Chaotic First-Person Shooters About Humanity’s Impending Demise Make for Some of the Finest Introspective Experiences!

Gears of War

About a week or so ago, I started playing Gears of War 2. I know, I know, to say that I’m a little late to the party is an understatement. In my defense, the game has been sitting on my shelf for a long time; it’s just one of those games I’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t. Also, right from the beginning it had to wait on me, as I’m a believer to play games in their intended order if possible – call me crazy – aaand, yes, I also played Gears 1 way past its expiration date.

Another reason I haven’t gotten to GoW2 ’til now (not to make excuses for my behavior) is that my friend Marcus and I had planned to co-op this one, and as things so often go in life, we just couldn’t seem to coordinate it. One person didn’t own it; then the other person lost it; then other games, classes, work, relationships, life got in the way.

At long last, we were both set up, separate discs spinning in separate trays, headsets busily sending and receiving, ready to jump into the fray once more. This, believe it or not, is where the troubles started…

I played through the first Gears; I harbored no unrealistic expectations about its sequel. I knew what I was in for, and I can certainly appreciate an experience that throws you into the proverbial thick of the fray; bullets whizzing past my ears, heavily armored machinery rumbling cacophonously, your teammates’ chatter in your earpiece even as your opponents scream while dying all around you.

There was just one thing I hadn’t counted on: I’m the kind of gamer who likes to experience what’s going on in the game, and I feel cheated when I’m deliberately not being allowed to get the full experience (you ever watch an action or martial arts movie, and the big showdown happens in a dark place, with tons of shaky camera and jumpcuts so you can’t really see what’s going on? Yeah…). That kind of shit gets me downright cranky.

So how does this finally tie into my experience so far with Gears 2? Well, the whole point of playing the campaign co-op is to play with a friend, and that quite plainly includes communicating. It’s frustrating to see that the developer is making me choose between hearing or talking to my partner and hearing and experiencing the action of the game. During heavy combat, I may not get any information across at all, or perhaps miss a vital piece of information to the plot because I’m trying to coordinate with my squadmate.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m enjoying playing through the game with a friend. Since we’re piecemealing it, we’ve still got a bit to go, and I can’t wait to get back to it! It’s just sad that this awesomely fun experience is undermined a little by some unnecessarily frustrating communication glitches. Oh, and apparently I’ve learned that too much loud noise makes me crotchety.

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