Gears of War 2, according to its excitable creator, Cliff Blezinski, is "bigger, better and more badass". Well now it's bigger, better, more badass and cheaper, with Play currently offering it for just £9.99.
Paired with Halo as Microsoft's two juggernaut titles, Gears of War 2 was no cash-in sequel, averaging a 93 on MetaCritic, continuing to popularise the third-person cover shooter, and with its 'Horde' mode, sparking a wave of similar modes in the years to come. If you're a fan of games which prioritise spectacle and set-pieces above narrative coherence, and enjoy crushing skulls beneath your boots, then Gears 2 is a sure bet, especially for under a tenner.
Since detonating the Light-Mass Bomb in the original, the planet of Sera and its human population continue to do battle with their subterranean foe, the Locust. Across the country, entire cities and villages disappear into inexplicable sink-holes. Marcus Fenix, once prisoner, now war-hero, is tasked with uncovering how and why the Locust are sinking our cities, and with reliable pal Dom and the rest of Delta Squad along for the ride, he'll find this one mystery leads into a veritable pit of secrets, bristling with danger.
Gears 2 doesn't reinvent the series. It's too young and too popular to have to. It's standard run into a courtyard, hunker behind a car-sized rock, exchange gunfire with Locust, steadily progress forward, and keep things fresh with an execution move or chainsaw to the gut. What sets Gears 2 apart from other shooters is how refined its cover-and-shoot mechanics are. It's thrilling to witness Marcus charge towards a burnt-out car, slam into its side and duck down, clutching his rifle as the vehicle's corpse is riddled with bullets.
The co-operative aspects of Gears continue, with two players able to fill the boots of either Marcus or Dom, and play out the campaign together. Fans clamoured for four players, and Epic delivered, in a certain fashion. 'Horde' mode pits four Gears against ever-increasing waves of Locust. Set in the maps lifted from the multiplayer, you and your three partners will scurry to choke-points in the map, hunker down and await the inevitable pounding charge of Drones, Boomers and scuttling Tickers. 'Horde' is, frankly, amazingly good fun.