammates an anti-social gamer would have to put up with? Just one.
He’s your wingman, and he looks just like you. So you’ll have teams of two Dom’s vs. two Theron Guards vs. two Coles, etc. May not sound that revolutionary, but it was a ton of fun. It forces players to stick together and think together. You’ve gotta help out your teammate if he falls, or put together a couple of cris-crossing firing lanes to eviscerate the competition. Somehow it still feels as urgent as traditional deathmatch, just with an armed shadow.
Some other new additions to Gears of War 2 that we can talk about at the moment include a greatly improved spectator mode that you can view after you’ve been killed. There are multiple cams to play with including the battle cam which lets you swing quickly around to fixed cameras that loop around the arena, quickly finding the action. There will also be a screenshot function built into this and an accompanying photo edit mode for making them look more awesome before you share them with your friends.
Considering how good the engine looks this time around, you might want to take a ton of them. Because we’re so accustomed to the great graphics and engine work that Epic does with their Unreal technology, you might be underwhelmed at first glance. Sure, it looks great, but I was expecting it to. Try holding it up to the original game though and you’ll notice how much more detailed the characters and the world around you are. A lot of work has been done on the lighting as well as the physics of how bodies react. That includes the way they fall apart when you cut them in half. Sweet.
There’s still a ton of stuff to talk about when it comes to Gears of War 2 multiplayer, but you’re going to have to wait until E3 time. Hey it’s only next week, and it’s very much worth it. But based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s obvious that Epic Games is putting a lot more attention into the multiplayer capabilities. That’s something they didn’t do in the first game, choosing to focus on other elements. But the effort is welcome though; we could always use another awesome multiplayer game.