Published on February 17th, 2013 | by Kyle Spencer, Editor
Gears of War: Judgment Hands-On Impressions
When you are invited to visit the Epic Games studio’s in Cary, N. Car., your inner geek comes through like never before, especially if you are huge of Epic Games franchises like Gears of War. We walked through the massive doors at Epic Studios to be greeted by the friendly staff and a giant Marcus statue from Gears of War 3. We were taken into a room with 20 station running Epic’s latest shooter, Gears of War: Judgment. We got comfortable in our chairs, put on the Astro headsets and let the games begin.
I will admit I was nervous, at first. Not for being inside the studio, but for what was to come. I consider myself outspoken and if something is not right about a particular game I tend to speak and sometimes not in the best of ways. I knew that Cliff Bleszinski and Rod Ferguson were no longer on the franchise, and that a new team (People Can Fly) had taken the reigns. However, even after the trailers, screen shots and articles revealing the story, I remained positive. After around three hours with the game, I am happy I did.
I won’t go into a great deal about what I saw in the campaign, because I do not want to spoil anything for anyone. Plus I’m saving a lot of it for the review due in mid-March. I will reveal that the game plays like all of the other Gears titles, so there will nothing new to add to the all-familiar gameplay. It is a third-person cover-based shooter that simplifies the genre. Pressing ‘A’ launches you either into a dodging roll, or into the closest area of cover. If you hold down the button you will go into a “Roadie Run” position which is a basic sprint move that lowers your body in order to dodge gunfire. You reload your weapons by tapping the right bumper (RB) and if you time the reload perfect enough your gun fire will receive a damage boost.
Much like Gears of War 3, you have your choice of the Retro or standard Lancer, which has a chainsaw bayonet attached to it. You have the sawed-off and standard Gnasher shotguns that traditional Gears player will be all too familiar with. You have one smoke grenade, which can be used to create a cloud of smoke that you can place anywhere on the map as a booby trap, and a Snub Pistol.
Though most of the controls will feel familiar to Gears players, the story is actually a prequel to the franchise and follows the story of Baird and Cole on their journey through the ranks of the COG.
Even though we will not get a chance to play as Marcus or Dom, there will be mentions of their existence — to what extent will be left for us to find out when the game launches. The enemy is still the Locust Horde and even though I only had hands on with the campaign for an hour, new races of the Locust or newer enemies were teased.
The franchise’s bread and butter has always been its competitive multiplayer. I am happy to report that there is no faltering in this department. I had the opportunity to try out the Hoard Mode, OverRun (which I can not go into because of embargo) and Free-for-All mode. Oh and, lets not forget, Team Deathmatch.
Due to disclaimers that we had to agree to, I cannot go into details about the maps that we played. However, I can say that based on the game modes that we did play, the maps were a perfect blend of size and structure and, yes, they varied. My only concern was in Free-for-All grenades respawned when the person planted both grenades, enabling someone else to pick up a second set, effectively turning the map into a giant minefield. This meant people running around corners got greeted by a surprise explosion. I hope that by launch time People Can Fly fixes this leaving grenades to re-spawn after a grenade has gone off or used, so it is limited to the amount that are used per map.
The ranking system works very similar to Gears of War 3, and if you are a veteran of the franchise you will know what I am referring to. You earn points based on the kills you get, the style of kill and whether or not you win the match. There are hundreds of ribbons to earn which add to your rank: from getting 25 headshots, or 10 revives, there are numerous ways to earn extra points to add to your overall score. Increasing ranks earns you unloackable character skins and weapons skins (again, much like in Gears of War 3).
From the campaign to the multiplayer, Gears of War: Judgment is not a Gears of War 3.5 as some have proclaimed it to be. It is a different direction for the franchise, taking us back to the origins of some of the series’ most beloved characters. It makes me wonder where the series can go from here. Even with the doubt that I had visiting Cary, I can honestly say that my negative feelings have been squashed.
We thank Epic Games for giving us the opportunity to play the highly anticipated prequel, and we look forward to Gears of War: Judgment, releasing exclusively for Xbox 360 on March 19.