Posted on March 25, 2013 AT 07:18pm
Epic Games has returned to the Gears Of War franchise once again with their latest title, Judgement, this time enlisting the help of star developers People Can Fly. The prequel to the iconic trilogy of games, this title features a familiar face in the lead role, but not the man everyone has come to know and love as their protagonist. Comic relief/engineer soldier Damon Baird is placed at the helm as his team recounts the events that occurred prior to their current predicament: being put to trial for launching an expensive and incredibly powerful weapon, despite being given orders to the contrary.
While this series isn’t focused on the major points of the war against the Locust hordes, it has its fair share of the underground creatures known as “grubs”. Baird and his team of both faces both familiar and new (his running buddy Augustus Cole, the Russian warrior Garron Paduk and Onyx Guard cadet Sofia Hendricks) go head to head with one of the first waves of this massive, long-spanning war that ended with the events of Gears Of War 3. Recounting the testimonies of each character through playable sections of the game, the world is remembered in all of its visual glory, allowing the player to see the events as they truly happened. Playing as each character throughout their own testimony, the story unfolds in an expansive and varied way. Playing as each character does downplay the originally hyped lead role of Baird, who, despite being the highest ranking officer on Kilo squad, is basically just another soldier in this group. While he is given some extra playing time, he doesn’t feel much like the main soldier, but a member of an ensemble cast of COG elite.
The game plays like a dream, bringing back the responsive controls and unique styles that the franchise has become known for and adding some new elements, especially in the way the story is presented and the variants of weapons and characters. New Locust soldiers, new guns and a different way to get through the campaign. Each seven section testimony comes with one of two ways to play: the standard mode and the “Declassified” mode, which allows players to rank themselves up a bit faster by adding a new wrinkle to each mission. From adding a time limit to allowing the use of only a few different weapons, the campaign mode is much more diverse than the other titles, and aside from some limiting scope (the forty-two missions are very linear and go pretty quickly), the entire experience is incredibly gratifying, and by the end of the playthrough, gamers should be well satisfied with the story mode. Also added to the game is the “Aftermath” mode, which allows players to see just what happened to Cole and Baird during some of the events of the third installment. This is a fun little addition that fans of the franchise through all its variations should love, because extra content and story is always a good idea for the major fans.
The graphics are stunning, with beautiful landscapes and incredibly detailed work in both environments and characters. The game runs smoothly most of the time, with only a few hiccups here and there, but overall, the vast and diverse landscape is breathtaking, leaving all of the other installments in the dust as far as quality while still looking very similar to the style of the series.
The multiplayer has received a massive upgrade, however, and while it’s an enjoyable experience, there are some adjustments that have to be made to the customary way players have taken towards the game’s multiplayer experience. Gone are several of the modes, including the beloved horde mode, which is replaced with the brand new Survival mode, a very similar experience that adds in a major change to the cooperative experience: a class system.
Playing as one of four characters from Kilo squad, characters can take on a specific style that allows for the use of only a few major weapons as they fight and defend against the various squads of Locusts that will pour in. Taking on the role of Engineer, who can repair fortifications, throw down a sentry turret and blast away with the shotgun, is the main man himself, Damon Baird. Cole takes on the soldier role, throwing down ammo and taking the enemies on full force. Paduk is the scout, a sniper-friendly position that allows for players to climb ledges and throw out targeting beacons, with Sofia bringing both the firepower and the healing ability that the Medic class makes great use of.
These classes are used in the Survival and Overrun modes, a PvP event that combines Horde mode with the Gears Of War 3 Beast mode. This style is fun and exciting, with each type bringing either a co-op or competitive experience. These modes, plus the standard modes such as Team Deathmatch, Domination and Free For All makes for a great experience, with the latest installment ringing true to the older games, leaving fans with an altered but familiar experience. The matchmaking is still a bit off-balance, but as time goes on, hopefully this will be less of an issue.
Summary: A brand new story set in a beautiful world, Gears Of War: Judgement puts a bit more history into this great war, taking some great characters (both old and new) to the brink of destruction several times over. While the protagonist, Damon Baird isn’t featured quite as heavily as originally expected and the game takes a bit of getting used to, especially when it comes to the limited weapons in several of the multiplayer modes, this game has delivered in just about every way. Bringing some old and adding it to the new they’ve just now unleashed, Gears Of War: Judgement is a hell of a title, and one that should have fans playing long after the events of the first game begins. While not a perfect game, it’s very close, and well worth buying.
Pros: Breathtaking graphics and gameplay, terrific story.
Cons: Baird not as heavily featured, new game types can feel limiting. Multiplayer matching is off-balance.
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