Gears of War 2 Review

Gears of War 2I know this game has been out for a few months now, but I only just finished it, after purchasing it as an early Christmas present for myself. The first Gears of War, along with the zombie killing spree that was Dead Rising really showed what the fairly new XBOX 360 was capable of. Both of those games raised the bar and when we got Bioshock, Halo 3 and Rainbow Six Vegas the bar stayed there.

I got the Collector’s Edition, which came complete with a neato hardcover art book and DVD. I love all that behind the scenes stuff, which is why I never buy pirate DVDs. That, and because they’re illegal.

Playing as the grizzled Marcus Fenix, as you did in the first one you’re followed by his three squad mates for the most part. Basically, there’s been a huge war going on for 15 years with the Locusts, creatures who erupted from the ground on E-Day to destroy humanity. They pretty much succeeded.

gears-of-war-2-20080625073948955_640wFrom the outset it was obvious that this sequel was emphasising the war in the title. Cut scenes with more depth, a few new characters, nice weapons like the flamethrower. All these elements give the game a larger scope than the first one, which just followed Delta Squad, but didn’t give any screen time to the bigger events at play. Here, we have meetings with other squads, more cities and civilians and just more of a blockbuster feel. The graphics are the same as the first one, ie, brilliant. The only minor glitch was the annoying error that meant I went unnoticed a few times when crawling on the floor, asking for my teammates to revive me, but thanks to frequent checkpoints it wasn’t as frustrating as it could’ve been.

There’s also a greater variety in level design, especially when you’re riding massive tanks, unstable boats, flying beasts or even a huge Brumak in the last cavernous level. And two levels set inside animal gizzards is just a ghastly plus. I even watched the end credits sequence that surely ran of for at least 10 minutes. That puts Hollywood to shame. There were a lot of people involved in Epic’s most famous game, and now, franchise. I even counted three different languages in the thank-yous from the massive team. After all that, I kind of expected an extra scene. (Iron Man has spoilt me and now I expect post-credit scenes in everything I watch!) Well, there was something extra. Not a scene, but just a voice-over, of Adam Fenix. He’s Marcus Fenix’s long-lost father and doesn’t seem pleased about the humans sinking the city of Jacinto in a desperate attempt to beat the underground Locust horde. A nice seat up for Gears of War 3 to be sure. Trailer below.

Newsboys Live: Houston We Are Go Review

Newsboys Live CD/DVDI’ve bought every Newsboys live release from the VHS Step Up To The Microphone tour from a decade ago. I don’t buy every new album of theirs. Only delirious holds that honour for me, but Newsboys are a truly great band, and one of Australia’s most successful exports. Probably somewhere up with Hugh Jackman and The Wiggles. Newboys are one of the world’s longest lasting Christian bands. Of course, that label isn’t the best, as labels never are, but that’s the business of “Christian” music for you. Newsboys are a great band. They’re not a worship band, just a band that anyone can tap their toes to, with funky betas and quotable lyrics.

There have been a few line-up changes in the years they’ve been together, most noticeably the recent departures of Jody Davis and New Zealand bassist Phil Joel, to pursue family and mission interests. However, now they have the addition of Paul Colman, from the former band PC3, or the Paul Colman Trio. They managed to do quite well in the US before they split, and it’s great to see Colman on stage again, with his fellow Aussies, drummer Duncan Phillips and lead singer Peter Furler.  I saw the Paul Colman Trio live in Perth twice and it’s just awesome to see him strut his stuff once more, with much larger crowds than he was used to. That means the only Yank left is keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein.

Newsboys still have that larrikin nature about them. They’re the funnest and funniest band to watch, and its great to see Peter interact with the huge Houston, Texas audience, making them laugh with his recountings of the band’s humble beginnings, and later cry with his heartfelt testimony. The preacher’s kid has done good.

Frankenstein looks as awkward as ever on stage, but since he’s a Mac user, he gets extra points. Phillips is as madcap as ever, with his cheeky grin, Mohawk and the fantastic return of the spinning drum platform. Colman fits in beautifully and Furler’s voice sounds just like it does on the albums.

The 14 track DVD/CD combo presents the same songs, a mix of old and new, including a few from their recent Go release. Classics like Shine, Entertaining Angels, He Reigns and Breakfast are my faves. The show’s production standards are great, and the fairly young audience really get into it. How could you not? I imagine the fellas must lose a fair amount of weight after each show after the three huge screens, on stage lights and two spotlights must make them sweat like maniacs, especially considering they’re all covered in black. But for them, and us, it’s all worth it. Check out the trailer below.