Gears of War 2 sees marines Marcus and Dom back in action as the no-nonsense COG soldiers charged with leading humanity's last stand against the all-conquering Locust Horde.
Like the first game, Gears 2 revolves heavily around killing, killing and even more killing, but this time it's backed-up by a much deeper story that's full of plot twists, great characterisation and a genuine feeling that you're part of big, desperate war effort, rather than a typical two-man army.
The improved story is reinforced by increased production values. Graphically, Gears is pretty astounding – it has scale, detail, and loads of variation, and the soundtrack is full of awesome surround effects, massive explosions, and a genuinely cinematic score.
Each section of the game is different to the last, from the setting and objectives to the regular, excellently implemented vehicle sections.
Of course, killing things before they kill you is still the main point here, and the core mechanic of taking cover and popping up to take your shots also remains the same.
But there are some new additions to keep things fresh. There are the new heavy weapons, which include the awesomely powerful mortar and chain gun.
Then there are the new finishing moves, which are even more disgusting than before – in a good way. Oh, and there's the 'meat shield' - why leave a fallen enemy to rot when you can pick him up and use him as mobile cover?
You can play the entire 10-hour campaign in co-op mode with a mate, which is a serious blast, and once you've done that you can grab three more friends and take on the horde mode, which sees the five of you working together to defeat increasingly challenging waves of Locusts.
Then there's the obligatory raft of excellent death-match modes. In fact, as long as you like your games loud and gory, there's enough in Gears 2 to keep you occupied for months.
More after the break...
Microsoft Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360)
Takes the best bits of the first game and adds a new sheen to create sci-fi shooter nirvana