Just when we thought the Gears of War
series had been laid to rest for good, along comes another to keep our Lancers revving. How does Gears of War: Judgment
compare to its popular predecessors?Judgment
takes the player back to a time shortly after Emergence Day, where Lieutenant Damon Baird and the rest of his squad are on trial for treason. It’s from this courtroom that the story is told. As the various team members explain the events that lead to this hearing, you play them through with a painfully cheesy narration from the court. Baird and familiar face Augustus “Cole Train” Cole are joined by the new (but somehow old) faces of Onyx Guard cadet, Sofia Hendrik and bitter ex-UIR soldier, Garron Paduk. Whilst the squad are out on what should be a simple mission, things somehow get just a little out of hand.
coming from People Can Fly rather than the usual Epic Games, the basic gameplay changes are minimal. You now only hold two guns in total (pistols included!) which can be switched using the Y button. Grenades are now assigned to the left bumper and can now be quick-thrown. Aside from these differences, the game still looks and feels just like any other Gears
title. There are various new weapons to play with, including the brutal Breechshot
and the bouncy grenade launcher, the Booshka
. In addition to the new guns, new grenade types are added in the form of the stim and spot grenades (more on those shortly). Whilst continuity wise, it may bug some fans that these weapons somehow are never seen or mentioned in the ‘future’ Gears
titles, all of these new additions are great ones, making slaughtering your way through the Locust hordes even more fun and in most cases, more bloody and brutal.
The chapters are made up of very short, arcade-like sections. Your performance on each section is rated out of three stars at the end. Bonus score is earned for executions and brutal gib kills, whilst score is lost for going down. A huge score bonus can be earned from the completion of the new Declassified mode that can be activated during each section. Declassified missions ramp up the difficulty of the level and make things more interesting by adding modifiers like giving you less (or even no) ammo, sending out gasses that hinder your vision and adding a stressful time limit to complete the task at hand. Declassified missions serve to break you from your gameplay habits and can lead to you mixing up your play style to complete the stage.
The campaign’s super-short missions mean that the flow of both the story and the action is constantly interrupted. Instead of the monumental firefights and scenes that are so familiar to the Gears
has nothing but brief, underwhelming mini-missions that only hold a few battles at most. This lack of narrative and combat flow makes most sections easily forgettable almost as soon as they're over. Though the storytelling is lacking, the action is still constant and intense during these short bursts.
There's also a short bonus mission that becomes playable when enough stars are earned. “Aftermath” shows us what Baird and Cole got up to when they separated from the squad in Gears of War 3
. It's a nice touch to see what was going on behind the scenes and the story has some pretty monumental scenes, but the fact that the new enemies and weapons make an appearance makes little sense when it comes to continuity.
really comes into its own though, is the multiplayer. This instalment of the series doesn't offer a “Horde” or “Beast” mode, but various new offerings take their place. The first of these is “Free for All“. Whilst this is a staple for most online games, this is the first time a single player versus player mode has been part of a Gears of War
title. The maps are well sized and despite the generous game size of ten players, the matches are not the manic gore fests that many people would probably picture when they try to envisage playing all versus all on any Gears
title. Also added to the list is “Domination“, which replaces the more familiar (though very similar) “King of the Hill” mode.
Another new addition, covering the loss of “Horde” mode, is “Survival“. “Survival” is a co-op mode in which players choose one of four classes. Fortifications cannot be built but rather come as part of the map and only the Engineer class can repair them. The Medic class comes with stim grenades that revive and heal wounded teammates, the Soldier class can resupply teammates with ammo, and the Scout comes equipped with special spot grenades that outline the enemies to the whole team. The aim of the game is to survive ten waves of increasingly difficult Locusts whilst protecting an emergence hole cover. If the cover takes too much damage, your team is pushed back on the map to a new area to defend. If you succeed and hold out, the Hammer of Dawn will come online and clear the hordes of enemies out for you. If you can't hold them off for the ten total waves, then it's game over.
But the real champion of these new modes, is “Overrun“. “Overrun” is the same as “Survival“, except both sides are player-controlled. This gives players a chance in the shoes of the attacking Locusts as well as the defending Gears. The team to destroy the CoG's defences the quickest, or make the most progress in doing so within the time limit, is the winner. Great communication and teamwork are needed if you want to keep your act together and keep all corners covered from the constant enemy attacks. It seems like after having two great modes for each side in the form of “Horde” and “Beast” mode, we now have a brilliant blend of the two for an even better experience.
Graphically the game is as stunning as ever, with some breathtaking sights amongst the many areas the squad passes through, even if the scenery is slightly marred by the ongoing war.
In typical Gears
fashion, the achievements are not for the faint-hearted. The list includes achievements for maxing out online rank and starting over (re-upping) THREE times over, as well as one for completing all Declassified missions on Insane. Obsessive completionist are looking at hundreds of hours to take this to 100%.
While it's a huge shame that Gears of War: Judgment
's campaign is so lacklustre, the multiplayer more than makes up for it in both the variety of modes on offer, and the longevity of it. It's still very much a Gears of War
game and the best online instalment at that.
The reviewer spent eight hours playing and completed the main campaign and “Aftermath” on Normal, completed all Declassified missions in the process, played eight hours in the multiplayer with the general public, and gained 25 out of the 50 achievements. This copy was provided courtesy of the publisher.