Gears of War Judgment review

Gears of War Judgment review

T3 4
  • Microsoft and People Can Fly have let slip the Gears of War for a fourth outing. Does it do the series justice, or is this a step too far?

    Gears of War Judgment review

    Love

    • New multiplayer modes
    • Randomly generated battles
    • More intense Gears action

    Hate

    • Typically vanilla plot
    • A bit thin content-wise

    Even the most stalwart of Gears fans could be forgiven for being worried about Gears of War: Judgment. Gears of War 3 was a superb ending to the trilogy, and Judgment threatens to ruin that legacy for the sake of milking a cash cow.

    You can all rest easy, because Gears of War: Judgment doesn’t feel tired, or dated. But that said, it doesn’t feel different either. This is a game that is still supreme at making you feel like a complete badass, but it’s the little things that make Judgment such a worthy addition to the Gears family.

    Gears of War Judgment: Plot

    Gears of War Judgment is split into two distinct plot areas. The first is the Judgment campaign, which follows Damon Baird and Augustus Cole during their time together in Kilo Squad, just after Emergence Day (E-Day).

    Joining them are two new faces - Garron Paduk, an ex-UIR (the main antagonist of the COG during the Pendulum Wars, pre-Emergence Day) Major, recruited by the COG after his homeland was destroyed, and Sofia Hendrick - a cadet in the Onyx Guard (the elite, covert section of the COG military).

    The second campaign - Aftermath - is unlocked part way through Judgment. This follows Cole and Baird’s own story from Gears of War 3, when they split up with Marcus and Dom to find reinforcements.

    Typically for the series, the story itself is fairly lacklustre, and also completely unimportant. Just concentrate on running between little piles of bricks and burnt out cars and kicking Locust in their ugly, squishy faces.

    Gears of War Judgment: Single player

    The Judgment campaign sees Kilo Squad standing before a court martial, charged with desertion and insubordination. As you hear testimony from each member of the squad, you play through their memories. These memories come in bite-sized missions of no more than 10 - 15 minutes each - which makes for a nice change of pace for the series, even if the actual story is pretty bland.

    Before each of these missions, you can choose whether you wish to ‘declassify’ the mission - that is, play the mission as Kilo Squad claimed it had happened. Doing so will earn you more stars, which go towards unlocking new characters, weapon skins and the like, but it will also shackle you with an extra parameter to think about.

    This could be anything, from completing the mission in a certain time, to only using a certain weapon, or fulfilling an extra objective.

    It’s a simple little mechanic, but a clever way of opening you up to another level of mission design. There is - for example - a mission that is fought in dense fog, thus forcing you into a tense, close-quarters shotgun battle. Ordinarily, you might just grab a rifle and blast your way through the game from distance.

    You can still do that of course, but declassifying missions gives you a little nudge to play the game as the developers intended.

    Another nice touch is the way battles are now generated. Rather than being fully scripted, enemy positions and types are generated spontaneously, meaning that the same mission can play out completely differently if you play it twice.

    Aftermath’s campaign is very much in the same vein as Gears 3, with longer missions, checkpoints and waist-high walls as far as the eye can see. Admittedly, if you’re not interested in the extra dimension to the Gears 3 story, the return to the old-style pacing means that Judgment can lose it’s luster somewhat.

    Gears of War Judgment: Characters

    The characters of Judgment are significant more vanilla than their counterparts in the main trilogy. There is something to be said for seeing how Cole and Baird particularly have developed as characters, going from relative rookies to grizzled, butt-kicking - and in Baird’s case, supremely cynical - soldiers.

    But if Gears 1-3 was loveable for it’s caricature machismo personalities, then Judgment is certainly lacking in that respect. Ironically, the catalyst for this realisation is the Aftermath campaign, which sees Cole particularly getting back to ‘Cole Train’ style one-liners.

    Gears of War: Judgment: Multiplayer

     

    The multiplayer is where Judgment really shines. Two new modes - Survival and OverRun - are both heavily influenced by Gears 3’s Horde and Beast modes respectively.

    The former is the natural successor to Horde Mode, pitting a team of 5 COG soldiers against waves of Locust. This time round, players must pick from four classes - Engineer, Medic, Soldier or Scout, all with differing abilities.

    Engineers can place turrets and repair barriers, Medics can throw stim-grenades to heal themselves and allies, Soldiers can drop ammo crates and Scouts can access higher ground and throw beacons to highlight enemies for the team.

    Teamwork is essential to beat the higher levels now that the fortifications of Horde Mode have been largely done away with, but it’s brilliant fun however casually you want to play.

    OverRun is a play on GoW 3’s Beast Mode, but now the game mode is 5 on 5 rather than being against CPU bots, with teams swapping sides. Though OverRun is certainly more of a genuine competitive game mode than Beast Mode was, it still leans more on the humorous side of things. As you rack up more kills with the Locust, you unlock higher tiers of unit types such as bloodmounts, corpsers and Torque Bow-armed Theron Guards, resulting eventually in hilarious pandemonium.

    There’s the usual dose of Team Deathmatch and objective-based modes, as well as a new free-for-all mode which is as frenetic as you’d imagine it to be.

    Gears of War Judgment: Verdict

    Gears of War: Judgment delivers exactly what you’d expect it to - fantastic multiplayer, a playable - if not mind-blowing - campaign and plenty of waist-high walls and benches in the middle of open plazas. If that’s not what you wanted then frankly, you’re probably reading the wrong review.

    Judgment is exactly what it was always going to be - another no-frills Gears of War installment, even if it does feel a little bit thin on the ground for a full price games release.

    The question was whether this franchise was finished, and whether this was a step too far. Well, it’s not, and it clearly isn’t. The little changes and additions keep things fresh, and dedicated fans will enjoy the way the campaigns fill in some story gaps. If you loved the last three games, there's plenty of enjoyment to be found here.

    Gears of War Judgment release date: 22 March 2013

    Gears of War Judgment price: £39.99

  • Gears of War: Judgement adds new spins to Epic’s gritty third-person shooter franchise, with emphasis on four-player co-op and class-based multiplayer

    Gears of War Judgment review

    Love

    • New multiplayer modes
    • Randomly generated battles
    • More intense Gears action

    Hate

    • Typically vanilla plot
    • A bit thin content-wise

    Initially, Gears Of War Judgment ((or Gears of War Judgement, if you're using the English spelling) feels a little superfluous. While it’s arguably the only core exclusive Xbox 360 owners will get all year, after the franchise apex that was Gears Of War 3, you have to wonder what it can bring to the party that won’t feel like warmed-up leftovers.

    Sure, it may offer a new twist on the multiplayer mode, but its mechanics and story can’t be huge selling points, can they? After all, the gameplay hasn’t needed tinkering with since the first instalment and no one – not even fans of the series – buys a Gears Of War game for its story.

    Gears Of War Judgment: Characters

    Still, however lousy the stories in this series may have been, they’ve been populated by some of the best and most iconic characters in the medium in the last six years.

    Gears Of War Judgment’s story may not be up to all that much, but its protagonists are top notch. In Judgement, gruff series hero Marcus Fenix has been sidelined in favour of the two characters who have served as comic relief in all the other games: the acidic, wise-cracking Damon Baird and infectiously macho Augustus Cole.

    Gears Of War Judgment: Campaign

    The main campaign is actually divided into two parts, tagged Judgement and Aftermath. Judgement is split across several levels and is told from the point of view of four different characters who are part of Baird’s squad during the events that led up to the plot of the first Gears Of War Game.

    Essentially it sees Baird’s squad on trial in front of the COG top brass about a mission that went horribly wrong. Aftermath is an unlockable level - players need to complete Judgement to open it - and it takes place in tandem with the last levels of Gears Of War 3.

    In our hands-on we were able to play the first level of Judgment, but that was enough to note a couple of new neat twists in the level design.

    Gears Of War Judgment: Gameplay

     

    In each level of the game, players will encounter a glowing the franchise’s trademark red Cog insignia with a skull inside it. If they approach it, they’ll be offered the option of “Declassifying” the testimony they’re playing through. What this essentially does is add a neat modifier to the mix that ramps up the overall challenge of the level.

    In one instance, for example, they’ll be forced to complete a level using only captured enemy weapons. In another, swirling dust is poured into the environment, seriously limiting the player’s vision. Choosing the “Declassify” option not only makes the gameplay more challenging, but it also rakes in more XP points for the player, which they can take into the multiplayer.

    Unfortunately, no hands on with the online mode was forthcoming, but we hear that it’s also been interestingly re-jigged and now offers class-based gameplay

    Gears Of War Judgment: Verdict

    Gears Of War Judgment needs this kind of augmentation. Gears Of War 3 felt like such a worthy sign-off to the series, that without some playful kinks and challenges in it, Judgment would seem like a retread at best and a cash-in at worst.

    With the new changes, it feels fresh, rugged and ready for battle and we sincerely hope that it goes the distance. We’re not ready to say goodbye to the COG just yet…

    Gears Of War Judgment release date: 22 March 2013

    Gears of War Judgment price: £39.99

    • E3: 2012 Gears of War Judgement Trailer
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