By Tom Groom
Judgment may not be the revelation the first Gears game was, nor may it be as rounded as it’s predecessor Gears of War 3, nor does it have the campaign intensity of the franchise’s second instalment – but what it has over it’s 3 bigger brothers is innovation. Epic Games, minus lead developer Cliff Bleszinski, have had to create a game to re-energise the Gears saga, one of the most-loved game series’ of the 21st century. So, where to begin. Let’s start with the campaign.
The focal point of the Judgment campaign is Lieutenant Damon Baird, a cocky, blond-haired young Gear who, to his credit, has an impeccable record with the COG. Him and squadmates Augustus Cole (ex-Thrashball player and fan-favourite), Garron Paduk (a badass ex-UIR fighter with a grudge against the COG) and Sofia Hendrick (a by-the-book pro still in training for the Onyx forces) are charged by Colonel Ezra Loomis with treason, theft of military technology and cowardice. The story is told through the narrative of Baird, with his witty insights shedding light on the situations he and his squad faced in the build up to their ‘war crime’. While the story may not have the significance or impact of those games before this in the series, it gives the audience a chance to hear a little bit more about the background of Baird and Cole, albeit with less of the latter.
I’ll get straight to it, if you’re looking for longevity – look somewhere else. The main campaign took me and a mate between 3-4 hours to complete, while the ‘Aftermath’ unlockable section (where we see what Cole and Baird got up to in their Gears 3 absence) took little over a hour. However, it does have it’s upsides. The new ‘Declassified’ options offer interesting alternatives to the action in this game, whether its killing numerous locust armed only with a pistol or dashing through an area before a Hammer of Dawn strike incinerates your ass. This adds to the intensity of the battle, as does the new semi-random Locust spawn system. The enemies you encounter change every time, so you never fight the same baddies twice. One attempt could see you facing innumerable pesky Wretches, while another could see you piling clip after clip of Lancer ammo into a stubborn Boomer. The Gears Judgment campaign also incorporates features of the game’s cornerstone seller – Horde mode. Something will happen, such as an order comes through to hold the fort, and you are told you have a certain amount of time to prepare and set up defences before facing waves of Locust, something entirely new to the Gears campaigns. The visuals are just as, if not more than, stunning as Gears 3, which is one of the most beautiful third-person shooters I have ever played, and the cinematic cutscenes are mastered to perfection.
The game’s multiplayer is totally unique in the series too, with game modes such as Free-for-all and Domination being introduced beside fan-favourite Team Deathmatch. These game modes are all self-explanatory and have featured in many multiplayer games before, but is the addition of the new ‘OverRun’ mode that makes this game’s online play so different. A combination of Gears’ trademark Horde mode and Gears 3’s Beast mode, you and a team of four others play as both the Locust and the COG. While on the COG’s side of the fight, you and your team set up defences to hold of the opposing Locust. The new class system in this game mode makes the battle very balanced, if a little in favour of the Locust. As members of the COG, you can choose to be: an Engineer (Baird) , who holds a blowtorch for repairing fortifications and an automatic turret; a Medic (Sofia) with a stim-gas healing grenade and Sawed-Off Shotgun; a Scout (Paduk) who grips his trusty UIR semi-auto sniper the Markza and spot grenades, which tag enemy Locust; or a Soldier (Cole) armed with a grenade-firing Booshka and ammo handouts, which come particularly in handy during the final stages of your desperate defence. Locust forces include a Ticker, Wretch, Grenadier, Kantus, Mauler, Serapede, Corpser and the all-new ‘Rager’ – a Locust with a bad attitude you won’t like when he’s angry.
There is another new mode – ‘Survival’, but I’m not entirely sure what it’s there for. It involves you playing as the COG as you would in OverRun, but holding off against 10 waves of Locust without ever changing sides. So I’m sure many of you will be sticking to OverRun. All-in-all this game is a breath of fresh air to the Gears series, and exactly what it needed. The worn out third-person shooter needed this invigoration to pick itself up after the exhausting completion of the Gears story arc, and Judgment fully pays the bills.
Overall rating: 9.2/10