Many gamers only give games two hours at the most to impress them.  If a game can’t hook a gamer in those first two hours, they’ve lost the majority of gamers.  In that sense, the first two hours are the only ones that matter.

In The First Two Hours we play two similar games for only two hours each and score each game with either a “Ten” if the game thrilled us, or a “RIP” if the game killed us. Then we declare a winner based on which game used its first two hours to captivate us the most.

Today’s fight is the battle of the holiday season.  PS3 vs. Xbox 360.  Resistance 2 vs. Gears of War 2.  Which single player campaign comes out faster, harder and stronger?  And more importantly, which one used its first two hours to hook us the most?

Story: It’s the 1950′s. An alien invasion has swept through Europe annihilating everything. Now the Invasion has hit America.  As the sole survivor of your unit, it’s time to show them why Freedom and Apple Pie deserve capital letters.

Always a New Enemy To Put Holes In
One of the criticisms of the first Resistance was the lack of enemy variety, and Insomniac corrects that right out of the gate in Resistance 2.   Within the first two hours you see enemies that inspire awe like the massive walker in the first level and some that are legitimately creepy like the seemingly invulnerable, swimming chimera as it glides past your feet.  You’re always fighting something new and always getting new weapons to kill it with.

Halo 3 meets Call of Duty 4…
Resistance 2 may have the best pistol in gaming and you get it right away.  It’s a Magnum that has remotely detonated, highly explosive bullets.  You can embed a round into a Chimera’s skull and hit R2 to take out his buddy with the explosion.

You always feel the tension of battle, like you’re in a huge firefight being shot at by 20 enemies, returning fire with human weapons that have a very satisfying Call of Duty 4-like pop to them.  In many ways, Resistance 2 feels like you’re fighting slightly uglier Halo 3 aliens with the slightly modified weapons of COD4.

Scripted Moments That Come To Hurt You
The computer will take over the first person view for certain key moments, guiding you through scripted sequences, usually when all hell’s about to break loose.  If you’re a cutscene skipper, listen up: Resistance 2 uses it as a way to draw your attention to something colossal, which produces those “oh snap!” moments that really make games.

1. How Dead Am I?!
It’s a bit difficult to read Resistance 2′s damage indicator.  You know how Gears’ red skull will get redder and redder, letting you know how close you are to death? Resistance’s damage indicator is more subtle, leading to comments like, “I am a little bit dead, or a lot bit dead?”

2.  Don’t Hate the Aliens
Resistance could have done more right out of the gate to get players emotionally involved in the battle against the Chimera.  Sure, they’re ugly but they’re not hate inspiring like they could have been if some early story elements were implemented.  How about the chimera take out the statue of liberty or Mt. Rushmore?  I would have settled for one flicking off the Liberty Bell.

3.  It Doesn’t Feel Like 1951
Many of the human weapons and the equipment doesn’t look like its from the 1950′s, it looks modern.  There’s just nothing but an occasional radio broadcast that indicates that you’re in the middle of the 20th century.  Insomniac could have deepened the experience with a little more nostalgia in the first two hours.

Resistance’s first two hours have great pacing, big bosses, surprising cinematics and satisfying combat, which all make it an edge of your seat experience, but I wish I was more attached to the story and emotionally involved with the central conflict in the game.

Story: Marcus Fenix and his bunch o’ badasses take the fight to the locusts with new weapons, characters, a new story writer and a new unreal engine.  As the Last Day ad says, “you already know how this will end,” but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun getting there.  Especially in the first two hours.

1.  “Wow I actually care about these people…”
From the first couple lines spoken, It’s obvious that the script is stronger and more character driven than the previous Gears game.  Dom and Marcus seem to have real friendship and respect for each other as they grunt their lines through a really important, character driven tutorial that i would not recommend skipping.  Marcus and Dom seem different from each other this time, Marcus being the war hardened leader, Dom the more human and identifiable one.

New characters, like the spiritual Tai, are unique and instantly likable.  It’s easy to get invested and care about what happens to them and early cutscenes make you feel like you are part of something epic, that you can’t lose or humanity will die with you.

2.  Bigger, Better, More Brumaked
Epic’s mission statement for Gears 2 was “bigger, better and more badassed.”  In the first Gears of War you ran away from Brumacks.  In the first two hours of Gears of War 2, I destroyed 3.

The new Locust semi-auto rifle is fun, kind of like a split between the Lancer and the Sniper rifle, and the grenades are way more relevant this time around, more powerful, more situations where they seem like the right choice and more satisfying when you see those locust chunks fly.

3.  Polish
Polish shows you how much a developer cares about their project, and Gears 2 is polished up like a classic muscle car.  It’s just little things like the fact that Marcus turns his head in the direction of the person he’s addressing and the notifications you get as you progress towards an achievement.  It’s like 15 mini achievements on your way to the big one.  Slick, Cliffy B, Slick.

Unreally Slow
The new Unreal engine still loads textures slowly.  Moving Marcus around felt somewhat slow and clunky sometimes compared to my time in Resistance 2.

Are you Scrapbooking, Marcus?
I like the emphasis on collecting cogs and documents to put into your war journal, but I felt like the searching for these items messed with the pace and intensity of the game.  I wish they could have been implemented a little more with the game rather than feeling tangential from it.

A Glitch as Ugly as Locusts
I found a glitch right before the two hour mark.  I was tasked with killing a group of mortar wielding locusts, which did, but the game did not register it.  Therefore the horde kept coming and I wasn’t let out of the loop until my welcomed death came.  Uncharacteristic of Gears, i know, but it happened.

Gears of War 2′s first two hours are better than Gears of War 1′s.  More engrossing, more streamlined, more intense.

Gears of War 2

If this was a UFC fight, Gears of War 2 would win The First Two Hour fight by split decision. They’re both wonderful games, and I think that Resistance’s gameplay may be tighter and overall more visceral, but  Gears of War 2′s engrossing story, captivating characters and its ability to make you feel vital, that you can’t lose to the locusts, is what makes its first two hours more successful and gives it the win by a narrow margin.