Today at Microsoft's Spring Event Cliff Bleszinski walked members of the press through the entire second level of Gears of War 2. Actually he played through the level, live, as we watched in rapt attention.
Gears of War 2 takes place six months after the first Gears ends, he said. It is fall and the last stand for humanity as the Locust Horde work to collapse the last major city on Sera. To fight back Marcus Fenix and his squad are asked to deliver a "grind lift" to a nearby lost city and ride it into the Locust underground home cities.
Level two starts off with Fenix and company boarding a giant combat truck and riding it as it makes it way to a nearby city. Dizzy, a conscript driver, maneuvers the vehicle as Fenix and the other members of Delta squad work to defend it. The platform the squad stands on is large enough to still make good use of the game's trademark cover system.
The level also showed off some of the other large vehicles found in the game, like helicopters and tanks.
Early in the mission, Fenix and his crew have to blast mortar fire from the air as it plummets toward the lumbering vehicles. After making it through that gauntlet, the vehicles are attacked by reavers until the derrick they are riding is damaged and the squad has to get out to defend Dizzy as he repairs the vehicle.
On the ground, the combat continues to be pretty intense, as Locust swarm up from emergence holes. It's here that we get our first glimpse of the destructible environment and the ability to grab locust and use them for cover.
After a bit more intense combat it's back to the derrick where the ride to the city continues and we get a chance to check out some new Locust tactics, including their use of grappling hooks to swarm a large vehicle.
The level wrapped up with some pretty intense fights with even larger creatures including a corpser and a creature with a gun for a head.
"And that's level two, thanks guys," Bleszinski said. "It's a good sign that my hands still get sweaty when I play the game still to this day."
Judging from such an early level in the game, it looks like Gears of War 2 will indeed be, as Bleszinski says "bigger, better, more badass."
Bleszinski also promises that the game will be one built on a much broader scale, with a deeper darker story line, one that includes Dom's search for his wife and an exploration of who Dizzy is.
The developer said that the game will be running at over 30 frames per a second when it ships and that it will come with more new multiplayer maps than before. He added that they haven't decided how they will introduce new DLC maps to the game, but both the concept of early adopter tax and sponsored maps are being explored.
While game's second level has some pretty intense pacing, it's not like that throughout the game, Bleszinski said.
"There are scenes where we take our time," he said. "This is a scene that is at 11 but if it were like that all the time no one would notice it anymore. The game is very much a roller coaster ride."
Bleszinski was also quick to point out that while Gears sort of got a name for itself through it's many underground levels, the sequel will only spend about 30 percent of the game underground.
"A lot of people's memories from Gears one was grey pillars and we wanted to get rid of that this time around," he said. "We wanted more vistas this time around."
So there will be snow levels and underground levels and levels on mountains.
"From the deepest depths of the underground to see how the locust live, to the highest peaks of Serra and everything in between, we are going to include it all."