Gears of War: Judgment is a prequel in the Gears of War series developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly; PCF handled the single-player campaign, while Epic worked on the multiplayer. The game is set fourteen years before the events of the first Gears of War, and will focus on the characters Damon Baird and Augustus Cole along with two new-to-the-series squadmates, Sofia Hendrick and Garron Paduk, all of whom form Kilo Squad.
The game will be told via flashbacks as Baird is on trial, with narration from his testimony framing the action. After finishing things the traditional way, players will be able to go back and play missions in "Declassified" mode, which tweaks things even further by having Baird "remember" things differently.
Judgment begins a month after Emergence Day, when the Locust Horde suddenly emerge from underground in the world of Sera and stage a brutal war on all of humanity. Lieutenant Damon Baird of the Coalition of Ordered Governments army leads Kilo Squad in defending Halvo Bay, a large resort city with a prominent military presence. Locust forces, led by a fierce general known only as Karn, have invaded the city.
Kilo Squad consists of Baird and his new friend Augustus Cole, as well as Garron Paduk, a prisoner from the Union of Independent Republics who was granted a release to fight for the COG, and Sofia Hendrick, a former media correspondent who was training to become an Onyx Guard before the Locust invasion.
Although Baird manages to kill countless Locust, his unconventional methods draw the ire of Colonel Ezra Loomis. He is a highly traditional officer who believes in a textbook approach, even as the Locust's ferocity and diversity creates new challenges. Even as the Locust war continues, Loomis detains Kilo Squad and charges them with desertion, cowardice, theft of experimental COG technology, and treason.
Judgment is designed to be a faster-paced, more intense experience than the previous games in the series, leading to some control changes. Grenades are now treated as an off-hand weapon and thrown using the left bumper and weapon switching is done with a button press (the Y button by default). As a result, players can only carry two weapons of any kind, rather than holding two full-size weapons and a pistol. There is a reticle present on screen even when not aiming, increasing player accuracy.
Enemy spawns are handled by a new system known as the "Smart Spawn System," or S3. With a similar purpose as the AI Director found in the Left 4 Dead series, the S3 watches a player's performance and delivers enemies accordingly. The end goal is to make Gears of War: Judgment a significantly more difficult experience than its predecessors, though traditional difficulty settings are also available to govern player health and damage output.
One new mode is called Overrun. This is a class-based mode that feels like a twist on Gears 3's Beast mode. The attacking Locust players attempt to reach a generator that's being protected by human forces. Meanwhile, the humans are also broken up into classes, including soldier, medic, engineer, and so on. The different classes have different rechargeable abilities, such as spawning ammo crates, healing, creating turrets, and throwing grenades. This is a Stopwatch-style mode, so players play on both sides of the action and the team with the better attack time wins the match.
Another new multiplayer addition is the Free For All mode, Judgment's take on the tried and true deathmatch formula.
Gears of War 3 introduced a standard "high score" system for its arcade mode in campaign. Judgment will award players with between one to three stars for each completed story mission. These stars will be spent in a purchasing system to unlock "Aftermath," a side story taking place during the events of the third game, among other bonuses.
In Overrun, one team starts as COG and the other begins as Locust. Locust players advance by reopening two sealed Emergence Holes to gain a new spawning point, after which the generator at the heart of the COG's base is vulnerable. If the Locust team does not destroy an objective within the given time limit, the COG team gets a Hammer of Dawn online and wipes them out. After all objectives are eliminated, or the Hammer of Dawn is activated, the sides switch.
The team that destroys more objectives wins; if both teams destroy the same number, the team that took the least amount of time wins. If one team has ensured victory, a "mercy rule" is in place in normal matchmaking to immediately end the match.
Overrun is playable in a private match and will have bot players available to fill in for human players.
Overrun has four maps; Junkyard, Estate, Island, and Skyline. These maps can only be played in Overrun and Survival mode.
- Island - A military facility off the coast. Shipping containers, broken walls, and enemy vehicles make good cover.
- Junkyard - A junkyard and refinery just outside a town. With plenty of hallways, back halls and ticker tunnels, there are many ways to get around this map.
- Skyline - Set on the rooftops of the city. COG always have the high ground in the varied terrain.
- Estate - On the bay with a huge mansion. This map is always set at night time. Over the river is a bridge with a heavily dependable landing. There is also a muddy tunnel when the tide is down.
On the COG side, character classes are based on the members of Kilo Squad.
- Damon Baird (Engineer) - Baird comes equipped with a Gnasher Shotgun, but also has a blowtorch as his secondary weapon. The torch's sole purpose is repairing stationary fortifications, which is crucial because once they are completely destroyed, they are gone for the rest of the round. He can also deploy sentry turrets.
- Augustus Cole (Soldier) - Cole starts with a Lancer and a Booshka grenade launcher, and can also throw ammo crates for teammates as other "assault" classes are frequently capable of. Cole's ammo crates are the only way for teammates to regain ammo besides dying or picking up ammo from dead players using the same weapon.
- Sofia Hendrick (Medic) - Sofia uses a Lancer and Sawed-off Shotgun; she can throw stim grenades to heal wounded teammates and revive players who are down.
- Garron Paduk (Scout) - Garron has a Markza semi-automatic rifle and a Snub Pistol. He can leverage his long-range weapons by climbing up to sniper perches that most units cannot reach. Paduk throws a "beacon grenade" that spots enemies through walls, pointing their silhouettes out to teammates, and also making spotted enemies more vulnerable to damage.
The first four Locust classes are immediately usable; the last four classes require a certain number of points (earned through kills, damaging fortifications, assists, etc.) to use each time.
Bloodmounts were playable in earlier builds of the game, but were later removed in favor of the Rager.
- Ticker - The Locust Horde's walking land mines combine abilities seen in the Wild Ticker and regular Ticker from Gears of War 3's Beast mode. Tickers can attack with their claws, destroying human-built fortifications with surprising efficiency. However, unlike Tickers in other modes, the Imulsion-fueled explosives on their back will only detonate if the player presses a button at the right opportunity. If a COG player shoots a Ticker, no explosion occurs. Infantry units can punt Tickers over obstacles, getting them deeper in the COG base.
- Wretch - Wretches retain their piercing scream, but the scream affects enemies in front of the Wretch rather than all around it. Wretches can jump over barriers to sneak up on the COG, and are also capable of climbing into the perches that COG Scouts can reach, and are therefore important for countering their height advantage.
- Grenadier - Locust grenadiers wield Gnasher shotguns and Lancers; they also have more health than other units, but move more slowly. As their name suggests, grenadiers can throw frag grenades that automatically regenerate after a short cooldown. Grenadiers can also interact with Tickers by feeding them grenades to increase explosive power, and punting them over obstacles to get them deeper in the enemy base.
- Kantus - The monks of the Locust Horde wield classic Hammerburst assault rifles, but are more important for their chants that can heal and even revive Locust infantry.
- Rager - A new enemy in the series, this slender Locust initially appears to be a standard infantry unit that uses a Breechshot in normal combat. However, he has the ability to enrage for a short time, enabling use of a powerful melee attack. Like the Berserker in Gears of War 3's Beast mode, enraging will impair vision and hearing capabilities.
- Serapede - These large, hard-shelled creatures can attack with their fangs, but can also rear up and spew venom upon enemies. Serapedes are vulnerable in their glowing tail, which will continually shorten upon being attacked until their body is destroyed.
- Mauler - This large Locust infantry unit wields a Boomshield and a spiked flail that can stun enemies when he strikes the ground with it. In addition, he can spin his shield to slice nearby foes and deflect incoming bullets.
- Corpser - These smaller corpsers can burrow under fortifications and are heavily shielded; they are only vulnerable in their heads, which are protected by a set of massive frontal claws.
Survival is a gametype that combines elements of Overrun and the removed Horde mode. Survival has only ten waves for a shorter experience, but has a higher degree of difficulty. Players use the same COG classes as in Overrun to work together in surviving the Locust siege.
Due to the revised control scheme and changed development goals, Epic Games made some adjustments to the competitive multiplayer formula for Judgment. The feature of "Down But Not Out" (DBNO) has been removed, except when playing Execution. Therefore, players are unable to revive teammates and execute downed enemies outside of that specific game mode. Players can now jump a long distance down in specific parts of maps; they will take slight fall damage but will generally survive unless heavily injured when making the jump.
Other mechanics adjusted with multiplayer in mind include stopping power on rifles, which has been removed entirely to adjust the balance of rifles against shotguns as well as issues of map control. In addition, the concept of "perfect" active reloads that increase weapon damage or grant other benefits has been removed; active reloads are simply active or not active. This was done due to concerns of an active reload making a huge difference in competitive play.
Epic initially planned to remove single-elimination gametypes (such as Warzone and Execution) in Judgment, a first for the series. Epic's Jim Brown, lead level designer for Judgment, stated on an official podcast that although they would not explicitly rule out the addition of a game mode without respawns in the future, doing so would not be an easy, "on/off" procedure.
On February 26, 2013, Epic changed course and announced the addition of Execution through free DLC, along with two multiplayer maps, scheduled for release on April 2. The free price tag was made possible in part due to Maxim magazine's sponsorship, but the brand will not appear in-game.
To allay concerns of players who felt that maps could not be appropriately balanced for multiple game modes, Epic will develop maps that are specific to individual modes (including Overrun). It is not known how many maps will be included upon release.
Epic intends to support Judgment with dedicated servers to host matchmade games and retain the system of separating ranked and quick matches seen in Gears of War 2 and 3. They will also add "event" playlists with variations on normal game rules and starting weapons to rotate at different times.
Locust characters are no longer playable in multiplayer outside of Overrun. Quinn Del Hoyo, lead multiplayer designer for Judgment, said that playing as Locust was overall unpopular among the collective player base. Instead of Locust, there will be blue-colored and red-colored COG teams in team games.
There are four multiplayer maps available at launch. Streets, Gondola, Library, and Rig.
- Streets - Takes place in the Alleys, on the rooftops, and in the streets of the city's industrial center. One of the most vertical maps in the game.
- Gondola - Deep staircases, winding paths where cut straight out of the surrounding mountains. Gondolas connect the bottom and top areas of the map.
- Library - A massive library with many staircases and beautiful interiors. There are also many hidden paths behind bookcases that lead to weapons and shortcuts.
- Rig - An offshore drilling rig. Features tight corridors and a Raven helicopter that circles the map; players can climb aboard and use its machine gun turret.
In versus multiplayer, like in Gears of War 3, the game will allow users to select loadouts, but only one primary weapon (either a rifle or a shotgun) will be available upon spawning; the secondary will always be the Snub pistol. Players can still exchange the pistol for power weapons or guns that enemies drop.
Instead of a third weapon, loadouts will also give players the option to change their grenade type; they can choose between beacon grenades frag grenades, ink grenades, or stim grenades. Incendiary grenades will only be available on certain maps as a "power weapon."
- Team Deathmatch - Introduced in Gears of War 3, Team Deathmatch became the most popular mode among that game's players. Unlike the Gears 3 version, where each team had a limited number of respawns and players were permanently eliminated one by one after respawns were depleted, teams will race each other to a certain number of kills, removing the slower-paced and more contentious play that takes place when respawns run out.
- Domination - A mode seen in Epic's own Unreal Tournament and that has gained popularity in the Call of Duty series and Halo 4 (as "Dominion"), Domination replaces King of the Hill for Gears of War 3. Players capture rings by standing inside of them, but do not have to stand in the ring after capture to keep gaining points toward victory. Each team starts near their own ring at the beginning of the match, and the "neutral" ring will usually be the most frequent point of conflict.
- Free-for-all - A first for the Gears of War series, the free-for-all mode is similar to the Team Deathmatch mode. Players fight one another to reach a score limit.
- Execution - Returning as free DLC on April 2, Execution is now the only mode with Down But Not Out and no respawns. Players have one life per round and eliminate the enemy team; in this mode, enemies will be downed and players will have to execute them at close range to finish them off. However, weapons such as explosives, sniper rifles or shotguns at very close range can still instantly kill.
- Lancer - Lancer bullets will no longer receive a damage bonus on headshots.
- Hammerburst - The current Hammerburst still fires as quickly as the user can pull the trigger, but recoil is increased.
- Classic Hammerburst - This earlier Hammerburst uses a six-round burst fire mechanic rather than the semi-automatic nature of its modern iteration.
- Retro Lancer - Short-range retro charges that fail to impale opponents are much less damaging. Epic has also said that it should be harder to "feather" the trigger when using the Retro Lancer, making the gun less powerful at long range.
- Gnasher Shotgun - The staple shotgun of the Gears of War series has a slightly larger bullet spread, reducing effectiveness at long range.
- Sawed-off Shotgun - The controversial alternative to the Gnasher returns, but it has had its wide bullet spread significantly reduced. To help offset that change, the shotgun will have two shots per clip rather than discharging both barrels at once.
- Markza - A semi-automatic rifle for precision shots. Although it has a scope, its zoom is relatively weak.
- Beacon grenade - Players throw this grenade to spot enemies through walls, making enemy silhouettes visible to teammates. In Overrun, enemies within the beacon's radius are also more vulnerable to damage.
- Frag Grenade - The "bolo" fragmentation grenade has a smaller explosive radius, but can stick to enemies when thrown, similarly to plasma or semtex grenades. However, grenades can no longer be planted on surfaces.
- Ink Grenade - Ink grenades will no longer be able to stun enemies (and potentially the grenade thrower) on impact. To offset this, the cloud of ink is severely damaging.
- Stim Grenade - This new grenade will heal users and allies within its range and allow dead players to potentially be revived rather than waiting to respawn.
Map-based (power) weapons
- Boomshield - Players can now carry the Boomshield and use it in tandem with any weapon, whereas before picking up the Boomshield automatically caused the wielder to switch to a pistol.
- Boomshot - The Locust-developed grenade launcher makes a return and is currently intended to be slightly stronger than it was in Gears of War 3.
- Booshka - A grenade launcher of UIR origin. Unlike the Boomshot, which has grenades that explode and spread on impact, the Booshka's explosives bounce on hard surfaces before eventually exploding. This is meant to assist in eliminating enemies who are behind cover or who would otherwise be unreachable. It also lacks the splash damage after the initial explosion of the Boomshot.
- Breechshot - A semi-automatic rifle that will kill with one headshot. Recoil between shots is increased to compensate for the advantage over the bolt-action Longshot sniper rifle; the Breechshot also lacks a scope.
- Hammer of Dawn
- Incendiary Grenade - These grenades will do more damage to players who stand in the patch of fire it creates as compared to Gears of War 3.
- Longshot - This iteration of the Longshot is capable of piercing through multiple targets.
- Torque Bow
- Boltok Pistol - the Markza is intended to fill a similar role as this precision-based revolver, which is no longer in versus multiplayer but is present in other modes.
- Gorgon Pistol - the Classic Hammerburst will be a similar burst fire weapon. Like the Boltok, it is still available in other modes.
People Can Fly's involvement in the project was initially kept secret from the public, but after the unveiling of the game, rumors began to circulate and became more substantiated thanks to twitter hints from Adrian Chmielarz, People Can Fly's Creative Director. Epic's Mike Capps replied to Kotaku's Stephen Totilo inquiry on the subject with a simple "YES YES YES!" retweet. People Can Fly was previously rumored to be working on a Gears of War prequel-trilogy in November 2011.
In an attempt to learn how to possibly better develop the game's cast and their motivations and personality traits, Epic Games sought insight from the CGI movie making studio, Pixar. Epic Games producer Rod Fergusson specifically called out Woody from the Toy Story franchise as an inspiration because of his well-defined characteristics.
All pre-orders will receive a code to unlock the "classic" version of the Hammerburst assault rifle in versus multiplayer.
Pre-ordering from specific retailers will grant players an exclusive character in versus multiplayer. Characters are as follows:
- Young Marcus Fenix - GameStop (United States)
- Young Dom Santiago - Amazon (U.S.)
- Alex Brand - Best Buy, Microsoft Store (U.S.); Shopto (United Kingdom)
- Anya Stroud (as she appeared in Gears of War 3) - Walmart (U.S.)