Gears of War: Judgment Details and Trailer

By Rebecca Smith, 6 years ago
The Gears of War story was originally going to be told across a trilogy of games. Over the five or so years that gamers been experiencing the story of Marcus Fenix and his fellow COGs, the franchise has grown into a Microsoft exclusive of juggernaut proportions. The conclusion of left little option for a convincing extension to the trilogy, so how does Epic continue to expand on the Gears universe? With a prequel, of course. As E3 kicks off today, Game Informer took the unprecedented step of releasing exclusive details from their magazine to coincide with Microsoft’s official announcement of during their keynote speech.

Friday’s cover reveal tipped off gamers to the fact that this game will not be about Marcus Fenix or his story. Instead, the focus will be on another familiar character, Damon Baird. Baird is in charge of Kilo Squad, comprised of Baird, Cole and new characters Sofia Hendricks and Garron Paduk.

Damon Baird:
Before this sarcastic, genius mechanic went on to help Marcus Fenix save the world, Baird worked his way through the Gears ranks. He’s always quick to joke, but Judgment suggests there’s more to his character than being a comedian.

Augustus Cole:
A former Thrash Ball player-turned-soldier, the "Cole Train" became famous in Sera for his on-field performance and boisterous demeanour. Cole met Baird soon after enlisting, and the two quickly became best friends.

Garron Paduk:
A militia refuge from the Union of Independent Republics. Garron comes from the other side of The Pendulum Wars. He brings a new perspective and brash personality to Kilo. Garron is the devil on Baird's shoulder that says, "Let's blow stuff up".

Sofia Hendricks:
A cadet from the Onyx Guard academy, Sofia is more in line with Colonel Loomis’ by the book approach to combat. E-day halted her path to graduation from the academy, but she is still a worthy soldier. She’s the opposite of Garron, ready to suggest informing superior officers of every deviation from protocol.
The Pendulum Wars have not long ended before another threat emerges. E-Day saw the emergence of the new Locust enemies to the surface and left Kilo Squad (and the rest of the COGs) with little time to adjust. The exact events that follow are narrated through flashbacks, but Fergusson gives a few hints:

For 79 years, the COG have been fighting a human enemy. They’ve gotten into the World War II sensibilities of what it means to fight, what war means. They have this specific way of fighting humans, much like America went through from World War II to then having to fight in Vietnam, which was completely different. There were completely different tactics and a completely different enemy. That’s sort of the way we feel this; this war presents a wake-up call to the COG that World War II tactics against a Vietnam-esque enemy won’t work anymore. It’s Baird who has the enlightenment that, “You guys are doing this wrong; we need to do it differently.”
Just like Marcus was thrown in jail at the very start of the Gears story, Kilo Squad is also in a fair amount of trouble for Baird’s enlightenment. Fifteen years before the events of Gears of War the squad are standing trial for transgression against the Coalition of Governments. Colonel Loomis, a COG leader who follows the law to the very letter, accuses the squad of “desertion, cowardice, trespassing, theft of experimental military technology, and treason”. We’ll have to wait and see how the story pans out. Epic Games’ Director of Production Rod Fergusson explains the decision to focus on Baird’s story:

Baird was a natural choice to us as the hero of the story because he’s a fan favorite. We’ve done surveys, and even with just the fan reaction to Gears 3, it’s clear that Baird is a fun character in and of himself. When you look at the stories we’ve told over the Gears trilogy, everybody else had their moment. The trilogy itself was Marcus’ story, very clearly we told Dom’s story, and even in Gears 3 we have that flashback moment for Cole when got to go to his locker room and he relives his past a little bit. But there’s never been insight to Baird’s character. We felt like this was a great opportunity to look back and see what happened with Baird.
With a new story comes the chance to try out some new gameplay mechanics. Don’t panic though – there will be a lot of familiarity too. Battles will sound familiar even if the controls are being slightly tweaked. The cover mechanic still plays an important part as Locust emerge out of their Emergence Holes, which still need to be sealed with grenades. However, grenade throwing has been made quicker and easier thanks to the removal of the d-pad for weapon selection. LB is the button now used to throw a grenade, with changing between the two main weapons now mapped to the Y button. Holding down the Y button will draw the player’s pistol. Now would be a convenient time for Fergusson to explain this decision:

We allowed for the evolving gameplay to impact the controls, one of the things you notice when you play Judgment’s campaign & multiplayer is the gameplay is much faster. With higher lethality you don’t want to stand up out of cover, wind up a grenade, and throw it. You’re dead before you finish the first spin.
The lengthy cinematic sequences are being pulled back in favour of the increased non-stop action. There will still be cinematic scenes, of course, but nowhere near the 90 minutes experienced during Gears of War 3. Do you remember those chats across coms where the lead player gets the privilege of wandering through a quiet area with his finger glued to his ear? They’re gone too and are being replaced with character narration so that the player never needs to stop moving. However, taking your time to explore will reveal more of the testimony than you will hear when rushing headlong through the campaign.

There will be moments through the campaign where players can examine special items in the environment, such as a glowing skull icon. These items offer players an optional “declassified testimony” mission challenge to be completed, akin to the bonus rounds experienced in Horde Mode in Gears of War 3. Accepting the challenge means that the narrating character will reveal a detail that players wouldn’t have heard without accepting the challenge. Despite the game being a prequel, Epic doesn’t want to abandon the “huge repertoire” of creatures that they have built up over time, but neither do they want to break the Gears canon. The declassified testimonies are a way of revealing secrets about these enemies that wouldn’t be known otherwise because they were classified.

As well as the extra narrative, there will be other incentives for accepting these missions, though these are yet to be revealed. The successful completion of a declassified testimony will give players in-game rewards that have an impact on gameplay. On the other hand, failure will result in the dreaded game over. Replayability is vital to the development of this game and a new Smart Spawn System (S3) has been developed. This system looks at the way that players are tackling the game, taking factors such as player movement, position and difficulty, and will adapt to their methods. If you’re replaying a section, the system will mix up the variety of enemies. Increasing the difficulty will also change the amount of Locust enemies too. Expect new enemies as well; that huge repertoire will be expanding.

To add a bit of spice to the gameplay, Epic is fitting some shorter Horde scenarios into the campaign. Defence scenarios are extremely popular with the Gears community, so Horde will no longer be “just a separate, isolated mode.” Speaking of Horde, Judgment will be introducing a new game mode to players: OverRun. Bulletstorm’s developer People Can Fly was recently sidelined to another unidentified project after Bulletstorm 2 was put on hold. It turns out that OverRun is now their project.

The old Beast and Horde modes have been merged into a competitive game mode consisting of two timed rounds. Each team of five takes turns as the COGs and the Locust. The COGS are tasked with defending two sealed Emergence holes and one other key objective, currently a generator but it is likely to change for the final build of the game. The Locust have to take these objectives. Each reclaimed Emergence hole causes Kryll to flood the map and decimate the COG team. The hole then becomes the new spawn point for the Locust. The third objective is the most important though; once that is destroyed it is game over. Although each map will be unique, they are likely to have two main routes to the objectives, reducing the need for players to memorise the maps.

A new gameplay mechanic for this mode introduces a class-based COG team and a balanced team is the key to success. Soldiers are the heavy artillery and are equipped with lancers and boomshots. As a special ability, they can deploy ammo crates that replenish themselves and their team mates. Engineers get gnashers and a blow torch for repairing fortifications. For extra protection, their special ability allows them to deploy sentry turrets. Medics get lancers and snub pistols. To heal their team mates, their special ability allows them to throw stim gas grenades that can both heal and revive fellow COGs. The stim grenades do not affect the Locust. The final class is the Scout, who gets a longshot and a snub pistol. This class can climb the scenery to get a better perch. Their special ability is the beacon grenade, which gives away all of the enemy positions for a certain amount of time. All special abilities need time to recharge, but Epic is making this time minimal so that players can spam their special abilities.

The Locust classes also remain but the selection has been reduced and altered slightly. They also have special abilities. As with Beast Mode, players need to earn enough points to unlock the next tier of Locust. The first wave consists of Wretches and Tickers. Not only can Wretches clamber over defences, they can also climb just like the COG’s Scout class. Their scream is their special ability. The two Ticker classes in Gears of War 3 have now been rolled into one. They can eat fortifications and grenades. However, they will now be able to self detonate after eating a grenade and can be punted over barriers by Grenadiers. They have a speed boost for a special ability.

Those Grenadiers are equipped with lancer rifles and, as their special ability, frag grenades. The Kantus gets a hammerburst this time as well as the ability to heal. Their special ability is to “chain heal”, although it wasn’t explained exactly what this entails. Bloodmounts get to melee enemies and fortifications, but can also provide quick and valuable transport for both Grenadiers and the Kantus. Their special ability is to halve the cooldown time of their rider’s special ability. Maulers return with their familiar flail and shield. This shield turns into a spinning spike shield for their special ability, which can deflect bullets back at enemies during activation. The Serapedes still have the ability to shock both barriers and COGs. However, they now have a ranged support function in the form of their special ability: the ability to spit poison. Finally, the Corpser finishes the list. Their heavy melee can demolish fortifications and COGs. Their special ability sees them able to burrow and move about underground.

OverRun will have a progression system, of which details are currently sparse. Fergusson did drop a couple of hints though:

Not only are you leveling yourself, but you’ll level the individual classes and creatures. You can actually invest and grow what you start out with so that you can be an even better Ticker, or even better medic – that kind of stuff.
Epic are remaining quiet on whether the familiar Horde and Beast modes will be returning. I guess we’ll just have to wait for more details as they emerge. For now though, I’ll leave you with the announcement trailer:

Gears of War: Judgment is due to be released next year
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.