June 2, 2008 - In a recent article in the July issue of EGM, Epic Games let the cat out of the bag with regards to the details surrounding their multiplayer features (only adversarial, the cooperative kitty is still firmly cloaked) for Gears of War 2. Cliffy B. and the rest of the team at Epic went on to talk about changes to the weapon list, maps, feature sets and, of course, ramifications that have been made to the glorious executions that were popularized so heavily in the first Gears.
New and Modified Weapons
Scorcher Flamethrower -- This sucker will appear only once on a multiplayer map. It benefits from a longer range if you can hit the active reload perfectly and will glow red when it's ready to bring death to the masses.
Gorgon Burst Pistol -- Faster rate of fire than other pistols and shoots in short bursts.
Poison Grenade -- Spews a nasty purple haze that brings down everyone in its path.
Shield -- This sucker can be chucked into the ground beneath you and used as stationary cover. Of course, you can also carry it around and use it in conjunction with a pistol.
Lancer Assault Rifle -- You've heard this before, this armament from the original now has a tie-breaker for chainsaw kills. Mashing the B-button as fast as you can could lead to three outcomes. First, you win and slice through your opponent. Second, you lose and meet the same fate. Or third, there's an improbable tie and you both step back to go at it again (or whip out a shotgun and own their face). And no, you're not invulnerable for any part of the animation.
Hammerburst Assault Rifle -- This Locust rifle from the first Gears is back and can now fire with higher accuracy at longer ranges and does more damage. Players can also fire with a fan method (holding and releasing the right trigger) that will allow for a quicker rate of fire at the expense of accuracy.
Boltok Pistol -- This sucker is back from Gears 1 and now has a quicker rate of fire after an active reload.
Smoke Grenade -- These are now home to a concussion blast that will knock a shield out of someone's hand while disabling their sight and overall equilibrium. Any of the grenade types in the game can also be stuck on walls and will act as proximity mines.
Super Weapons -- The Hammer of Dawn is back, of course, but there will also be other super weapons joining the roster.
Stopping Power -- Gears 1 multiplayer turned into a charge-fest of shotgun blasts with a general lack of concern for one's own well-being. Now if you can get off a few pistol rounds or assault rifle blasts at a charging opponent their speed will drop a bit and they'll need to turn back around to live to fight another day. Epic is hoping that this will change the strategy of Gears 2 considerably from the first game.
Maps and Modes
Meatflag -- This is a variant on classic Capture-the-Flag but instead of having an inanimate object sitting in the center of a stage waiting to be captured, Gears 2 will have a mean, gun-firing, AI-controlled badass sitting there waiting to do battle (he'll even tally his own score to be seen by all at the end of a round). Do enough damage to take him down to his knees and then run up, use him as a meat shield and haul his carcass back to your base to score the point for your team.
Wingman -- Here the ten possible players (up from the original game's eight) are broken up into sets of 2. One team will be Doms, another will be Marcuses, and you'll have to hunt throughout the map to kill as much of the opposition as possible before landing at a final kill count.
Guardian -- One man on your team is the leader, the rest are his hapless peons. Okay, not really. But one player is the leader and if he dies, then the ability to respawn is taken from his teammates, turning their current life into their last. The leader is called out on the opponent's screen at all times, making the hunt that much easier. First team to wipe out the other wins.
New and Old -- While these are all of the new modes that have been divulged by Epic, there are new ones still to come. Oh, and the classic Warzone mode is back yet again. As far as new maps are concerned, two were discussed: River and Security. Security sounds as though it will be best suited for objective-based games as there are things that need to be deactivated before the full level opens up. River, on the other hand, seems like a sniper's paradise with two tall towers and lots of real estate down below. The only two returning maps are Gridlock (the first Gears map ever shown) and Subway, as Gears 2 will pack more than 10 new arenas.
Battle-Cam -- Okay, we have to say, this is totally one of those "in no way-shape-or-form do we need this, but it's still really cool" features. The Battle-Cam allows players who have slipped into the after-life (got dead) to take a screenshot with the A-button of the most frenetic action that they can find. Do that, and the game will register all of the blood and executions -- everything including the amount of particle effects on-screen -- and spit out a score which is then uploaded, along with your screenshot, to the leaderboards for the world to see. We told you it was cool.
The A Button -- Causes you to grab the downed opponent and use them as a meat shield. They'll be dead as far as the game is concerned but their body will still be in your hands, getting blown to bits with enemy fire.
The B Button -- This is your standard melee attack but in Gears 2 they're all weapon-specific. Meaning that if you press the button with the sniper rifle you're going to smash someones brain to bits with the end of your sniper rifle, whereas if you do the same with the shotgun, your opponent's head will be used as a golf ball.
The X Button -- The classic, and oh-so-juicy, curb stomp. In Gears 2 you flip them onto their back first, but you know the rest.
The Y Button -- All of the fancy finishers are governed by the Y button. Be warned, though, they can take up to three seconds to complete and you'll be totally vulnerable during that time. The good news is that there are different kill sequences for different weapons and races, so there should be no shortage of wet and nasty stuff on the screen at any one time. COG soldiers, for instance, bludgeon your face with their fists, whereas a Locust will simply rip your limb off and beat you with it.
Guy Being Owned -- In Gears 2 the poor chap that is being executed isn't as hapless as he was before. Tapping the A-button lets you crawl around on the ground and try to get to a teammate who can then help you up. Tap the R trigger and you'll call for someone's help with a raise of your hand. Hold the R trigger the second you're about to be executed and you'll detonate your grenade, taking you both out in a glorious act of martyrdom.
The Small Stuff
Cliffy B. -- In an interview with EGM in that same July issue, Cliffy said that Gears 2 is running roughly 30 percent better, in terms of performance than the first game. He also went on to say that, while the team did consider it, dedicated servers will not be allowed in Gears 2.
Epic -- Other little developer quips mentioned consider implementing a live-scoring icon on the screen that will show players how much damage they're causing as well as their score. A.I. bots were apparently also hinted at. You'll no longer be booted from a game if the host jumps out; you'll simply all vote on a new map to play. Other little additions include the ability to "wall hug" and interrupting SWAT turns mid-move.
So, there you have it, the first true breakdown of what to expect from Gears of War 2 multiplayer gameplay. Rest assured, we'll have more information as well as hands-on impressions in the weeks and months to come.