Two different covers, one grey and one red. May 2008 Issue.
Game reviews in this issue can be found here: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=273711
GEARS 2 ARTICLE, 12 PAGES
(I'll add some highlights here as I read thru it... don't want to overstep my bounds, not typing the whole article word for word... buy the magazine!)
New Faces (character art for each):
Gears of War 2 begins six months after the deployment of the Lightmass bomb at the end of part one.
Tai Kaliso: While Cole and Baird are still a big part of the story, they wont be attached to Delta Squad as the new game opens. The reunion with those popular characters will have some lead up first, and until then, youll be meeting some new personalities. The most memorable of these new additions may be Tai, a spiritual and meditative warrior from a tradition of honor-bound fighters. This familiar archetype should add a fun and perhaps mystical dynamic to the squad.
Chairman Prescott: Lots of gamers found themselves wondering if Marcus domineering superior officer was the head of the human government. It turns out that Hoffman is only second in command. Above him stands the Chairman, an almost dictatorial military leader who nonetheless has made the hard choices necessary to keep humanity alive through decades of warfare. As Gears 2 opens, this leader of the COG forces will deliver a speech to the troops before sending them reeling into the suicidal mission ahead.
Dizzy: In the seemingly unending struggle with the Locust Horde, the military forces of the COG have taken massive casualties. Somewhere along the way, Operation Lifeboat was enacted to bring in some fresh blood. Under this new act, the Coalition government will rescue a Stranded family and bring them into the relative story of a COG-protected zone. In return, the able-bodied men of that family join up and contribute their skills to the war effort. Such is the case with hardened soldier Dizzy, a new character who drives the massive Derrick on which Delta Squad ascends into the mountains. With a trademark drawl and an insistence on calling his truck "Betty", he's a colorful new addition to the cast.
Maria Santiago: When Emergence Day struck, Dom's wife Maria became a victim as surely as if she had died in that first attack. On that day, her children were killed. Unable to deal with the shock and loss, Maria lost herself in the ruins of civilization. For Dominic, who joined the COG to protect his family, no priority is higher than to retrieve his lost love - his very personal quest to find her is a major part of the story that unfolds in Gears 2.
Lots of talk about the new Unreal tech. GI says the story and gameplay are a pretty major leap forward from the original game, but an equally large step is being made in the behind-the-scenes tech. Gears 2 is set to impress just like Gears 1 did. New character lighting, it's a step away from realistic lighting and towards cinematic lighting. New version of Unreal 3 constantly shifts the lighting technique in order to make a character stand out in the environment. Ambient occlusion is another tech being used. Unreal's new ability to render huge numbers of individual creatures at the same time... hundereds of Locust troops, each moving independently and as unique individuals. Awesome water effects, soft body physics.
"We want to fulfill the promise - it is a war. It's more than just these four guys. The first game felt very personal, and in a lot of ways that was good," senior producer Rod Fergusson tells us. However, it's clear from our time with the team that Gears 2 will shoot for a much larger conflict. "In order to save jacinto, they have no choice but to take the war to the Locust," Fergusson continues. "They're going to push back and go underground, and bring the battle to them."
Most multiplayer details are under wraps. There is a remake of Gridlock. Step up in technology is obvious. "We hear hints of all sorts of new multiplayer features, from dramatically expanded co-op modes to multiplayer content that takes advantage of Unreal's new ability to deliver huge numbers of the Locust horde at one time, but confirmed details will have to wait until a later date."
"Gameplay of Gears 2 will appear mostly familiar to fans, with a few small variations. The core cover/shoot mechanics remain largely intact, but the use of cover has been carefully retouched so it will be harder to get hit while protected, as the character will rest a little further back from the corners. Active reloads won't be dramatically altered, particularly with the returning weapons. However, some of the new arsenal may vary the way in whihc active reloads are used. New chainsaw duels expand that gruesome combat mechanic to deliver even more excitement. Boss battles return, but a big push is geared towards refining them, making them more fun and epic in scale.
"We have creatures that make the Brumak look like a baby panda bear." -Cliff Bleszinski
Drop in and drop out co-op.
Multiple save files to maintain the integrity of each playthrough without abandoning your other attempts.
Gears 2 will have different difficulty settings for each player in co-op. One person can play on Hardcore, one on Casual, for instance. When you are together, the game will understand what that means, and when you split up, you will have individual experiences. Details on how this works exactly are under wraps.
A fourth difficulty is being added for the most casual gamers. Harder difficulty settings will remain "truly devastating." They say Casual in the first game wasn't casual enough. This way everyone who wants to pick up the controller will be embraced.
COG Centaur tank. Takes the best parts of a monster truck and a military tank and combines them. There's a dedicated level where you'll pilot one.
"We were shown a vast underground cave level wherin Marcus and his companions will take the fight to the Locust. Unlike the sometimes cramped and and linear subterranean paths from the first game, the cavern complex is vast and breathtaking. Branching levels and open spaces give players true tactical choices as they decide which way to tackle an assault. Whatever path you choose, bio-luminescent plants light light the faces of the new Locust Kantus enemies. These monk-like devils hum low and droning chants that can be focused into sonic attacks against you. They wield weapons like the new Gorgon burst pistol and poison grenades, both of which can become part of your arsenal if you play your cards right. However, the Kantus' true danger lies in their ability to revive their fallen bretheren from afar. Where before you could rest easy after taking down an enemy soldier, now there is the constant danger of them rising back up to continue to fight. The only alternative is to brave the hail of gunfire to break through enemy ranks and kill the Kantus sulking in the rear. Along the way, you may not have access to stable cover anymore, so you'll have to make do with the moving kind. Massive Locust rock worms will emerge from the cavern walls during battle, guided by the Kantus' chanting. Luckily, the creatures are so large you can hide behind them as they sliter about, and you too will be able to guide them to an advantageous firing position."
The team at Epic is well aware that many players out there hunger for a deeper and more involved storytelling experience. Lots of emotion this time. Joshua Ortega has been brought on, he is a novelist / comic writer. Really sounds like they are working a lot on the story. Sense of depth with the characters. A "darker and more heartfelt narrative." "THE STAKES ARE RAISED. THIS IS HUMANITY'S LAST STAND. EVERYTHING IS AT RISK. NOTHING IS SAFE." -Joshua Ortega
Voice actors returning include John DiMaggio as Marcus Fenix, and Carlos Ferro as Dominic Santiago. They will be recording the dialogue side by side, more authentic this way.
Forced walking scenes that masked loading time have been replaced with a dynamic conversation camera system - focused facial close ups, shifting dramatic angles, but the player is still in control. There is a "SHUT UP" button that will let you have Marcus end the conversation early and get back to the action.
"There's a certain percentage of the audience that wants to skip all that, and they just want to shoot some s---, and we're more than willing to cater to that." -Cliff Bleszinski
There are collectibles that are relevant to the story. COG tags can be examined to learn about who owned them. War Journal from the pause screen shows your collectibles and what you're missing, and the locations to search for them.
Many Achievements will be able to be earned in Single or Multiplayer. You can check for instance, if you need 1,000 headshots, you can look at your progress in the journal.
Your floating robot has a video screen now, so Anya can give you mission updates face to face.
"Gears of War 2 is real, and it looks every bit as formidable and impressive as we hoped. It's bigger and better than before, and the people making it are insistent that you'll be playing it in its entirety in just over half a year." -Game Informer
A SLICE OF ACTION. As seen in the second level of Gears of War 2, Assault. The sun-dappled pine forests are in stark contrast to the roiling convoy of human machinery as it rolls up the pristine mountain pass. Fenix and his squad stand atop their massive wheeled transport. Dizzy, the driver of their derrick, is shouting curses over the roar of the engine. As a breathtaking valley vista opens up to the west, the first mortar slams into a nearby derrick, leaving behind a flaming husk. The flying nemacyst and their explosive assaults are only the spear point of the Locust defense. After some near misses, the derrick tunbles off the dirst road and stalls. An emergence hole opens up nearby and Locust infantry begin to pour out. Firing wildly, Marcus and his team push back the assault. Even as Dizzy gets the truck running, a Brumak appears and gives chase. Crashing headlong throught he cracking and snapping trees, Dizzy forces the derrick into high gear, even as the transport across the way is overrun. Leaping from their new attack platform, enemy troops attempt to board, and Marcus rushes out from cover to curb stomp the assailants. Ahead, in the distance, a narrow bridge stands, wide enough for only one vehicle. The Locust driver sneers and speeds up his derrick as the drop into the gorge up ahead looms large.
OK I think that covers all the main Gears 2 points. It's a great article, lots of art, renders, and a couple of the images are labeled as screenshots. Theres a picture of the Kantus, it's freaky. Thank you to Game Informer for this great article. Lots more in the mag.