The locust horde has been stopped, lambent enemies no longer a threat and Marcus has finally put aside his doo-rag as he lives out his future watching sunsets but that doesn’t mean the cogs still don’t turn. Going back to a pivotal moment of the other half delta squad, Baird and Cole take centre-stage in Gears of War: Judgment as they stand on trial. Does Gears of War: Judgment do enough to stand out or should it be sentenced to the inferior pile?
Gears of War: Judgment takes place just 30 days after the events of emergence day. The planet of Sera is being destroyed by the locust but a lot of the cities remain mostly untouched. The story though sees Baird, Cole, and the rest of Kilo squad on trial by Chairman Loomis in a broken down courthouse as the locust get closer to their location. Each member of Kilo Squad must give their testimony as the game plays out in flashbacks. The story is confined and easy to follow with no major, or unessecary twists just for the sake of it.
If you’ve played previous Gears of War games then you are going to notice a number of changes. First, the d-pad weapon swapping has changed and you can now only carry just two weapons which are switched back and forth using the Y button. Grenades can now simply be thrown by pressing the left bumper and overall it creates a much faster-paced, but even more so strategic than the last couple of iterations.
After the original Gears of War, each campaign became bigger, with more set-pieces, open areas and explosions, somewhat losing what many fans loved about the original game. The original Gears of War features closed-in cities, buildings and overall a much darker tone. Gears of War: Judgment returns to that claustephobic environments but have been designed in a way that requires quick and strategic actions. This is seen in the moments where Kilo squad must hold a particular area as waves of enemies come their way. You are given some time to prepare by planting grenades in walls and setting up turrets. It’s repeated a bit throughout the campaign but never feels like it grinds, easing people into the survival mode aspect of the multiplayer suite.
The campaign of Judgment has one major difference that makes it stand out to others in the series and that’s the scoring system. Unlike previous games where it was just a number, the more headshots you score, or gib enemies the more stars you earn. Earning stars unlocks characters, skins and more for multiplayer. If you earn enough stars you will unlock a second campaign entitled “Aftermath”.
The scoring system can be drastically improved if you decide to take on the declassify missions. Through each section, a glowing red-omen will be found somewhere in the area. Each one offers changes to the gameplay that will hinder you. Accepting these helps the earn stars without much hassle. This can range from reduced visibility to different enemy types and even the weapons you carry. This makes the campaign more open to replay, more so than any other Gears title to date. Each section is much easier to digest with each one only lasting a couple of minutes each. This does result in a smaller campaign but due to the semi-random enemy spawns, each playthorugh will always be different in some regard.
The second campaign, Aftermath isn’t really a campaign. It follows Cole, Baird, and Carmine as they look for support getting to Azura. The campaign is only an hour or two but it also is a reminder of how the series has changed. Unlike the Judgment portion of the game, declassify missions are gone, there are no random spawns and the visuals are brighter but feature more set-pieces.
Developers People can Fly have decided to focus on what fans loved about the original game: the action. Gameplay takes centre stage and is iterated upon to the extent that a small list of minor changes but results in a game that is the step-up in the franchise that both 2 and 3 should have been.
Gears of War: Judgment also features multiplayer but most of what was featured in Gears of War 3 is absent; instead, two new modes take centre stage in the form of survival and overrun. Survival is essentially horde mode on a map that has stages. The players must protect e-hole covers as waves of locust aim to destroy those covers. Despite it only featuring 10 waves, its fast and challenging, giving you virtually no time for respite.
Overrun is survival mode but with two teams of players, one being the cog and the other locust. This isn’t a team deathmatch style but instead a game of how long can you live before the locust win. When the round ends teams switch sides and it to be fair it can be very exciting waiting for the clock to run out for the opposite team or making that one last desperate run at the generator as a corpser.
Judgment does feature competitive verses matches with team deathmatch, free-for-all, and domination. Due to the faster pace in weapon switching and movement, matches don’t feel as clunky against other players online. Each mode is incredibly well-paced and fun, the best the series has seen since the original.
Developers People can Fly have brought things back to basics with the original game as the template and improved upon it in every way. Gameplay is finally as smooth as it should be, it’s fast and exciting. Multiplayer has every type of player covered although it must be said that at this stage there are only four versus maps which is highly disappointing but with future map packs, a problem like that should be fixed. Gears of War: Judgment is the best Gears game in years.