Review: Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection

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The Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection packs more bang for the buck than any piece of downloadable content on any platform. Period. End of story.

For only 1600 MS Points (that’s $19.99 in real monies), the All Fronts Collection comes with the contents of all four current Gears of War 2 map packs, including Flashback, Combustible, Snowblind, and the new Dark Corners add-on. All told, that amounts to a whopping 19 multiplayer maps, a “Deleted Scene” mission from the single-player/co-op campaign, and a host of new Achievements to strive for, all for half the price of what it would cost you to buy each map pack individually. That’s an unbelievable deal!

Fortunately, the quality of the All Fronts Collection’s content is right on par with its incredible diversity and value. For starters, the new standalone deleted scene, entitled Road to Ruin, does a great job pulling you back into Gears 2’s campaign. While it’s not as substantial as the extra chapter Epic added to the PC port of the original Gears of War, it is a solid 30-45-minute chunk of gritty, visceral Gears 2 gameplay you can savor by yourself or with a buddy.

The Road to Ruin mission drops you into the heart of the campaign right after Dom is reunited with his long-lost wife Maria and forced to end her suffering with a bullet to the brain, and fills in the gap between that moment and Marcus and Dom’s arrival to confront the Locust Queen. You can play through the mission in one of two ways: guns blazing or stealth.

Guns blazing is definitely the best way to go. As you progress through a series of large doors and epic set-piece battles (including a bridge battle against a Brumak), you’ll confront familiar enemies in the familiar duck-and-cover shooting action the series is known for. You won’t find anything new to see or do here, but overall it’s a fun “Director’s Cut” companion piece to the base campaign – it’s just too bad the mission wasn’t integrated into the existing campaign structure so you could get a better idea of how it was meant to flow together with the rest of the story.

The stealth path, however, feels out of place in the Gears universe. Donning Theron Guard armor, you follow Dom’s lead through the same environments as the guns blazing path using your Locust garb and avoidance of guard patrols to proceed without confrontation. Compared to the 30 minutes or so Road to Ruin lasts in guns blazing mode, you can burn through the stealth path in roughly 15 minutes. It’s very, very easy, and, again, simply doesn’t fit in with the series’ action-heavy gameplay. Listen up, Epic: Gears of War and stealth don’t mix. Leave stalking in the shadows to Snake and Sam, please.

As for the multiplayer maps, well…you get a ton of them in this bundle of Gears of War 2 DLC goodness! In total there are 19 maps – the five Flashback maps, the four Snowblind maps, the three Combustible maps, and the seven maps also included in the new Dark Corners add-on – with a strong balance of COG and Locust-themed environments and design approaches catering to a wide variety of styles, from close-quarters battles to wide-open warfare and everything else in between. Of the new Dark Corners maps, my favorite is probably Nowhere, a barren desert locale with periodic sandstorms adding a nail-biting, claustrophobic tension to the battlefield. Sanctuary and Memorial are fun maps too – but they all are, really.

These are the 19 maps included in the All Fronts Collection (I pulled the descriptions I could find from Microsoft press releases and/or the game’s website).

Allfathers Garden:
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Don’t get caught up in the beauty—the sacred grounds of the Coalition founders can be a tremendously deadly place. Powerful weapons catalyze fast and furious action at this COG landmark.

Canals
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Courtyard:
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This picturesque, statue-studded courtyard rests just outside the city and represents multi-tiered multiplayer gameplay at its best. While power weapons lurk on the lower levels of the courtyard, a high-level platform dominates the center of the combat area, making dashes for Boomshot and the like fraught with peril if you’re not careful to flit from cover to cover.

Flood:
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Flood is a very tight map that’s made extra snug when Imulsion starts creeping up around the edges. As the playing field closes in, the firefight intensifies and combat is forced to the center of the map. Take cover, keep your eyes peeled, and remember to head for high ground.

Fuel Depot:
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This blast from the past is almost exactly as you remember it from the original Gears of War, albeit with a frost-bitten, snow-swirling twist. There’s the same helipad dominating one side of the map as well as the depot’s warehouse, with its ground-level center and raised wings, just opposite. And those exploding fuel pumps still sit just off to one side of the helipad.

Fuel Station:
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Fuel Station delivers a dangerous battle around an abandoned fossil-fuel facility. The team that secures and controls the station is likely to win the match. An especially strategic location on this map is the rooftop, as there are only two points of entry—the main elevator and a staircase on the back side of the building.

Gold Rush:
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The Gold Rush facility processed and transferred millions of barrels of refined Imulsion before Emergence Day. Located in a desolate gorge, it now serves as a hotly contested battleground. Featuring two tiers, this map has a lot of crossfire and a level of verticality that is rare in Gears multiplayer.

Gridlock
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Grind Yard:
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Junked out vehicles lie scattered about in this industrial scrap yard, waiting forlornly for their turn to be stripped down to component parts and used again as fuel for the war machine’s fire.

Highway:
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Take the fight deep into the Locust Hollow in the complex passages of this underground highway system. Stick together, separate the enemy, and have an exit strategy ready, or it’ll be a one-way trip.

Mansion
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Memorial:
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It’s all about the heavy weaponry in Memorial, set near the Eternal Flame at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Take a moment to remember your fallen comrades before using your flanking and evasive skills to take control of the Boomshot and the battle.

Nowhere:
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Set in the middle of the desert, Nowhere is exactly how it sounds: barren and devoid of life. The open air and long lines of sight prove useful for Longshot devotees, but expect some fierce, close combat in the stairwell.

Sanctuary:
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Tight paths, blind corners, and an arsenal of weapons—the Locust-ravaged temple in Sanctuary is no longer the haven of reflection and remembrance it once was.

Subway
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Tyro Station
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Under Hill:
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Under Hill sports one of the game’s most remarkable multiplayer landmarks, a sweeping suspension bridge which connects to a subterranean metro tunnel system, where now long abandoned cars sit, left to rot and rust just outside the caved-in entrance.

War Machine:
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In this abandoned train station, players need to master the Longshot, Mulcher, and Boomshot to advance the fight while evading fire from the platforms above.

Way Station:
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In the limbo between death and “processing,” you’ll find Locust way stations like this one, filled with COG soldiers. Tread lightly and practice patience—it’s best to sacrifice firepower for stealth while navigating this minefield of hidden grenades.

Obviously, the All Fronts Collection is only for Gears of War 2 players who have yet to invest in any of the previous map packs. That’s probably a small audience at this point, but if you do happen to fall into that category I strongly urge you to grab this DLC from the Xbox Live Marketplace.

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Pros:
+ Tremendous value
+ 19 maps greatly augment the multiplayer experience
+ Road to Ruin deleted mission is a fun aside to the added maps

Cons:
– Road to Ruin stealth path feels out of place
– Deleted scene lacks integration with the base campaign structure

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Epic Games
Release Date: 7/28/09
Genre: DLC add-on
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-10

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!