Breaking News: Gears of War 2 Is Pretty Good

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We’re in the middle of some kind of weird video game heptathlon. I was most of the way through Dead Space when I picked up LittleBigPlanet, then I dropped that for Fallout 3, then I bailed on that for Resistance 2. Which is so over for me now that I have Gears of War 2.

I was never the hugest of Gears fans. For some reason I felt loyal to the Halo franchise when it came out, as if it were some kind of Sharks/Jets deal where you had to pick one. And there’s something I never got used to about the way the characters look and move in Gears, they’re just so bulky and awkward, and Marcus is always spontaneously performing forward somersaults when I mash the A button to get him to move his bulky ass a bit faster. Isn’t anybody slim and lithe in the Gears universe, like a Dark Elf Scout? I guess the scouts were the first to go on E-day. A musclebound nation mourns their passing.

But every once in a while when I was playing Gears I’d get a glimpse of this sort of ruined Gothic beauty in the environments, at which point I would remember that somebody out there probably has “Art Director, Epic” printed on their business cards. Gears 2 is a lot like Gears, but now it looks like there’s maybe a lot more guys with that business card. They really stretched the engine to produce some amazing set pieces that make you feel bad for just running through them and sawing up grubs when you should be standing around admiring the light passing through some ruined scaffolding. At one point you’re working your way through a tunnel system and an entire city comes crashing and tumbling down through the roof. And it really looks like an entire city — the sense of scale is just awesome. You then spend the rest of the day hunting through the ruins. This is like Piranesi-level stuff.

They seem to have borrowed from their writing budget to pay the extra art guys, but that’s fine: I’m not playing Gears for its Stoppardian dialogue. And anyway I don’t know how much more I can take of Marcus’s gravelly voice. Dude sounds like he needs throat surgery. Seriously. I’m worried about that actor.

I have this vision of my retirement as one long sequence where I catch up on all the video games I couldn’t play when I was in my peak wage-earning years. They’ll dispense them to me in the rest home along with my meds, and I’ll play them using a suite of archaic emulators that run on my Xbox 184,320, which will take the form of a translucent nanoswarm applied directly to my retinas with an eye-dropper.