The Gears of War 2 DLC due out next week adds some stealth to the standard stop-and-pop gunplay. It doesn't work very well.
The Dark Corners DLC pack hits Xbox Live on July 29 for 1600 Microsoft Points. The chief attraction is multiplayer, thanks to the introduction of seven new maps, as revealed back in May.
But there's also a "deleted scene" from the campaign called Road To Ruin. This is a short chapter apparently chopped from the final game, as Cliff Bleszinski explains in a quick video just before you start playing. Like the rest of the campaign, Road To Ruin can be played solo or cooperatively. It takes place after you learn of Maria's fate and details the brief journey Marcus and Dom take to Nexus.
What's a little different about it is the option you have right up front to play it stealthily or go in guns blazing as the Cogs always do. Opting for the latter rewards you with a level consisting of half a dozen typical Gears skirmishes leading up to a fittingly larger scale finale.
It plays out like Act 4 from the original campaign, albeit condensed to just one level. Early sections are open lengths of underground highway, dotted with all the bits of cover you'd expect, and deliver a really satisfying mix of long and close range combat. Later sections bring in those toggleable barriers you'll remember seeing in the original campaign the closer you got to the palace, culminating in a frantic final battle that has you using them to defend a spot under siege on several fronts.
So, go in guns blazing and it's the same Gears of War 2 you know - and possibly love - only slightly more of it. I completed the scene in around 30 minutes on Normal difficulty, flying solo.
But what happens when you choose stealth?
Here, Marcus and Dom don Locust clothing and try to bluff their way through. You traverse (mostly) the same route through the level, but instead of fighting your way, you're walking. The locust goons won't recognise you in disguise, but they will be smell your humanity should you get too close.
It sounds interesting, particularly to a fan of stealth games like me. But Gears of War 2 was never built for stealth. Sadly, it simply boils down to waiting for the patrolling Locust to move out of the way and then jogging past them. Occasionally you'll need to "distract them" by flicking a lever somewhere to send a crate crashing down nearby.
Stealth doesn't factor into the AI at all; you're either at a safe distance in plain sight or you're too close and they'll start shooting you. It's all highly scripted and offers no room for trying your own thing. It's even scripted in that at a certain point you'll be forced to start shooting anyway.
As lame as the stealth approach may be, it's just about worth doing to see the couple of different areas the path eventually takes. It also nearly doubles the play time you'll get out of this. Which is nice. Still, you'll have seen everything on offer in under an hour.
Of course, as mentioned up top, the Dark Corners DLC is really a multiplayer map pack with bonus campaign content. If you don't play online, there's nothing here worth your 1600 MS Points. And it's worth even less if the idea of Gears 2 played stealthily was what had you interested in the first place.