Huge Gears 2 patch, map pack soon
Experience system, Achievements, more.
Epic has announced that it will release an expansive free patch for Gears of War 2 on 24th March, introducing a new experience system and associated Achievements.
This will then be followed by a new premium map pack, called Snowblind, on 31st March, introducing three new maps and a remake of Fuel Depot from Gears 1.
The patch - sorry, Title Update 3 - implements an experience-based ranking system and rebalances gameplay modes in order to give players a better sense of progression, rather than relying on Microsoft's TrueSkill system (although TS will still be used behind the scenes to some extent).
In an interview with GameSpot (thanks Kotaku), executive producer Rod Fergusson said it was "really a reward thing to make people feel better about their progression online".
Once the patch goes live, players will earn experience in subsequent matches that helps them advance through 100 levels, with significant milestones each getting their own unlockable Achievement. Along with four others introduced in the Snowblind Map Pack, these will account for an extra 250 gamerscore points.
The patch also includes an auto-balancing feature that drops in bots for people who drop out mid-match (dropouts also suffer an XP penalty), and resolves scoring disparities between certain modes (Annex throwing up more experience than Warzone, for instance).
As for the map pack, there's no word yet on pricing, but the last outing - the Combustible Map Pack - sold for 800 Microsoft Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60), which seems like a safe bet.
Fergusson has said that the four maps are Grindyard, a winter-themed junkyard processing plant and spiritual successor to Gears 1's Gridlock; Under Hill, a highway junction leading into a mountain, with an exposed mortar spawn to consider; and Courtyard, which features long sight lines and recalls Embry Square.
Fuel Depot, meanwhile, will be spruced up with a new wintry theme.
You can catch a glimpse of the Snowblind Map Pack and the experience system over in the Gears of War 2 screenshot gallery.