For many visitors to Microsoft's Spring Showcase, the highlight of the day will be Gears of War 2. But then for many of those who own an Xbox 360, Gears of War 2 will be the highlight of the year - at least that's what Cliff Bleszinski reckons, as you'll know when you read our interview with him later today. He's standing before us and a dozen or so other journalists to show off the game, or as he puts it, to "share the love and share the magic".
Specifically Bleszinski will be sharing the second level, titled Assault. It's the same one featured in the video released a few days ago. According to Bleszinski, however, "What you saw there was just a two-minute snippet of the entire scenario. This is the whole level from start to finish, and I'll be playing it right here in front of you on the Xbox 360."
Like the trailer, the demo begins with a cut-scene showing giant trucks, called Derricks, rolling through a canyon as helicopters fly overhead. Sunlight streams over mountains looming in the distance. Bleszinski explains the game is set about six months after the ending of the first game, just as winter is beginning. The human race still has a stronghold in Jacinto, but perhaps not for long. "The Locusts are back and they're stronger than ever," he informs us. "This time they've brought with them a force that can bring down entire cities." Although the Locust still can't tunnel underneath Jacinto, they have started digging around it. "If they keep doing that, eventually Jacinto will fall and all will be lost for humanity," says Bleszinski.
Humanity's response is to attack the Locusts in their underground habitats. To do this they've constructed tools called grind lifts - "express elevators to Hell", as Bleszinski puts it. Two soldiers enter a pod and it's sent down a tunnel into the ground. Then they pop out and clear all the Locusts in the area, hitting them where they breed.
Marcus Fenix is back but this time not all his fellow soldiers are in it for the glory alone. Bleszinski explains the COG have developed a new programme called Operation Lifeboat. Men are invited to come to Jacinto and sign up on the understanding that in exchange, the families they leave behind will receive water, food and shelter. Dizzy, a character we're being introduced to here, is one of those to have taken up the offer. His accent and the banter he exchanges with Fenix suggest he's a real redneck and not quite as into macho posturing as the characters in the previous game.
The banter doesn't last for long though as a helicopter ahead explodes and mortars begin raining down on the Derrick. Bleszinski gets to work blowing the bombs up before they can complete their trajectory, and giant chunks of rock start flying all over the screen. A huge boulder is dislodged from the canyon wall and crashes into the Derrick, and almost into our hero.
Now he starts shooting at the Nemacyst Mortars flanking the Derrick. Previously seen towards the end of Gears of War 1 and in the first gameplay trailer for GOW2, these are the flying betentacled enemies that suggest someone at Epic quite likes The Matrix. And here comes a Brumak - you can shoot them now, and Bleszinski uses a mounted turret gun to see it off.