On March 24th, Gears of War 2 received its third title update. It's the biggest update yet and promised to fix multiple exploits, bugs, and other glitches.
The update also includes an overhaul to the matchmaking ranking system as well as brand new achievements to prepare for the Snowblind Map Pack due out on the 31st.
However, the question still remains, "has the online component truly been fixed correctly?" Believe it or not, it has.
As inconsistent as Epic Games is when it comes to fixing their beloved Gears, you have to admire their persistent efforts. The first title update addressed matchmaking issues, allowing parties not at maximum capacity to find a game in a respectable amount of time.
The second update addressed a slew of problems including the Gnasher shotgun fix. But even with such significant upgrades as the previous fixes accomplished, they pale in comparison to what the third has done for the game. You can check the complete patch notes here.
Let's start with the most noticeable change; the reimagining of the ranking system. Before the update, Gears had a ranking system based around five different military decals. The problem was that after you began playing, your bars would never really change at all.
There were instances where I'd run into players rated among the top thousand in the world and they'd be stuck on the second rank. Now, those rankings have been replaced by an experience-based system that can carry up to the maximum level of 100. Achievements also accompany the new system and are rewarded when hitting a certain level.
The most important thing to note about this renovation is the decision to display rank progress and experience. It provides an extra incentive to do well and gives you a sense of accomplishment as you continue to play the game.
While the levels don't reflect the TrueSkill system under the matchmaking hood, it still matches you based on certain criteria it collects as you play. In other words, it's nothing you have to worry about.
Other important balancing changes were made including to the smoke grenades, two-piece maneuver, and the overall hit-detection. Smoke grenades used to have a random effect when detonated on your opponent. Sometimes you could fall over for close to ten seconds while someone right by you would instantly stand up. Now, no matter where you are you'll stand back up after just a few seconds of tasting the concrete.
The two-piece or running up, meleeing, and then blasting someone away, has been toned down by implementing a delay in melee attacking after roadie running. This means that you now need to be much more careful when running up to someone who is aware of your position and intentions.
I'm very pleased with the direction Epic is taking Gears of War 2. However, the game is still anything but perfect. Though the shotgun is much, much better it still has massive issues along with lag and unbelievable host advantage ruining matches.
Regardless, I can't seem to get around the fact that all three of these title updates should have been packed with the original game that launched last November. To release a high-end product as Gears is marketed as, it's unforgiveable to allow it onto store shelves being anything but.
Don't get me wrong, Gears is still a fun experience and it's unrealistic to believe all games can be released bug free, but Gears 2 was a different beast; one that came neutered and was missing all its shots.
With the update already in effect and a new map pack on the way early next week, Gears fans have reason to rejoice. I suppose the only question left to ask is how many more title updates Epic has in mind. Hell, if we get enough we might not even see a release of Gears 3; we'll already have it. More PlayStation 3 News...