Xbox LIVE Arcade is home to plenty of good games but few that could be labelled as modern classics. One such game that can proudly wear such a badge is Bizarre Creations' Geometry Wars Retro Evolved. For 400 Microsoft Points Geometry Wars offered more depth and value than any other game released on the console and has been the cause of more cuss-filled explosions of rage than anyone would care to admit. So, the sequel, cleverly titled Geometry War Retro Evolved 2, has the potential to be an Xbox LIVE Arcade blockbuster.
What's initially most apparent about Geometry Wars 2 is the number of game modes available and the inclusion of four-player multiplayer. From the start only one game mode can be selected, but a short amount of time playing each unlocks the next, and it's not long before all six can be freely selected from the menu.
First up is Deadline. The goal here is to score as many points as you can in three minutes. It's essentially a heavily time restricted version of the classic game mode from the original game, except Geoms (left behind by destroyed enemies) can be picked up to increase your score multiplier. This makes reaching high scores a lot easier, not only in this game mode but across all six game modes that feature Geoms.
Next to be unlocked is King. This is a more tactical game mode that places a number of safe zones on the grid. You can only shoot from within these circular zones, with the short runs from one to another seeing you risk your life without the ability to fire on enemies. In these zones you're safe as enemies can't pass through the perimeter, but the twist is that they very quickly decay, leaving you exposed. Again, achieving a high score is key, as is collecting all the Geoms that are dropped by enemies.
Pacifism is similar to what you had to do in the original game to earn an achievement. Your drone ship is completely out of ammo so you need to avoid all enemies swarming around the grid. The only way to destroy enemies is to pass through gates, which set off small explosions, taking out any nearby enemies as you do so. This is one of the best new additions to the game, totally turning the gameplay on its head. After a calm first few second things very quickly become incredibly intense and you'll need the same stern concentration in order to survive long enough to earn a respectable score.
The final new game mode is Sequence. Here you're presented with 20 levels, each needing to be completed in under 30 seconds. Once again the goal is to achieve as high a score as possible, with your score carrying over from one level to another. You have a set number of lives and must attempt to play through as many levels as possible, but failure to complete a level will lose you a life. Even so, loss of life instantly takes you to the next level, where the challenge is even harder. It's not a game mode for the faint hearted.
The remaining two modes, Evolved and Waves, are very similar to previous versions of Geometry Wars. Evolved has no time limit, starts you with four lives and three bombs, and it's a simple case of surviving as long as possible and racking up as many points as you can. Waves, the version of Geometry Wars included in PGR4, sees triangular enemies spawning in rows which then move across the screen at an ever increasing speed. If you've played it in PGR4 you'll know what to expect.
Perhaps the biggest new addition for Xbox 360 gamers is multiplayer. Up to four players can play together on the same console (no online play unfortunately) across the six game modes. There are numerous set-up options which allow you to play competitively against other players or co-operatively, either as a team or solo. You can even choose to play with one player moving and the other shooting. With four drone ships on the screen at once, all shooting wildly in every direction, and the screen full of enemies, there's little else on the market that comes close to being so intense.
It might be a little unfair on the hundreds of titles released and in development for the Xbox 360 with multi-million dollar budgets, but we think that Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2 is up there with the best looking titles on the system. There's so much going on, with bright colours bursting onto the screen in so many spectacular ways that it's impossible to keep track of what's going on. This is all backed up by some brilliant in-game sound effects and music.
When you're talking about games that cost less than £10 you usually have to lower the bar for quality, but in this case we'd easily pay a lot more for Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2. Keeping within the confines of an Xbox LIVE Arcade title and not a full-priced product it's hard to see how Bizarre could have taken the game any further. It's got new game modes, enhanced visuals and multiplayer support. If you love Geometry Wars you'll love this. If you've never played Geometry Wars before then now is a perfect time to do so.