Epic Fail? – Did Epic drop the ball with Gears of War 2 Multiplayer?

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Gears of War 2 has been a massive success, pulling in tons of sales in it’s first week as well as breaking a couple of Xbox Live records.

The original Gears of War multiplayer laid down the foundation to which all of the hype and excitement was formed for the coming of the sequel but one must wonder if Epic got lucky. While a lot of us have been enjoying Gears of War 2 this week, there are many fans out there who do not feel the same way. The Epic Gears of War 2 forums have been set ablaze with posts complaining about changes made to the core gameplay as well as a few new unwelcome additions.

More after the jump.

Pump-Action Peanut Lobber

While it becomes pretty obvious from the start that Gears of War 2 is far from perfect in terms of bugs and glitches, the main beef seems to be with the weapon balancing and how the games pace has been slowed down significantly. A lot of “Shotgun Bunnies” as I like to call them, are not happy with the fact that the good ol’ shotty has been nerfed (weakened) significantly, especially since the introduction of stopping power has already made it so difficult for shotgun runners to get closer to their enemies. Then comes the new and improved Lancer.

Saw Losers

The new Lancer is very powerful in that it does a lot of damage and also has stopping power working in it’s favour in a big way. The main issue at the moment is coming from the use of the chainsaw bayonet that we have all learnt to love and hate over the past two years. It seems to be a problem that is specific to internet play but someone who has a revved up chainsaw seems to be sitting somewhere on the verge of invincibility at times. I tested it out myself this weekend after reading about all the complaints and it is true. If you rev up a chainsaw and walk towards someone you can walk through a whole bunch of lancer fire and even a take a couple of shotgun hits without too much issue, leaving the enemy almost defenseless against your incoming saw attack.

A glitch in the matrix

We have heard that glitches like the “crabwalk” have already been discovered as well as some issues that we have personally experienced with players starting rounds with no weapons in their hands, as well as the inability to select a different one or pretty much make any use of themselves whatsoever.

Leave the matchmaking to Cupid

With Gears of War 2, Epic also decided to switch from the simple multiplayer and lobby interface of the first game and change over to a matchmaking system not unlike the ones seen in Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4. This change should have been for the better but I think that Epic have kind of missed the point.

The real charm of Gears of War was the ability to simply setup a game with a map cycle, customise the settings if you like and jump into the fun. A lot of the fun was had in the fact that there was no real lobby, maps would load up one after the other and everyone was able to have fun playing the game, or enjoy chatting to their friends if they were out for the round.

Epic changed all that. I am going to assume that the reason that dead people and live people cannot chat to each other after each round is simply a bug and not a choice made by Epic and I hope it gets fixed soon. The nutcracker however, comes in the form of a very long string of screens that leave you waiting. In the first Gears of War, when a match ended, the next map loaded up and everyone carried on as usual. It’s not as simple this time around.

Once a map is done, you are first put back into a pre-game lobby, where the host can change the game mode and settings again. Once the host accepts the settings, you sit through another loading screen to get to another lobby, which allows map, character and team selection (no invites can be sent from this lobby). Once the host is happy, he can start the game. At first the game has a five second countdown, then the lobby will tell you that the map is loading. After the loading is done you are taken into the map but still sit in a lobby waiting for textures (and if needed, bots) to load up as well. After all of that, you then get given a 10 second countdown to the start of the match, as if everyone wasn’t ready 2 minutes ago.

This new lobby system really breaks the flow of the game and has frustrated some players to no end. The idea behind the new lobby is however the matchmaking system that allows people to join into games easily, but even that isn’t working so well. Some players are left waiting up to 20 mins (!) to join a game and once in a public match, you aren’t even able to choose what type of game mode you want to play, only playlists that include certain game types.

Is anybody out there?

Gears of War 2 is a fantastic game, however there are no doubts there but it has become heavily apparent that Epic needs to make a few major changes to the game if they want the game to be as addictive and successful as the first. While a lot of people played the original Gears of War’s multiplayer right up until the day of the sequels release, this weekend, only one week later had a lot of people on my friends list playing other games and even some who had jumped back into Gears of War 1 to get a bit more of the action that they are used to.

If Epic are smart, they will listen to their fans because no matter which way you look at it, it is them who will keep the game going strong for years to come. While I personally do enjoy the multiplayer I do have to accept that deep down, it doesn’t have the same appeal as the first game and I do kind of wish that they would release a patch to change a couple of things. I have obviously not mentioned anything about the missing map pack codes as it is region specific.

It will be interesting to see if Epic sticks to their guns on their decisions or if they are going to make changes to keep the fans happy. The ball is now in their court.

What do you think, does anyone have any complaints or do you think that Gears of War 2 is perfect just the way it is? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Last Updated: November 17, 2008

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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