Try as it might to differentiate itself from the previous Gears of War titles, Gears of War: Judgment still retains the major essentials that the series is known for, and is more of the same- which isn’t nearly as bad as some people would lead you to believe.There are of course some minor changes and adjustments to the overall feel of the series in this game, such as Baird’s stepping up to the batting plate for a shot at taking the main character cake, and the neat addition of an Overrun mode to combat dissent in the ranks against the lack of a genuine Horde mode. The biggest change of all may be the fact that this is not truly Gears of War 4, but instead a prequel and an almost “casting off” call for the series, as opposed to a true sequel and retaining of the storyline from the original trilogy. I won’t be passing judgment on the game (heh heh heh), but I will be giving you my honest to goodness verdict here on what I thought of this game- and why it is still most certainly worth your time, even if you had given the series up after the excellent and near perfect showing of Gears of War 3. There’s enough to go around for everyone, and you really wouldn’t want to miss the party now, would you?
Cooperative gameplay in Judgment is on par, although it does have its few flaws as well, and for the most part holds up to the gold and silver standards of the multiplayer and single player campaign modes as well this time around- though admittedly not quite as good as Gears of War 2 and 3’s were. One of the interesting parts of either main campaign is the fact that it almost takes a Halo 3: ODST approach to narrative pacing and story telling (minus a true hub world), and presents each ‘mission’ via flashbacks through the main characters’ eyes and descriptive and changeable moments molded via the missions themselves and declassified unlockables as well. The storytelling is far from perfect of course, but then again it never has been completely and dominantly the main focus anyway, as good as it still was. Of course, as much as I do enjoy Gears’ bromances and firefights throughout the story, I must admit I’ve never purely enjoyed the story itself- but rather the brutally efficient and addictive combat and setpeice moments instead, as many can attest to themselves I am sure.
I guess it is great then that this particular prequel focuses itself on those brutal and grueling fights and explosions throughout, with an almost continuous stream of enemies and awe-inspiring moments coming at you the entire time. The campaign is structured much more linearly in this game, however, the battles function as skirmishes that virtually present the level on their own and take up the entirety of the story in one big chunk for that particular level as well. You won’t just be following Kilo Squad’s story, but you’ll actually be living their moments and following through on things as you experience the tense fights and hell that they went through to accomplish their missions. Setpieces come and go throughout Judgment’s main campaign, however, they are much more forgettable than previous installments in the series- such as the epic Brumak fight and exploration of the wormy innards of a ferocious beast. Sure, there are a few entertaining and broadly scoped setpiece moments, but nothing really compares, and they’re probably the weakest in the series yet sadly. The action holds up, but everything kind of blurs the lines of linearly spaced missions when the bullets really start flying.
In a bid to bring back some Gears of War 3 nostalgia and fight the good fight on a different level, Epic chose to incorporate a more open-minded epilogue chapter into the campaign as well, which is unlockable after completion and entitled Aftermath. There were probably more genuinely enjoyable and memorable setpiece scenes in that chapter alone than the entire other part of the game itself, and it is even set in the Gears 3 timeframe as well, for reference. It serves as a tug on the heartstrings and essentially makes the player pine for the previous games, at which point- if you’re like me, you’ll likely pop in Gears of War 2 or 3 and enjoy some good ol’ Horde of course instead. Despite the remarkable differences in the campaign structures themselves, as well as the effective showing of setpiece moments and focuses on varying degrees of combat, the new, linear missions mechanic does help to showcase the new performance rating system (1-3 stars) and declassified missions as well. Declassified missions are essentially ‘modifiers’ for the difficulty of your playing level on whatever mission you are enjoying, and they force you to approach a combat situation a certain way or with certain weapons in order to successfully pass. This makes the campaign a lot more replayable than in past games, and retains the enjoyability of previous games as well.
On the multiplayer front, things are far from quiet and complacent, and instead the air rings with the repetitive sounds of cursing, explosions, and Locust roars for the better part of the day. The enjoyable Beast and Horde modes have basically been converted into the equally fun Survival and Overrun gameplay modes, each with a little mixing of the other to be found in the whole of the two Locust vs. COG modes. Overrun was probably the highlight of the entire game for myself personally, as I figured it would be ever since the Overrun demo released not too terribly long ago, and after playing a bit of it at several game expos as well. Each side (Locust and COG) has it’s own challenges and defensive/offensive maneuvers as well, making the battles actually pretty fairly set up to boot. The fights are intense and require a little more thinking and strategy than most gears multiplayer usually does, which I loved in regards to depth as well especially. Taking control of some new Locust enemies didn’t hurt either I suppose… There is a plethora of content in the Overrun mode alone that should keep players enthralled and complacent for a while to come.
Comparatively, you can try your hand at the new Survival mode- obviously inspired in part by both the Survival mode of MW3 and Horde mode of the Gears 2 and 3 games, and carried out quite well in addition to Overrun’s excellent sets. Survival brings back more of the Horde mentality than Overrun, pitting human controlled COG against CPU controlled Locust with the objective being surviving ten rounds of incessant attack on the few generators under your control. It might not match the grand scale or size of Horde itself, but the several maps and the interesting and intense challenges that they throw at you make the ten round games all the more longer and enjoyable than one would at first believe them to be… Of course, if yous imply want to enjoy the classics and the other goodies that Gears of War: Judgment has to offer, then look no further than your standard operating brocedure with Free-For-All, Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch, and Domination cropping up as well for your enjoyment.
The bottom line is this- Gears of War: Judgment is a well rounded, polished multiplayer, single player, and cooperative experience, and one that you should certainly give a chance before being biased against or deadset on avoiding. Sure, it has its flaws, and isn’t perfect by any means, but it is far more enjoyable than some other games I’ve reviewed recently, and also offers enough to content to more than make up and atone for its mistakes. Also, seeing as it is likely to be the last Gears game that any of us play for the time being, and it is of course developed by Epic, we’ll most likely be seeing a quite expansive set of DLC to accompany the main disc content as well. Overall, I quite enjoyed myself with the game, despite it being- in my opinion, marginally easier than its predecessors to complete, and much shorter as well.
Concept: Develop a prequel story with Baird as the main character and have a plethora of side content and multiplayer content such as Survival and Overrun to keep players busy and fulfilled for a long time as well.
Graphics: The game still looks great, but more of the same from GOW 3 than any real improvements it seems.
Sound: The weapons and dialogue are just as good as they ever have been.
Playability: The controls are as tight and responsive as ever.
Entertainment: I am sure you will be pleased with the games many different modes and action, despite the flaws that some of them showcase as well.
Replay Value: Very High
Overall Score: 8.25