Gears of War 2: Too violent for some?

Gears of War 2: Too violent for some?

Chainsaw kills raise eyebrows at San Fran press event

As the gaming press gathers on the West Coast for a week of preview events, the sequel to 2006 smash hit Gears of War was by far the biggest news to come out of Microsoft's Tuesday press conference. Gears 2 takes over the story six months after the close of the original Gears, as humanity faces a new and more deadly threat from its Locust enemies -- and features even more explicit violence than its notoriously bloody predecessor. Could Microsoft's newest action game have gone too far?

Gears of War was famously banned in Germany, after the country's ratings organization declined to issue the game an age certificate. Gears 2 covers much of the same ground, but adds in more realistic visuals, a deeper plot, and battles that concentrate more on mobility and dynamic combat than the original, which some decried as a prettier version of the old "whack-a-mole" parlor game.

Graphics and plot aren't just what raised eyebrows at the press event, though: instead, attendees caught a glimpse of one of the game's many melee kill moves. Whereas Gears 1 included an up-close attack that used a chainsaw blade on the lead character's main weapon to dismember a foe, Gears 2 adds a reverse attack that actually slices an enemy in half -- from the groin upwards. Elsewhere in the demo, presenter Cliff Bleszinski, the celebrated lead designer behind the Gears and Unreal series, showed off a new ability that let him use the corpse of a fallen enemy as a "meat shield", soaking up bullets while he returned fire around its head.

One thing's for sure, though: the Gears of War gameplay Xbox 360 owners know and love is alive and well, and although it's definitely kicked the violence up a notch, like its predecessor it's going to be a good fit for the "Mature" ESRB age category, which will bar its sale to youths under 16. Whether or not the German censors will take a different view on its violence this time round remains to be seen -- but we're not going to be betting on it.

Gears of War 2 is expected in November, just in time for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but we're expecting to see more of the game at this year's E3 trade festival in July.


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