Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection (Xbox 360) Review

The current trend in the video game industry is no longer to released quality expansion sets for successful games, thus tiding us over with some additional single player and multiplayer goodness before the next sequel, instead it's to release a host of DLC add-ons that are often greatly overpriced for their worth. Any major title on the Xbox 360 has seen this, and many shooters, such as Gears of War 2, are presented with a host of Multiplayer Map Packs for gamers to download.

For my own part, I've seen the current DLC trend in a very negative light, as it often allows developers to produce a simple amount of content at little time and effort to themselves, while allowing publishers to jack up the price and maximize profits while short-changing us, the gamers, on quality. For Gears of War 2, there are presently 4 different Multiplayer Map Packs available, containing 3, 4, or 7 maps and ranging in price from 400 to 1200 Microsoft Points ($5.80 to $17.40). From my perspective, this is a rip off and save for the Flashback Map Pack which came free with the retail game, I have not purchased any of these.

At the end of this past July, Epic Games and Microsoft Game Studios released the Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection, which is a compilation of all the Multiplayer Map Packs, including the "Road to Ruin" deleted Campaign Chapter featured in the Dark Corners Map Pack. The total cost: 1600 Microsoft Points ($23.20).

I have to admit it. This DLC is fairly priced based on traditional expansion set standards. Make no mistake, Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection is _not_ a traditional expansion set. The Campaign content is very, very brief and relatively simply, however you get 19 Multiplayer Maps not featured via the retail game, which is quite a healthy offering, and generally speaking, the cost is about half that of a real expansion set. Seeing as how Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection is really a Multiplayer add-on, the price is fare.

All the maps from the Flashback Map Pack, Combustable Map Pack, Snowblind Map Pack, and Dark Corners Map Pack are here, and they're all well designed for the most part offering more variety for your Multiplayer arenas. Some maps have environmental dangers, such as rising Imulsion, and others are standard fair. Generally speaking, since they are just new maps and not new game modes, your play experiences will be mainly the same as they were on the maps that shipped with the retail game, save that you now have pretty new backgrounds to Curb Stomp your enemies on, or to take on wave after wave of Locust in Horde, my preferred Multiplayer game mode.

The Deleted Chapter, "Road to Ruin," is very short, and takes place during Act IV from the Campaign. After that tragic event about midway through, Dom and Marcus begin their battle to penetrate into Nexus by killing anything that gets into their way. In "Road to Ruin," an alternate telling of those events is presented, and while you can choose to go in guns blazing, you can also take a covert route. If you choose to go quietly, Marcus and Dom will dress up as Theron Guards to help avoid detection, and you'll need to sneak past all the enemies in your way. I actually found this method very easy in Single Player, simply because AI controlled Dom knows exactly where to go and at what time, so you just follow him.

Regardless of the path you choose, the enemies are placed very nicely and there's a good variety. You'll take on Drones, Boomers, Flamers, Grenadiers, Beast Riders and Blood Mounts, Reavers, and even a Brumak. While short, "Road to Ruin" is intense and a good bit of fun. It'll take you about 30 minutes to complete, and you can play Co-Op with a buddy via Xbox LIVE or Split Screen.

Like all premium add-ons, there's a host of new Achievements to earn with Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection, some related to public and private Multiplayer matches, many related to Horde, and three related to "Road to Ruin." Some of these Achievements are very easy to earn, and you'll earn them simply by playing the game, and others will take skill, planning, and help from your Friends.

Overall, if Multiplayer Gears of War 2 is something you really enjoy, be it Versus or Horde, Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection is a solid investment, adding some additional variety to your matches, and giving you a little bit of Single Player content to boot. If, however, you're primarily a Single Player gamer, I'd recommend avoiding this DLC as there's very little to offer you.

Now, if only other publishers/game would adopt this collection method, offering those gamers with patience a chance to get all this extra content at an actually fair price for a change. If Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection does rack up some good sales, perhaps we will see this become a more common trend.

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