Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed by Darryl Linington
Developed by Epic Games, and People Can Fly, and published by Microsoft Studios comes the next instalment in the Gears of War series, Judgment. While Gears of War: Judgment is indeed a prequel to the much loved Gears of War Series, does it match up to its predecessors? Well, let’s find out!
Gears of War: Judgment tracks back to the days of Kilo Squad. During this time, these four very young and inexperienced Gears have been placed on trial for using classified military equipment in order to try and save Halvo Bay from an unstoppable and relentless enemy.
In order to progress through the storyline, you will have to play through each and every character’s testimony in order to find out exactly what happened. This is where Gears of War: Judgment takes things to a whole new level and introduces us to characters that not only steal the show, but also seem to up the emotional level of the Gears of War series.
Within the days of Judgment, Baird and Cole are not the war torn individuals that we have come to know from the Gears of War series, they are two individuals that have a strong need to protect their home, their friends and ultimately the world they live in. Joining them along the journey is Sofia Hendrik, an Onyx Guard cadet who, during the chaos of the attack on Halvo Bay, wound up being assigned to Damon Baird’s team. Garron Paduk is also a new addition to the team. After swearing an oath of allegiance to the COG, Paduk was assigned to Kilo Squad to serve under Baird.
Apart from the new characters, Gears of War: Judgment introduces us to a new gameplay mechanic known as Declassified Missions. Declassified Missions allow the player to make a choice, either carry on playing normally or make life a hell of a lot harder. Opting to take on Declassified circumstances will ultimately put you into situations that are more intense… so for instance, instead of taking on a horde of Locusts in a normal fashion, you will now take on hordes of Locusts that are sporting One Shots. This combined with the Hardcore mode makes Judgment so much sweeter to play as the intensity is cranked up to the maximum. One of my favourite Declassified Missions saw Kilo Squad battling it out with larger Locusts within an environment that had absolutely zero visibility.
While Declassified Missions are a welcomed featured to Gears of War, I will admit that some of the them were not to my taste. I am not a fan of being placed into situations that involve a countdown timer. I find that this forces a player to either miss out hidden collectibles, or just hammer their way through a level in a reckless fashion, which ultimately results in death and frustration. Luckily, these are completely optional.
Another new addition is the revamped scoring system, which blends in quite well with the Declassified Missions. This points system awards you stars for performing Headshots, Gibs and so on, but also punishes you quite severely for becoming downed during missions. Once you have racked up quite a few stars you will gain a massive incentive, which extends upon the Gears of War 3 campaign. Furthermore, you can also unlock various skins and so on for the multiplayer segment of this title.
One thing that I noticed while playing through Judgment is the fact that the characters move much faster. Furthermore the control structure has also changed slightly. This time around you will be using the Y button to switch through weapons and the left hand side bumper to lob grenades. While this was slightly awkward to experience at first, it allows for much faster gameplay and is another welcomed addition to Gears of War.
Apart from the revamped control structure, Gears of War: Judgment also introduces a semi-random enemy spawning system. This allows for battles to feel fresh; however, there will be times where this spawning system will benefit you or completely frustrate you to the core. For example, some levels will place you in situations where you will have to defend an area until the timer runs down… If you are lucky you will face Tickers and normal Locusts forces; however, you may die, which will result in you having to take on Boomers, a Kantus or two and various other enemies that want to take your head off.
Graphically, Gears of War: Judgment is an absolute stunner. The visuals and lighting are superb and each and every set-piece has been designed to capture the attention of anyone playing this title. While the set-pieces are definitely something to gaze upon, they also seem to be slightly underused. Granted, your main focus is to slaughter waves of Locusts, it just feels like more could have been done in order to utilise the beautiful world that you are placed within.
When it comes to sound, Gears of War: Judgment surpassed most of my expectations. Each and every character is voiced professionally. Additionally, the musical score sets the mood as well as intensifies each situation you are placed within.
Focusing on some of the issues I have come across within this title, there were plenty of times where the A.I team just failed to revive me while I was down. While this was indeed frustrating, it became even more frustrating when I was downed and had a team mate standing right next to me watching me bleed out and eventually die. While this is normal with the Gears of War series, it is time that this issue is actually fixed and not ignored. Thankfully, Gears of War: Judgment has a co-op feature which seems to eliminate these frustrations.
Once you have finished up with the campaign, you can step into the realm of the Gears of War: Judgment multiplayer modes, which include OverRun, Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All, Domination and many more options.
While the multiplayer has been rather quiet, due to Gears of War: Judgment only releasing today, it is still a multiplayer experience that any gamer should experience. This is due to the well-designed multiplayers maps, which not only put players through their paces, but also offer up some fresh new ideas, which includes manning a turret that is fixed onto an actual flying helicopter. While your helicopter trip is short, it is still something that is unique to experience when it comes to the Gears of War multiplayer features. Let’s just hope that future DLC maps include more ways to take out the opposition.
Gears of War veterans will also notice that Horde mode has been replaced with a Survival mode. Survival mode places a team of up to five players against the CPU-controlled Locust horde. But/ rather than hold out until everyone’s heads have been blown off, the idea is to defend certain points against Locusts. Players can respawn if killed; however, the game ends if the Locusts destroy the all of the points that you are defending.
While I have played through every single Gears of War campaign, I will admit that Epic Games and People Can Fly have done an extraordinary job with Gears of War: Judgment. Granted, this title does suffer from a few issues; however, it has also managed to exceed my expectations in not just only gameplay, but in a visual aspect as well. The set-pieces are beautiful, but underused, and the voice cast has done a great job of placing in all the emotion that we have experienced from the previous titles.
If anything, Gears of War: Judgment is a fresh and much welcomed addition to the series. Even after you have finished the campaign, you will definitely come back to the multiplayer modes and snicker as you chainsaw the hell out of your mates.
Lasting Appeal: 9.5/10