Quick Look: Gears of War: Judgment

Judge not, Vinny, lest ye be judged by Jeff's sawed-off shotgun.

Drew Scanlon on Google+
Embed
Play
Please use a flash or html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to Giant Bomb's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Giant Bomb Review

282 Comments

Gears of War: Judgment Review

3
  • X360

Judgment's campaign twists the Gears formula in some interesting ways, but the rest of the package feels pretty thin for a full-priced retail product.

You'll see a lot of human-on-human chainsaw fights--most of the competitive multiplayer doesn't have any Locust characters.

Gears of War 3 provided a relatively satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, wrapping up the events well and giving Marcus Fenix and his crew a much-needed chance to sit down. So it makes sense that another Gears of War game would be set as a prequel. Rather than taking the obvious route and showing you why Fenix needed to be broken out of jail to open the first game, the focus is put on the side characters, Baird and Cole. Don't take that to mean that Gears of War: Judgment has a deep, engaging story that makes you look upon the whole franchise in a brand-new way or anything, but there's just enough exposition there to keep things moving and just enough of a gameplay tweak to make you wish they had made these changes two games ago. It's a fun but feature-light shooter for people who already enjoy the basic style of Gears of War. Nothing more, nothing less.

The bulk of the story is told in flashback, as the four soldiers of Kilo Squad find themselves as defendants in a hastily-assembled trial. Their testimony runs throughout the game--they tell the story, you run from point to point, chainsawing and shooting Locust enemies all the while. There are no surprises along the way, either. Kilo Squad sets out to take down a big bad guy in the area and, by the end of the game, they'll have completed their task. You'll also unlock a second campaign called Aftermath, which is set during the events of Gears of War 3. In Aftermath, you'll take Baird and Cole back into an area from the Judgment campaign as they search for a boat to help with the final assault on Azura. Throughout both campaigns, the characters seem a little subdued when compared to the proper Gears trilogy. There are fewer "woo!" moments out of Cole and less machine fixing and complaining out of Baird.

That Aftermath campaign is missing the thing that actually makes Judgment cool in the first place. At the start of every section, you'll find a Gears of War logo glowing on a wall. If you run up to it and hit X, you'll be given the option to "declassify" some additional details. These act as modifiers for the gameplay that force you to play Gears of War in different ways. Sometimes you'll have to start a section with very little ammo. Other times you'll be forced to use less-than-ideal weapons for the entire section. Sometimes you'll get time limits, and sometimes you'll encounter dust or gas that makes it hard to see and aim throughout the entire area. It keeps you on your toes and gives you a reason to change up your style and stop chainsawing your way through everything that gets in your way. Each section also has a set of three stars to earn, and enabling the declassified option makes it easier to earn all three of those stars. The tradeoff is that the entire game is broken up into very tight, defined sections, which makes the whole thing feel a little artificial. You're practically given a Left 4 Dead-style safe room between every single combat section, packed with guns, ammo, and the declassification icon. It gives the game a herky-jerky feel that can be a little off-putting.

The class-based nature of OverRun lets engineers plant turrets and scouts toss auto-tagging grenades.

Most of the enemies are guys that you've seen before, from bloodmounts to lambent versions of various creatures, and you'll fight them with the same basic arsenal. There are a few new weapons, like the Marksa, a semi-automatic rifle with a good scope that makes for a lighter, friendlier gun in medium-range sniping situations. The biggest gameplay change is a control change that makes weapon-switching more like Halo or Call of Duty. Instead of using the D-pad to switch between four different weapons, you can now hold two, and tapping the Y button swaps between them. Grenades are now dedicated to the left bumper, rather than being something you have to select before you can use. This change may come down to personal preference, but playing Gears this way makes me wish it was like this all along. Grenades become a lot more useful when you can just toss one out at will instead of having to stop shooting just to switch over to your grenades. It's a nice change that some people will probably hate.

The multiplayer end of Gears Judgment offers a few modes, with the two new ideas based around the same concept. OverRun pits attacking Locust players against defending humans, like a melding of the co-op-only Beast and Horde modes of the past into one competitive mode. It's a fine mode that makes you wonder why it took the developers this long to get here, since all the pieces for this were in place for Gears 3. Survival mode replaces Horde mode, and it's little more than a single-team, co-op-only version of OverRun, with the AI taking up the Locust faction. Both modes are class-based on both sides of the action, so humans can choose a Soldier role, which lets them dispense ammo to teammates, a Medic role that can toss healing grenades, and two others. Locust players use a class-based system similar to Beast mode in Gears 3, with personal points unlocking the ability to spawn as more extreme enemies. OverRun is cool... but Survival isn't as good as Horde mode was in the last game.

The members of Kilo Squad.

In addition to those, you can play the campaigns cooperatively or play Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, or Domination games. The game is still packed with ribbons and medals to earn as you play, and as you level up your character you'll earn prize boxes that randomly give you character or weapon skins. Like Gears 3, the game is also packed full of purchasable skins, and these are marked in such a way that makes it look like you'll never be able to unlock a buyable skin via the game's prize boxes. Also on the microtransaction front is the ability to straight-up buy double XP bonuses that last for a set number of matches. What, no soda or chip company wanted to kick down and print codes on their packages? Players that purchase the Season Pass DLC pre-order get access to a "VIP" matchmaking option that includes all of that DLC and generates more XP than the standard matchmaking option. It's... a bit much, especially because the game only ships with four maps for OverRun/Survival and four for TDM and the other competitive modes. The multiplayer side of Judgment just feels thin.

Despite my feelings that Baird is the most extraneous character in the Gears universe and a general feeling after Gears 3 that I was probably done with this franchise, Judgment is still a good time. It doesn't let its story get in the way of its action, and the declassified modifiers had me playing Gears in ways that I normally wouldn't, making for a more interesting challenge than the typical difficulty settings offer. But the lack of maps just sucks every last bit of life out of the multiplayer, regardless of its new modes.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
291 Comments
Edited by Wolfgame

Honestly this shouldn't be a surprise, Their is enough trepidation surrounding this title that this score meets all my expectations. I am sorry if anyone is disappointed though, but this horse was killed long ago.

Posted by Fram

Lots of super-positive reaction to this elsewhere. Would love to hear a bombcast discussion after more of the duders have played it, but nobody on the team seems to care about its release either way. Hope we get a lengthy QL soon!

Posted by TheManiacsGnome

@jeff: In light of Judgment featuring such a thin number of maps, do you get the impression that these are the cream of the crop? Based on what you say about the campaign and number of maps in total, I would like to at the very least believe that People can Fly left a lot of stuff on the cutting room floor.

Edited by Cybexx

Alright I'll give this a pass till its cheap.

Edited by VeRKK

Man... the number of maps is a disgrace, way to sell a season pass there Epic. This game screams (not for me, since it's not available unfortunately) a weekend rental and be done with it. No classic Horde Mode (we knew it, but the fact that the new one is not that good, or atleast, not as good as the classic one), alot of shi**y multitrans crap, and this bulsh** randomized award thing that they seem to take from ME3 is just the icing on the cake...

Edited by I_Stay_Puft

I'll probably wait and grab Luigi's Mansion 2 instead and save myself the 20 bucks. Was kinda contemplating which one to grab but reading this probably pushed me towards Luigi. Thanks Jeff for the review.

Online
Edited by 617_jbug

Microsoft announced that you get 2 free maps to download. I don't know if it's at launch though.

Posted by Baltimore

I think this will be a solid rent for me. I enjoyed all the Gears game but this one has a sense of series fatigue. I'll still play it but, like as stated, it's a rent NOT an own.

Edited by Yummylee
@617_jbug said:

Microsoft announced that you get 2 free maps to download. I don't know if it's at launch though.

Ohhh yeah, I remember reading about that. They've paired with Maxim or something... Two new maps, an additional mode (Execution, I think) no in-game ads or anything like that, and it'll all be free. Pretty sure it isn't a launch deal, but still, to know some additional free content is on the way is comforting.

edit: Aha, 2nd of April is the date it seems.

Edited by Clonedzero

@deusoma said:

@clonedzero:

You don't trust Jeff because he's too cynical... but you would trust

Alex Navarro?

:u

jeff lets his cynicism control him. alex is far more objective in his cynicism.

Online
Posted by Colourful_Hippie

@yummylee said:

Hmm, about what I expected. Really is a shame to see there's so few multiplayer maps, and the removal of Horde mode is heartbreaking. Especially since it would have been interesting to have the class system implemented.

Otherwise this all sounds pretty alright to me!

My guess is that this game would have gotten an easy 4 if it came packed with a decent amount of maps like all the past Gears games had. There will be more added over time but I don't plan on sticking with this game for that long so this sucks. Oh well, some of the minor gameplay changes sound cool enough for me to try this out.

Edited by LucidDreams117

Saw this one coming, sadly. Oh well. Like many others, I was happy to be done after the ending of Gears 3. This very much falls in the same boat as God of War. To anyone who says that we don't need a new generation of consoles yet, this is what you get unfortunately. Here's hoping new hardware gives reasons for new franchises as well as better sequels\prequels. I do applaud People Can Fly for not just going with the same old same old. They changed things up with the declassify modes much like Halo's skulls. I appreciate when a company offers me those options. And for changing the option to hold 2 instead of 4 weapons, for better or for worse. (worse)

Maybe I'll pick this up at one point. Not going to rush out for it anytime soon though.

Edited by Hawkerace

That's disappointing. Hopefully it'll be another gem for 20$ in a few months or closer to a year.

Posted by ArcHTecHGuY79

figures with that score it was jeff doing the review he wouldn't know a good game if it bit him in the ass

Edited by UnrealDP

3 stars? Daaaaaa-- ah, I'm too busy with StarCraft to play it anyways. Oh well.

Posted by Barrock

Any idea why the ESRB rating on this page says T?

Posted by Fram

Saw this one coming, sadly. Oh well. Like many others, I was happy to be done after the ending of Gears 3. This very much falls in the same boat as God of War. To anyone who says that we don't need a new generation of consoles yet, this is what you get unfortunately. Here's hoping new hardware gives reasons for new franchises as well as better sequels\prequels. I do applaud People Can Fly for not just going with the same old same old. They changed things up with the declassify modes much like Halo's skulls. I appreciate when a company offers me those options. And for changing the option to hold 2 instead of 4 weapons, for better or for worse. (worse)

Maybe I'll pick this up at one point. Not going to rush out for it anytime soon though.

Now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if they dropped the long-form Horde mode after limiting the carry limit to only 2 weapons. There are many times playing Horde where I'll run out of ammo for all my weapons due to the number of heavy enemies, especially when the health modifiers kick in on the later waves. Judgement seems to be paring back a lot of what made Gears so methodical in favour of a more arcade-style experience across the board.

Posted by Sackmanjones

Switch a few words around and change the title and Id say this is the same review Ryan will publish for God of War. Good games that are merely a consequence of this generation going on so long.

Online
Edited by axlvandamme

@big_jon:

Agreed . He didn't care for Crysis 3 either and that game is amazing. I can only assume this will be the same.

Edited by GasparNolasco

My friend and I couldn't even get to the end of the main campaign. We played through GeoW 2 and 3 in co-op in the past -- but Judgement's story and level design are so boring and uninspired we ditched it right after Cole's testimony.

Posted by OurSin_360

Why gain experience, when you can buy it instead! I can guess why everyone is leaving epic

Posted by Pudge

Good to know that Gears dudes get to feel the pain and suffering that Halo dudes felt this past holiday.

Posted by Pixeldemon

The lack of multiplayer maps and the decision to replace Horde mode with a class-based bot match is super puzzling. I puzzled over it for a full five seconds before it occurred to me that this entire game is just a vector for DLC sales and microtransactions.

The game is even shipping without Gears' signature Execution mode, although this is apparently going to be provided as sponsored DLC.

I wish I could say I wasn't going to fall for this, but I am enamored with the gameplay. No franchise gets third-person combat mechanics better than Gears. Moreover, the multiplayer in Gears 3 had a tremendous skill-ceiling--even efficient movement across the environment is an acquired skill, which I quite like.

Edited by AngriGhandi

Play as all your favorite members of Kilo Squad!

...Baird!

...Cole!

...Girl!

And... other Baird!

(PS Baird rulez)

Posted by probablytuna

I dislike Baird.

Edited by Stimpack

It doesn't sound all that bad....If you need a game to get you to Bioshock: Infinite, this sounds like a good choice.

That's like getting black-out drunk at a bar, only to wake up the next day and getting black-out drunk at another bar.

Kidding, hopefully. Obviously no one knows if Bioshock: Infinite will be good or not, but I'm entirely too cynical nowadays.

Posted by doublestandards

3 out of 5 the most overused score on this site

Posted by GasparNolasco

Play as all your favorite members of Kilo Squad!

...Baird!

...Cole!

...Girl!

And... other Baird!

(PS Baird rulez)

Baird, Cole, Girl With Weird Eyes and Russian Dude! Truly the all stars of Kilo Squad.

Edited by Vasper_Knight

Still a better game on a fundamental level tho so you have to give it that, i felt that the enemy encounters were more fun and had more guys along with a sub-horde mode in the campaign. If you play it co-op then you can kinda can have the same experience and with modifiers.

Edited by axlvandamme

i honestly don't trust jeffs reviews. he's far too bitter and cynical. he hates almost everything and loves random shit. its too inconsistant. shoulda let alex review this. jeff is too jaded imo.

The only reviewer I trust less is Patrick.

Posted by mellotronrules

played every gears and loved em all, but i just couldn't get excited about a 4th. this review seals the deal- thanks gears, it's been great, but we're done.

Edited by Colourful_Hippie

There seems to be like no mention of the crazy lack of maps in the reviews that are giving out high scores *cough* IGN *cough*. That's ridiculous because I'm getting the impression that the MP was going to be a bigger focus than past games due to all the changes they are adding, but then there are only four maps.

Edited by KaneRobot

Had a bad feeling this was going to get 3 stars.

Sad to see a stellar franchise go out like this on the system it helped make successful, but I guess that's what happens when you've got an extra-long console lifespan and need to keep pumping out needless sequels to hold it over until new hardware. Prior to this I had bought every Gears game on launch day.

Will still get it, but will wait for 30-40 bucks.

Edited by fiberpay

Yea figured this would get 3 stars. I don't really trust Jeff to review this game he bashes on the "dude bro" stuff way to much. Also, just for comparison Simcity got 3 stars lol, gtfo.

Edited by TheBioLover

Where is the other GoW review, lol. It's like a week after it came out.

Edited by ShinjiEx

Game needed to push to fall or winter for more development and commercial time

Maybe marketed as a 720 game...

Posted by Yorkin

Think I'll rent this, play through the campaign in two or three days and return it. That should come to about $6.

Posted by Xeirus

@fiberpay said:

Yea figured this would get 3 stars. I don't really trust Jeff to review this game he bashes on the "dude bro" stuff way to much. Also, just for comparison Simcity got 3 stars lol, gtfo.

Simcity was reviewed by Alex, so what the fuck is your point again?
Have you even played Simcity? It's a joke of a game with enough lies and baggage to warrant a 1 star review.

Also, maybe Jeff bashes on the "dude bro" stuff because that shit is dumb as hell and not entertaining?
Opinions, go figure.

Edited by LiquidPrince

@mystyr_e said:

seems like the GoW: Ascension version of Gears. In other words, it's Gears-ass Gears but little else

God of War still seems to have the scale and set piece moments of previous games, which still make it invigorating to play. This seems like a stripped down version of the Gears games, which is a disappointment.

Edited by maskedarcstrike

I do like that Jeff called out the slimy shit MS was doing on the dash a few days ago to "Pre-Order your season pass today for gears judgement!!" On his twitter feed. Taken from another site.

Why the fuck do I need to pre order a season pass? You either buy it or you don't, what the hell is the difference pre ordering it.

Posted by DockJaw

Really looking forward to playing 2014's crossover game of the year, Gods of Bargain.

Edited by Yummylee
@colourful_hippie said:

There seems to be like no mention of the crazy lack of maps in the reviews that are giving out high scores *cough* IGN *cough*. That's ridiculous because I'm getting the impression that the MP was going to be a bigger focus than past games due to all the changes they are adding, but then there are only four maps.

Yeah, Eurogamer's review doesn't even mention how many maps there are, but they're more than willing to praise that there'll be two free maps as an image caption. Free maps, awesome. But to not even mention that you're still only getting four out of the box seems like a bit of an... oversight.

That's not to say Eurogamer was ''bought out blaaaarg'', as they levy some criticisms (plus it's a pretty serious claim that I wouldn't want to throw around lightly), though it's a strange--and indeed consistent among the reviews I've read--omission all the same.

Also, Joystiq straight up calls this Survival mode to be the ''natural evolution'' of horde mode. Which, if it really is just OverRun vs bots, then c'mon now edit; or rather aww c'mooooon... Even with the class system, that sounds like a significant step down. No base building, no currency management, and no boss waves I take it either.

Posted by DeathByWaffle

Huge Gears fan, but I didn't have much hope for this. I didn't like the changes they made, and I just got this feeling leading up to release like it was gonna be a letdown.

Posted by ez123

Review is what it is, I'll make up my mind. Though, I have seen some youtube videos and the Baird/Cole being subdued thing seems true. Why even make Baird the main character at that point?

The multiplayer is a bummer and it's not because of the map count. Terrible modes, grenade starts, loadouts, etc. What good would more maps do?

Online
Posted by maskedarcstrike

@yummylee said:
@colourful_hippie said:

There seems to be like no mention of the crazy lack of maps in the reviews that are giving out high scores *cough* IGN *cough*. That's ridiculous because I'm getting the impression that the MP was going to be a bigger focus than past games due to all the changes they are adding, but then there are only four maps.

Yeah, Eurogamer's review doesn't even mention how many maps there are, but they're more than willing to praise that there'll be two free maps as an image caption. Free maps, awesome. But to not even mention that you're still only getting four out of the box seems like a bit of an... oversight.

That's not to say Eurogamer was ''bought out blaaaarg'', as they levy some criticisms, though it's a strange--and indeed consistent among the reviews I've read--omission all the same.

Also, Joystiq straight up calls this Survival mode to be the ''natural evolution'' of horde mode. Which, if it really is just OverRun vs bots, then c'mon now. Even with the class system, that sounds like a significant step down. No base building, no currency management, and no boss waves I take it either.

Ugh that's even more disappointing, I was about to get this day one cause I was really interested in the Overrun mode. (Even though it's just a slightly tweaked mod from Gears 3). With the assets of controlling variants of locust from Gears 3 in beast mode they could have easily implemented it but obviously held it back for judge. But hearing about everything else I think I'd rather save the money.

Posted by yyZiggurat

What happened to the reviewer's drawing? How will I know how Jeff feels about this game without it?

Posted by squidraid

Epic's been getting a lot of press in recent memory for the high profile staff departures they've been going through. You have to wonder if the apparent mediocrity of this one has something to do with those. Be nice if we see someone draw up an in depth look behind the scenes for this game to find out where things went awry, something like what Kotaku did for Colonial Marines.

Posted by Castiel

This will be the first game I buy this year.

I'm sorry to hear that.

Edited by fargofallout

Ever since setting myself up with a decent PC, I've really stopped caring about any of these types of console exclusives. Something different like The Last of Us still intrigues me, but another third-person shooter gets nothing but a yawn. Also, the lack of horde mode seems sort of crazy.