Gears of War: Judgment Review
It’s another year and another Gears of War game, at least that is how I felt when I popped in the Gears of War: Judgment disk into my Xbox 360. It all just felt so familiar. I knew there was going to be plenty of chainsaws, impaled enemies, explosions and of course some extreme texture pop that everyone has gotten used from this generation of consoles and Unreal Engine 3. What I didn’t know is that this new edition in the Gears of War franchise would change up its formula so much. Do the changes warrant a $60 game, or is it time for the Gears of War franchise to crawl back down the emergence hole it came from?
Gears of War: Judgment Trailer[iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/wB-Pq7ElVrg”]
The campaign takes a wildly different approach than Gears games of the past. The campaign is split into two different sections, the Judgment campaign and the Aftermath campaign. The Judgment Campaign goes over Baird, Cole, Sofia and Paduk’s testimonies as to the events of what happened at emergence day. Each testimony leads to a new section of the campaign and tells a story bit throughout the mission. Because the missions are split between four characters you get to understand what is going through each characters head, but at the same time it feels rather disjointed. If you were looking for a more cohesive story, Gears of War Judgment is not going to be your best option in the Gears series.
In some ways, however, I enjoyed the different sections with the different characters. The way each character had their own testimony made Gears of War: Judgment feel more like a video game and less like a movie. There is a constant score attack while playing the judgment campaign with a 3 star rating system that feels very arcade like. Score headshots, gibs and earn medals to unlock these stars and consequently multiplayer skins as well as other things. The way that Judgment campaign is structured feels like a frantic score attack that pushes players to their limits. Some people may not love this direction for the Gears of War franchise but I found it embraced all of the things that people seem to love about Gears; explosions, headshots, shotguns and stupid violence.
One thing that I absolutely loved about the judgment campaign is that there are challenge “declassified” missions in each section that modify the current mission you are in. These missions modifiers range from things like putting a time limit on a section to making players only use one type of gun. Each section is justified in the story of Gears of War: Judgment by adding on a story line or two about why they would have this restriction. Selecting the challenge for the section also adds a multiplier making it much easier to get a 3 star rating. Some of the modifiers are weird and fun and again bring an arcade fun feeling to the game. Where Gears of War 3 tried to take itself very seriously, the Judgment campaign of this new game seems to be a lighthearted wink and nod to fans of the franchise.
I had a little less fun in the second campaign, Aftermath, than I did with the first one. If the Judgment Campaign was the lighthearted wink and nod to fans, the Aftermath Campaign seemed like a kick to the nuts. Remember in Gears of War 3 when Cole and Baird showed up with a ship from out of nowhere at the end? Yeah, they try to explain that… and not in a good way. The Aftermath Campaign feels like ret coned fiction to unanswered questions. There is no 3 star score system or declassified missions it is just a serious section of campaign. After playing 10 hours or more of the Judgment arcade like campaign, having a blast and kicking some grub tail, the Aftermath Campaign just feels to serious and out of place.
The campaigns together still feel different from the past. There is new weapons, grenades and mechanics that keep the single player campaign fresh and make their way into multiplayer. There are two new modes for multiplayer aside from the normal deathmatch, domination and free for all that have been in all of the Gears games before. There are two new modes called Survival and Overrun. Overrun mode has been featured heavily in the early multiplayer demo available to power up rewards members from Gamestop and is basically a reverse horde mode.
In Overrun, 5 players pick from 8 different horde characters and 5 COG players pick from 4 different classes at each spawn. Each different type of horde character has specific abilities and powers that make them valuable to take down reinforcements that the COG players have at their disposal. For example, the Horde Ticker is great at taking down barbed wire blockades that take other grubs much longer to take down. The Horde players must advance forward and destroy COG emergence hole covers until they make their way to a Hammer of Dawn generator. The game switches sides half way through to give both sides a chance to play on offense and defense.
I really have come to like the Overrun mode a lot over the past 10 hours of playing it. The different classes on both the COG and Horde side makes players play together, especially the four classes of the COG. When you have 5 people working together, a medic healing people and reviving dead allies, a scout calling out enemies, a engineer laying turrets and fixing reinforcements and a soldier blasting away with a grenade launcher the game is exhilarating. It would have been really easy for People Can Fly and Gearbox to roll out the exact same horde mode, with the exact same mechanics in this iteration of the game but didn’t. They chose to tweak and change the game modes just enough that it feels fresh and gives Gears fans something new to dive into and learn.
The game as a whole is a good package, not great. For me, I had a really good time with the Judgment Campaign and will probably go back to play through co-op with friends for quite a while. The declassified missions also add a fun twist to going through and playing missions multiple times. The amount of campaign, however, is just not enough in my opinion. It seems more like an add on to the last game even than prequel to a series. I don’t know if I was supposed to feel an emotional connection to certain places when going through the campaign, but in my head it just seemed like a good excuse to use assets from previous games. The multiplayer really is what most people will look forward to. The class objective base gameplay systems will keep Gears of War: Judgment in your collection and off the used game stores shelves.