Once More Unto the Breach: Gears of War 2

The top-selling Xbox game has spawned a sequel that has more blood, more monsters, and many more enemies to kill. Marcus Fenix has sharpened his skills

A horrific, post apocalyptic world, terrifying monsters and intense, bloodthirsty action propelled Gears of War to the very top of the Xbox 360 sales charts. Its sequel, aptly titled Gears of War 2, builds on the original by taking everything that made its predecessor rock and jacking it up multiple notches. What you'll get is a crazy romp with loads of gore, thousands of bullets and tons of slimy monsters, all wrapped within a deeper, more engaging story that offers not only more character development, but a much better look at mankind's struggle against their ultimate nemesis, the Locust Horde.

Gamers that played the original will be familiar with the sequel's lead protagonist, Marcus Fenix. Battle-scarred and an expert in making things dead, the grizzled veteran and his heroic Delta Squad continue their battle against the Horde, who've found new and devious ways to consume cities full of people. This time, however, the military (known as the COG), will take the fight to their enemies, the goal to travel underground and fight the Locusts on their home turf. To do this, they must use grind lifts, devices that let them burrow deep into the planet Sera. But first, they must transport these machines using a giant vehicle called a derrick, which also holds other useful pieces of equipment and numerous soldiers.

Sensing invasion, the Locusts do whatever it takes to thwart their human opponents, launching a vicious assault on these derricks. Hundreds of creatures pour from emergence holes and fire grappling hooks onto the derricks in the hopes of overtaking them. Marcus and his cohorts stand strong, riddling their enemies full of holes and sawing them to pieces with their Lancer Assault Rifles. In addition, they blast mortars from the sky with their shotguns and man turrets to blow up Reavers (flying vehicles that transport Locusts) and even a towering Brumak. No one ever said saving humanity would be easy.

In addition to looking ridiculously excellent, this confrontation does a great job showcasing the game's features. Unlike its prequel, Gears of War 2 can display hundreds of enemies on screen, allowing developer Epic Games to unleash Locust armies. How well these monsters behave remains to be seen (they have a bad habit of running in the same lines and bumping into things).

More enemies also mean bigger draw distances, so expect to see larger, wide-open spaces with a nice view of forests and mountains. Otherwise, Gears of War 2 looks very similar to its counterpart, with detailed environments and characters with realistic looking textures. It doesn't look improved over the original, but considering the first Gears is still damn attractive, we're not complaining.

We're also pleased with Marcus' new moves. The first game showcases the same chainsaw animation over and over again, but not so in the sequel. Of course, that won't be the only new animation, as Marcus can flip the Lancer upside down and carve through an enemy from their groin up through their brains.

When you've tired of slicing up your foes, you can use them as Meat Shields. Just incapacitate one of the ground troops and hide behind its body, watching as enemy gunfire rips it to shreds. And when it no longer serves a purpose, snap its neck and cast its shredded corpse aside.

Furthermore, the game has a much deeper and longer storyline bolstered by added character development. As it turns out, the military launched an initiative called Operation Lifeboat, a program designed to help The Stranded, groups of survivors that never reached a safe zone. On the positive side, COG agrees to care for them, but it comes at the price of the head male of the family enlisting to battle the Locusts. One such character, a redneck named Dizzy, seems to appear early in the game and helps Marcus and his crew bring the grind lifts to their destination.

Because it's early, Gears of War 2 debuts this November, Microsoft and Epic were content to tease us with early footage. Neither company went into great detail about the story, all of the new weapons and the game's multiplayer component. But after watching Marcus rip through enemies with his chainsaw, blast vehicles out of the sky and unload hundreds of bullets into a Brumak's face, we're hungry for more destruction.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.