Gears of War 2 will have drop-in co-operative play and a more expansive campaign mode where you take the fight to the Locust.
That's according to a seemingly hefty preview in US magazine Game Informer, ripped apart by the watchful Kryll at NeoGAF, which also reveals that it has monsters that will "make the Brumak look like a baby panda bear", in the words of Cliff Bleszinski. Although he presumably differs from everyone else's view that it already looked like a giant hunchback chicken.
Set six months after the end of Gears of War, the new campaign will see Marcus and Dom teaming up with new characters Tai Kaliso and Dizzy, with Baird and Cole likely to return later in the story. Tai's a "spiritual and meditative warrior" in NeoGAF's phrase, while Dizzy is a former Stranded chap who joined the COG forces in return for his family's safety.
The new-look Delta Squad will take their orders from Chairman Prescott, who is Hoffman from the first game's boss, and who delivers a speech at the outset of the campaign; while the campaign will also focus on the search for Dom's wife, Maria, who lost her kids in the opening shots of the war.
Don't worry though, because there will still be lots of fighting as Delta takes the fight to the Locust, underground, utilising all their old tricks and some new ones. The cover mechanic survives, obviously, but now you won't be so easily hit while hiding, and some sections will feature moving cover.
This you will need to take advantage of in larger, less linear battles, particularly now that the Locust are reinforced by Kantus monks, who can revive their comrades from distance, and therefore need to be targeted quickly whatever lies between you and them. They are also able to emit sonic attacks, and have "Gorgon burst pistols" and poisonous grenades, which you eventually get your hands on.
Speaking of weapons, there will be new ones, and they will all use Active Reloads again, although there may be variations in how some of them do this. Those chainsaw duels - like the one in the GDC teaser trailer - will also play a part, and there's another vehicle level featuring a COG Centaur tank.
In line with the darker and more meaningful (and hopefully more coherent) story, the details around the edges will also be more considered. For example, you will be able to examine the collectible COG tags to learn about who owned them. In fact, there will be more collectibles in general, and unlockable multi-part Achievements will now have progress meters. What's more, you'll see more than Anya than a grey sweater in a helicopter this time, as she'll be visible on a video screen that your floating robot, Jack, is now equipped with.
On a technical level, Gears 2 will take advantage of those new features Tim Sweeney debuted at GDC - better character lighting, ambient occlusion, the ability to have hundreds of Locust on-screen at once, better water effects and soft-body physics - and the old game's technique of hiding load pauses with walk-and-talk bits will be dispensed with to some extent, at least in the sense that you will be able to end those conversations now if you can't be bothered with them.
Multiplayer details, meanwhile, are being kept secret, but Epic did reveal that Gridlock will be remade, and that the new drop-in co-op (no word on whether it supports four people, but it doesn't sound like it) will allow you to pair up with someone playing on a different difficulty level.
Speaking of which, the hard difficulty levels like Insane will now be "truly devastating", apparently, while a new and more casual offering will be inserted at the low end so that people who struggled with the first game's Casual mode can make steadier progress. Wimps. Best of all, you can have multiple save files on the go, so you won't continually wipe your progress if you start an Act anew - or, rather, your flatmate won't continually wipe your progress when he stupidly starts a new game without sodding well asking.