Published on March 24th, 2013 | by Kyle Spencer, Editor
Rev Up The Chainsaws – Gears of War: Judgment Review
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]Developer: Epic Games / People Can Fly
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Platform: Xbox 360
Many times, sequels give gamers the same old thing of what we have experienced out of the franchise. I, for one, am a huge fan of the Gears of War series, and have fallen in love with the game play that Epic has given us throughout the years. But by the time Gears of War 3 rolled around, it felt too similar to what fans have played before.
However, in Gears of War: Judgment, consider the slate cleaned.
Judgment is a complete refresh of the series, giving gamers a different look at the now familiar third-person cover-based shooter. Does it still hold some of the old style prior games in the series have? Yes, but with differences that make the series feel new. From the pacing, to the overall gameplay that is played out throughout the course of the campaign, we are given a new glimpse of the franchise and I for one like it.
Both the game’s campaign and multiplayer take what has worked within the series in the past and throws it completely out the window.
Let’s take the main characters for example. We all know Damon Baird and Augustus (“Cole Train”) Cole as two COG bad boys rocking cocky attitudes. In Judgment we are taken back and see both of them as young soldiers trying to make a name for themselves. The word “hero” is not in their vocabulary, however anger and confusion are.
During the journey, we spend time with the COG army 15 years prior to the original Gears of War. Incidents are introduced and the two are faced with a decision that could potentially hamper their ranks and damage their reputations.
The game starts with Onyx Guards escorting Damon Baird, Augustus Cole, Garron Paduk and Sofia Hendrick to their tribunal for a crime that is, at the time, unspecified. The story of the game is told in the characters retelling series of events during the war. We start at the end, and it’s the excitement of getting to that point and finding out how and why they ended up at a tribunal in the first place that is fascinating. In the past, Gears games offered a quick glimpse of each character and we learned more and more about them as the franchise progressed. In Judgment we learn more in one game than we did in the previous three combined, which is particularly the case when it comes to Baird and Cole.
We already know all about Baird and Cole, but in Judgment we witness a more vulnerable side to them. We see Baird forced into making difficult decisions that ultimately affect the group. Cole on the other hand is still the loud, cocky thrashball player we have come to love. Yet in this instance he is also young and vulnerable and is even pushed to a breaking point. War just isn’t what he signed up for and having to leave a productive life as a pro-athlete starts to take its toll. As for the rest of the group, there is still more to discover.
Paduk is a lost soldier who finds himself having to side with his enemy to take on a greater threat. It is the moments when he completely disobeys authority that make him one of the memorable characters of the game. Sofia struggles with her vows to the military and her loyalty to Baird, and these keep her going back and forth between doing what she feels is correct and what is by the book.
Every part of the campaign offers up something new and different. Every area has challenges that when completed will alter your path or your progression, making it a little bit harder by utilizing different mechanics. A large Red Omen will appear on the wall and in the midst of playing, will offer you different ways of progressing.
Utilizing only certain weapons and increasing weapon types challenges players over the course of the game. Judgment is no doubt the most difficult installment in the series to date.
Each area of the campaign is laid out for perfect cover situations, but the cover will start to break away, so there’s a warning to those of you who tends to get comfortable in one spot. This keep players moving from one cover spot to the next and, with the ability to place sentry turrets, adds to the amount of space a player can cover. Your play style often dictates where you will find cover. From narrow hallways, to sniper perches, there is always somewhere to find relief from fire. The often come in huge groups, so staying tight in one spot is extremely difficult and will require you to move around to keep the enemy guessing.
With the Declassified sections of Judgment, the scoring system does a 180-degree turn — you now get points for everything you do, from melee executions, grenades and shooting the enemy. Activating a declassified mission earns you the stars much quicker than if you played through without the added difficulty. As you earn points you will notice that you are being compared to other players who have played the same areas that you have and are ranked. This is true for your friends list and not just your current party. With the points you earn, your level will increase and different characters will begin to unlock for multiplayer, along with weapon and character skins.
One thing you will notice that is a change from past Gears games is that there is a new spawning system. When you die and restart a check point, the world adapts to how you played and the tactics that you used. The system will send different enemies at you, and in different numbers. This makes each encounter feel different and not something that you’ve just played.
The combat in Judgment is much like previous games, however the it is faster paced than previous versions. From the character movement to weapon swapping, it seems that the game is preparing your for intensity and knows that slow weapon swaps will frustrate players.
In past Gears games, required you to hit the directional pad to weapon swap, but in Judgment you just hit the ‘Y’ button to switch. There is also no need to aim first then throw a grenade — now you can just hit the ‘LB’ button to do a quick throw. Grenades can also stick to NPCs and cause not just damage to the stuck character, but anyone he goes running near.
There is one downside to the game’s campaign and that comes in the way of the boss battles. With the exception of the final fight, there are practically none, which makes it way too easy to get through the campaign even on Hardcore difficulty. The purpose behind the main villain is uninspired and we learn nothing of this foe throughout the course of the game, which is disappointing. We learned more from the testimony on why they got in trouble than we did about the main story’s villain.
The bread-and-butter of the Gears of War franchise has always been in the competitive and co-operative multiplayer. Judgement is no slouch in this department and offers, much like the campaign, enough differences that the multiplayer indeed feels new. Let’s start with OverRun.
OverRun mode is like Beast vs. Horde mode from past gears. Beast Mode was the players taking on the role of the Locust and fighting the COG and Horde mode was the players taking on the role of the COG soldiers fighting off waves of Locust. There are five COG soldiers, all of which can choose specific classes to protect the advancement of the Horde. There are three level that have to be protected and each has a covered E-hole, which are the holes in which the locust come to the earths surface, that is surrounded by trip wires, barricades, and turrets.
Each class of COG has a different ability. Weapons are similar in that each class has its own. The Engineer can repair all the defense equipment as it is being attacked. For an offensive move they can throw out sentry turrets that will fight for you for a short period of time. The medic utilizes the Lancer and sawed-off Shotgun, while carrying stim packs that can heal enemies that are hurt and revive fallen teammates. The Scout utilizes the new version of the Snipe Rifle and can throw out beacons that pin point the enemy location for a short time, making the locust visible to the entire team.
The soldier has a shotgun and “Boshka” which is a new weapon that functions like a grenade launcher. The Soldier can also throw out ammo for those who are running low. The Horde’s main objective is just the opposite. To open up the E-Holes and advance to the next level. Like past Horde modes in the franchise, you earn points for what you destroy and who you kill. With those cumulative points you can buy bigger and tougher enemies. Start with the wretches, which are the essentially locust enemies that are fast moving and can jump, but are weak to gun fire, and advance all the way to a Mauler, which are your brutes that can take a lot of fire power and strong on attack.
Survival Mode is a lot like OverRun, except for levels of progression. You play as the COG and fight off wave-after-wave of enemies for ten rounds. The enemies try to break into your defense grid and open up the E-Hole. It will take strategy and teamwork to outsmart the enemies as the waves go on. As the waves continue the enemies get tougher and smarter as they start to adapt to your play style.
In Free For All, it is everyone for themself. The mode is as intense as playing a Halo “Rumble Pit” minus the ability for your character to jump. Many times you will find yourself running into mine fields with grenades stuck everywhere you turn and everyone is Gnasher shotgun crazy. The maps are large enough that a solid five player match will not have you hunting other players for very long, but watch your back. If you are caught in a gun fight and exposed, there isn’t anyone there to back you up. Instead, they are there to take your life.
If it is back up you prefer, the traditional Team Deathmatch makes its return. It is no longer the Horde vs. COG, but rather the COG vs. COG. Choosing your character loadout delivers both weapon and grenade selection. This time around players have been cut down to one weapon and one grenade.
The multiplayer maps are much larger than in previous games, but the downside is that there are just not enough maps to play. Before long I began to say to myself, “I can’t wait for the new maps to comes out!” This is scary due to the fact that the game is less than a week old. The multiplayer is much faster paced than in previous entries and you will see similarities to other competitive based shooters. However, People Can Fly did a solid job of keeping it “Gears” and not venturing to far from the core of the franchise.
Gears of War: Judgment is a solid revamping to the series that was in desperate need. In all honesty, if the game played out much like the other two installments in the series I probably would have gone the other direction in this review and not be so friendly with it. I even expressed my concerns prior to playing the finalized game three weeks ago at Epic Studios in my preview.
I must say that after seeing the completion of this story, which took roughly eight -to-nine hours to complete, I am anxious to now see a Marcus and Dom story. We all know it’s coming, probably not for a few years, but that would be the icing on the cake for me as a fan. After playing Judgment I am satisfied and enjoyed what the new development team did with the franchise and look forward to the future.
+ Online Multiplayer
– Horrible Final Boss Battle
– Want more multiplayer maps