Gears of War: Judgment

8.8 Overall Score

Grenade Changes | New Weapons

Short Campaign | Co-op Bugs

Gears of War: Judgment really should have a “4” somewhere in its title. Not only does it have all the features and content of a traditional entry in the series, but it adds a slew of refined ideas that make this new experience better by nearly every objective criteria. Granted there are still a few mysterious flaws that haven’t been completely worked out, and the new additions aren’t quite perfect, but overall this is clearly a successor in everything but name.

There are a few key differences between Judgment and older Gears titles. One thing veterans will appreciate is the ability not just to quick-lob grenades, but to not break cover when aiming a grenade toss. (Though there are those who complain that this makes the first few minutes of a multiplayer match too much like Call of Duty.)

Another change you’ll notice as you play through the campaign is that each section is broken down into specific spaces, separated by a star rating system that judges how well you performed in combat during that particular point. The number of stars you earn go towards unlocking multiplayer goodies, and the rate at which your actions accrue stars can be modified by taking on Declassified missions.

Declassified missions revolve around the structure of the overarching plot, where (pre-Marcus Fenix) Lt. Baird and his fellow members of Kilo squad are currently on trial for the misuse of COG military technology. As each member of the squad tells the story, the action proceeds from flashbacks, where the specific testimony on what happened is altered by whether or not you accept Declassified missions found throughout the environment. For example, working through an area you can elect to “tell the story” as though the Locust deployed heavy smoke grenades in an area, high winds affected your movement, you were out of ammo for particular weapons, or had myriad other handicaps. This gives each stage a good bit of replay value, though ultimately the outcome of the tale isn’t affected.

Once you do complete the game (which sadly only takes about eight hours) you can also go on an additional mini-campaign called Aftermath. Aftermath does come slightly closer to the atmospheric moments of the other Gears games, but neither it nor the main campaign ever have their epic moments (which is slightly ironic: Epic was assisted by People Can Fly in developing the game, so you’d expect more – not less — than the usual “look ma, no helmet” insanity).

Delving into multiplayer you’ll find a few other changes that may or may not sit well. For starters, a new OverRun mode functions like a class-based defense system, where players selecting between a scout, medic, commando or engineer try their best to fend off Locust attacking an e-hole plug. In more traditional game types, you’ll find executions missing (because you can’t go DBNO) and you’ll have a limited arsenal (even in single player you can only carry two guns). All of these can be either “love ‘em or leave ‘em” changes, which are hard to judge a game negatively for, but the one thing that can’t be forgiven is the presence of bugs in cooperative play. Since the days of the original Gears of War trying to play through the campaign with friends has always produced strange results – some more session-ending than others. Judgment is inexcusably no different in that regard.

The developers certainly took some risks in implementing new ideas, a few of which are likely to stay once we get an official next installment. Perhaps it was this desire to branch out and try new things, tempered by the fear that fans might not embrace change, that kept this title from numerical nomenclature. But honestly, this game is pretty much Gears 4, whether you like it or not.

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Author: Patrick Cassin View all posts by
Patrick has been playing games since the days of Pong. To support his video game habit he got his BA in English. Then he cut down some trees, put out some fires, rescued some dolphins, got paid to go to prison, and arrested someone's horse. Now he writes the things he imagines that you LOL at.

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