After much anticipation, I got my hands on Gears of War 2. While I am excited with my purchase, I did have some issue with its multiplayer options save for Horde mode. However, with the promise of new maps I am always enticed to try again. Try again I have, braving the seas of multiplayer with the release of the Combustible Map Pack. Because I’m more of a Horde mode fan, the beauty of these maps is that yes, you can use them. Fantastic. Bringing the total of maps available to 15 (a considerably high number due to its recent release), these three new areas are actually rather interesting. Be warned, however, that they do include the same rust reds and browns that we’re used to, but hey, isn’t that part of the Gears charm?
Rounding out the map pack that’s available for 800 MS points, we have Fuel Station, Gold Rush, and Flood.
Fuel Station is placed in a barren, desolate area with nothing for miles save for an ancient gas station (as implied in the title). I’ve found that it’s a great contender for Horde mode, as that shacking up in the station will prove to give quite the strategic edge. It’s clear that in the standard multiplayer modes, whichever team can manage to control the fuel station will acquire the upper hand. If you can manage to get up on the roof and secure the location, you should be good to hold out against the Horde and a rival team, as there are only two ways to get up there, and if you guard them closely, the other team will be at a stark disadvantage. You can get there via a staircase in back or through the building’s elevator. CoD: World at War’s Nazi Zombie mode comes to mind, as you can employ this same tactic, watching the cellar where zombies come in and the door that costs points to open. Right out in front we have a Mulcher, which we all know spells trouble for any opposition that dares cross your path. I do, however, feel that players who are not lucky enough to secure the fuel station will have a terrible time getting to the team inside if they do not play their cards right. All in all, it’s a good addition to the map packs, and especially useful in Horde mode, as the Locust will have a hard time actually getting to your squad should you choose to play it the way it was meant to be played.
Gold Rush places you in the battlegrounds of an old Imulsion factory. Getting to the factory is key, as when one team reaches it, there are multiple floors to traverse. We’ve seen a similar style of gameplay in the original Gears, right before we saw the Kryll come out in droves. I feel that this map is very bland compared to the other two, as it can get to be a very unsatisfying experience devoid of much strategy. I’ve seen more run-and-gunning in this map rather than players making use of the multiple floors to avoid enemy fire. However, it’s another good Horde map, as you always have higher ground to get to should the enemies below prove to be too much for you and your team. One interesting aspect of the map is the fact that there is breakable glass – if the other team is not aware of this fact they may try to hide behind the glass as cover, only to have it shatter in their face. You have a Longshot rifle available on the map, but it’s simple to pick off those who try to go for it while on the upper levels. Out of the three maps in the Combustible pack, this is my least favorite.
Flood has got to be one of the most interesting maps out of the three. Very much akin to Shipment on Call of Duty 4, it’s an extremely tight map that gets increasingly smaller as a flood of Imulsion is closing in on you and other players. As matches progress the Imulsion waves encroach on everyone, until the fight takes center stage on the map. This adds a sense of urgency to what could otherwise be a boring map since it’s the smallest of the three. Of course, it makes sense that if you’re good at flanking, doing well at this map should be a no-brainer.
Overall, I’d give the maps as a whole a 7 out of 10. However, there is much dispute in the community surrounding these maps. Due to the timeframe that they have been released in, and the size of the download, it’s often said that these maps are either “already on the disc” or were made prior to the game’s release. This could be true. While it does seem a little sudden to be coming out with maps, I’m not complaining. Ten dollars does feel a little steep for a package of three maps, but for the most part they are an entertaining addition to the game that can begin to get stale, even though it did come with an impressive five add-on maps already. If you’re having trouble in Horde mode getting to the final few waves, then Fuel Station can help out with that as long as you have a good party around to support you. Flood adds a sense of immediacy to otherwise drawn-out firefights, and Gold Rush is an interesting look inside of an Imulsion refinery. I wouldn’t recommend you pay the full 800 Microsoft Points for the map pack, as I’m sure their price will be slashed sometime in the near future, but if you have the points to spend, then by all means go ahead and do it. They simply add on to all that fun you’ll be having sawing off the Grinder’s head as if it were a knife through butter.