Gears of War 2

It’s really hard to not see how the Halo and Gears of War games cross paths at times, and while there are similarities here with Gears of War 2, the one that stands out the most is that Gears 2 is an incredible follow-up to the original, just as Halo 2 was to Halo.

Built on the Unreal engine, Gears 2 retains everything that made the first game fun, as you duck in-and-out of cover in new, clever ways while also engaging with melee attacks, such as the Lancer’s chainsaw instant-kill. (Which can now result in a “chainsaw battle” with enemies also wielding the same weapon.)

Among the new weapons added are a chainsaw, flamethrower and mortar cannon. Grenades can be used like proximity mines as well. Using downed enemies as a body shield is also fun, while new vehicles were added to the mix too.

Several of areas of the game feature more “on rails” campaigns, such as riding on larger vehicle or boat.

While all of my descriptions don’t lend to sounding like an upgrade or more fun, you have to trust me when I tell you it is. The storyline and plot for this game is among the best I’ve had the pleasure of playing – and it would likely play out as well on a big screen Hollywood movie as it did interactively.

Somehow the game crosses boundaries that are parts Halo (but in third-person), part Aliens, and even a hint of The Predator. All of the gore, violence and over-the-top language continues, though it can be turned off if you have small ears nearby.

As you continue playing, you may be compelled to think you’ve seen the best this game has to offer, but somehow it keeps one-upping itself until the very end.

I’ve left some key details out as to not spoil for anyone playing through a backlog. If Gears 2 is one of those games you have yet to complete, I compel you to do so soon!

It’s one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played and certainly one of the best gaming sequels of all-time (in my humble opinion, of course!)

Mega Man 9

After praising the last two iterations of Mega Man games (7 and 8, which were on the SNES and PlayStation respectively) the ninth game in the traditional series takes us way back to Mega Man 1 and 2 visuals and gameplay… sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst.

A digital-only release and the first in the main series since Mega Man 8 on the Sony PlayStation in 1998, Mega Man 9 is a weird duck of the bunch. Rather than progressing the series, it felt like more of a throwback to the day of old, where, once again, Capcom had not lost their sense of sick humor to torture gamers.

Let me be firm in saying:

This game is stupid hard with all sorts of cheap killing mechanics littered throughout.

Rush reappears to help get through some difficult areas, but gone are the ability to charge up the “mega buster” or slide. You can, however, play with Proto Man too and he does have those abilities… for whatever reason that may be.

Some of the weapons are especially cheesy, as are the bosses you face to acquire them. Concrete Man leaves you with the “concrete shot” which creates a concrete block.

The “Hornet Chaser” is another reach in the series, as Mega Man shoots hornets which sting enemies or retrieves items.

You’ll likely settle on two or three special weapons you’ll use throughout the game, if that, and the rest will be long forgotten – showing how long in the tooth the series was at this point, even with a ten-year hiatus.

Some additions to the series are achievements tacked on and a save menu (in lieu of the password system). There’s also another Mega Man first: a female robot master!

Overall it’s a good look back at how these games began, but I really wish they would’ve stuck with the cartoon/anime style they used on the PSX, which feels like a far superior experience rather than going way back to some boring and drab 8-bit styles.

At least the storyline has a few surprises worthy of Mega Man fans playing through the end of the game as well. Otherwise, casual gamers may be more prone to avoid this like many of the original titles in this series as it offers more in the sake of nostalgia than anything truly “new” (and that despite there being nearly a decade between main series releases!)