Quick Look: Gears of War: Judgment

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

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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 Nights

@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.

Uh, except for the fact that he reviewed Gears of War 2 and 3 and gave them both five stars. But hey, let's bash Jeff...

Edited by JDillinger

Fanboys gonna fanboy. Out of all the console manufactures to latch onto the biggest mystery to me is why anyone would chose Microsoft.

Edited by Sooty

LOL, 4 maps? WHAT

Posted by ez123

Fanboys gonna fanboy. Out of all the console manufactures to latch onto the biggest mystery to me is why anyone would chose Microsoft.

lol

Posted by l4wd0g

Because I feel like I know Jeff, or at least his tastes in games, I really appreciated the review. I guess I'll be passing on this one. $63 saved... well, at least until the Bioshock Infinite (assuming it reviews well).

Edited by Oscar__Explosion

4 maps? The hell is that about! Oh and you get two more day one? Get the fuck out.

Edited by maskedarcstrike

To switch topics though let's talk about Cole, how did he go from this... In gears 1

To this.... I understand its a prequel but still.

I ain't a black man but if I was I'd be fucking pissed. So is it uncool to be a dark skinned brother all of a sudden?

Edited by GasparNolasco
Edited by Sooty

I don't get why people are saying the new consoles can't come soon enough. You think that means less phoned in games and less shooters? Oh my you will be disappointed, or maybe you didn't see the new Killzone that played identical to Killzone 3, but prettier.

PUH-LEASE. Shooters in third or first person perspectives are going to continue being boring with the exception of the few that do something different. (and then proceed to sell no units never being heard from again)

Edited by GasparNolasco

@sooty said:

@canucks23 said:

Man... The new consoles can't come soon enough.

Meaning what? New consoles aren't going to mean games suddenly become varied and less phoned in. I guarantee you the endless releasing of third and first person shooters will continue for many years to come.

I mean hell, just look at that Killzone demo. It was literally Killzone 3 but prettier. I don't get the idea that new consoles mean interesting games.

True. People don't seem to realize that it's not just the age of the generation that made games so uninspired, the AAA mentality did. Huge budgets and extensive focus testing resulting in safe bets like GeoW, CoD, Halo and GoW. New hardware will hardly make the situation go away, if anything, the tendency is for it to get worse.

Edited by radioactivez0r

The review text reads a lot more positive than 3 stars, somehow, and much different than the tweets that went out after it posted. Maybe Jeff had time to stew on it a little more? Anyway, is the Declassified thing on the main campaign or Aftermath? That part was confusing (though I like the idea).

Posted by ez123

@maskedarcstrike: Like he was any less offensive before.

Ah, come on!

Seriously though, Cole isn't offensive. He's just one-dimensional like all the Gears characters we know and love.

Making him more light-skinned kind of is, I think.

Posted by wwfundertaker

Oh well ill take a pass on the game and now its time to pack away the xbox 360.

Edited by Raven10

I'll rent it. Horde and Beast mode were fun in 3. This game has neither of those modes so I can't imagine playing the MP. Plus, Baird is my least favorite character in the series. Of all of the characters in the games I would have literally preferred to play as any other one. Though I have to admit that the romance with Baird in 3 was one of the best written parts of the series.

Posted by UberExplodey

I'm more excited for Divekick than I ever was for Judgement.

Posted by HellBound

The fact there was barely any marketing for this game just shows it is a cash in. No effort was put into this game at all.

Edited by ez123

@raven10: The Baird and Sam stuff was great. Except for the part where he said he'd trade her for bacon.

Posted by Nictel

Map packs. They make money.

Posted by GasparNolasco

@ez123 said:

@gasparnolasco said:

@maskedarcstrike: Like he was any less offensive before.

Ah, come on!

Seriously though, Cole isn't offensive. He's just one-dimensional like all the Gears characters we know and love.

Making him more light-skinned kind of is, I think.

Yep, I was mainly mucking about. GeoW writing is simplistic, I wouldn't expect more. I mean, Cole's main character trait is that he kinda acts like a train -- that shouldn't be taken seriously

I just wish someone beside Telltale would write black characters that aren't loud overconfident blockheads and/or pools of rage that hate computers/everyone.

Posted by MEATBALL

The review text reads a lot more positive than 3 stars, somehow, and much different than the tweets that went out after it posted. Maybe Jeff had time to stew on it a little more? Anyway, is the Declassified thing on the main campaign or Aftermath? That part was confusing (though I like the idea).

I think people see three stars and assume it means the game isn't good, but I'd say this is a pretty positive three stars, it just doesn't have enough content to justify a higher score.

Declassified mission variants are available for every enemy encounter in the main campaign ("Judgment"). Aftermath is structured like a more traditional Gears of War experience without score screens between fights, no declassified missions and more bombast.

Posted by ez123
Posted by Wampa1
Posted by zudthespud

Only 4 multiplayer maps? sounds like a massive step backwards. At lest I will always have the original.

Posted by scaramoosh

I was bored of GeOW with 2, I loved the first but by the time 2 came out, every other game was a cover based shooter. The first cover based shooter I remember was The getaway for PS2 and it was fine back then, they weren't common, come the popularity of GeOW and the UE3 engine....... everywhere!

Also though because the gameplay is all the same, they don't do anything new even though they claim to. Really the only thing I see them trying to flesh out is the story and tbh all the story I needed was in the first. I think the story is so cheesy and bad in 2, it just got on my nerves and I quit about half way through as a result.

Never played 3, no interest in it, or this one which feels like they're just trying to make a quick buck out of this cash cow, before the assets become worthless when the next gen consoles come out.

Edited by ez123

Only 4 multiplayer maps? sounds like a massive step backwards. At lest I will always have the original.

Overrun counts as multiplayer, doesn't it? Hell, it's the only interesting part of the multiplayer unless you've been dying for Gears to have free-for-all. So, it's 8 maps with 2 free ones on the way.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@meatball said:

@radioactivez0r said:

The review text reads a lot more positive than 3 stars, somehow, and much different than the tweets that went out after it posted. Maybe Jeff had time to stew on it a little more? Anyway, is the Declassified thing on the main campaign or Aftermath? That part was confusing (though I like the idea).

I think people see three stars and assume it means the game isn't good, but I'd say this is a pretty positive three stars, it just doesn't have enough content to justify a higher score.

Declassified mission variants are available for every enemy encounter in the main campaign ("Judgment"). Aftermath is structured like a more traditional Gears of War experience without score screens between fights, no declassified missions and more bombast.

I'm honestly surprised that a lack of MP maps was enough to push it to 3 stars, especially for Jeff.

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.

It's not enough maps, but at the same time, if you think the game is awesome, you shouldn't drop it to "better than average" or "decent" just because of a lack of MP maps. Sounds like the MP is really awesome anyway, and if they are all good maps, is it really that bad? If you play competitive shooters today, you probably only see half of the maps 90% of the time anyway. There are maps in Black Ops II MP I've only played once or twice in matchmaking, for some reason. Including one of my favorite maps.

It also sounds like they made up for the lack of content on the MP side with a beefed up campaign experience with more replayability I never really got the impression that the game would be heavily MP focused, especially coming from this studio.

Edited by DonPixel

looks like a gigantic Mheeee.

Posted by unholyone123

We are going to get dysentery from this shit!

Edited by GunstarRed

The opinions on this game seem to be kinda mixed after looking at all of the reviews. I love Gears, I like its world, its weapons, the way it plays and have a huge fondness for the characters. Four maps (although isn't there 4 for some modes and 4 for other modes making 8?) No review would stop me from buying the game,even if the encounters are bitesized chunks of action I'd take that over no Gears at all.

I'm just kinda irritated that we have to wait a couple of days later to play it.

Posted by xCharlieSheen

As long as the multiplayer at it's core is enjoyable; who's cares about the actual number of maps the game ships with. This review is pathetic; Tomb Raider probably has twice the number of maps in it's multiplayer, but who would know, because that games MP is trash. Gears MP is thin? 3 stars...... Because a game like Metal Gear Rising is just bursting with robust content and isn't thin at all. That 6 hour hack and slash got a better review from Jeff. I enjoy much of the content from Giantbomb, but I go elsewhere for reviews now; this site is just way too inconsistent. oh yeah.. Gears 2... 5 stars. Multiplayer completely broken at launch. Mortal Kombat.... 5 stars. Multiplayer completely broken at launch. If Judgement's MP works well and is fun. WHO GIVES A FUCK ABOUT THE NUMBER OF STAGES THE MATCHES TAKE PLACE ON!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

To switch topics though let's talk about Cole, how did he go from this... In gears 1

To this.... I understand its a prequel but still.

I ain't a black man but if I was I'd be fucking pissed. So is it uncool to be a dark skinned brother all of a sudden?

This is just an extension of the change of pallet the whole game has seen. Everyone and everything is getting "warmer." Also, Cole didn't look like a human in Gears 1. Now he's pretty sexy. I'm okay with this change :3

@sooty said:

@canucks23 said:

Man... The new consoles can't come soon enough.

Meaning what? New consoles aren't going to mean games suddenly become varied and less phoned in. I guarantee you the endless releasing of third and first person shooters will continue for many years to come.

I mean hell, just look at that Killzone demo. It was literally Killzone 3 but prettier. I don't get the idea that new consoles mean interesting games.

True. People don't seem to realize that it's not just the age of the generation that made games so uninspired, the AAA mentality did. Huge budgets and extensive focus testing resulting in safe bets like GeoW, CoD, Halo and GoW. New hardware will hardly make the situation go away, if anything, the tendency is for it to get worse.

It's all about the money, the business. New hardware means a much much smaller game library, and that means games require less marketing and hype to do well. Look at Oblivion. If that game had launched on the original Xbox, it would have just been a cool sequel for ES guys. Because it was out very early on the 360, it was one of the few high profile games on the system, which launched them into being incredibly successful to the point that they were able to make a whole other franchise with a similar design philosophy and structure that also sold super well. Some times, all a kick ass game needs to be a phenomenon instead of a middling success is a lack of competition. Skyrim was the most anticipated game I could think of that year, and Fallout 4 is something people are salivating for, especially with the idea of it being a next gen title.

Plus, hardware absolutely enables new cool things. Like bigger games with scale and scope closer to ArmA. A big scale on consoles means Dynasty Warriors or Halo's campaign (at least later titles like Halo 3), but on PC it means hundreds of intelligent entities and "maps" that take you 30 minutes to drive across. That kind of stuff enables the sort of experience that is WILDLY different than any console game has yet to offer.

TLDR: New consoles make risky investments much less risky. Yes, the install base is smaller, but they are also much hungrier for games, and will try new things they normally wouldn't have, allowing publishers to put games on shelves that are less like the current champ in the hopes of discovering the next big thing, such as when Bethesda skyrocketed to success, having only enjoyed mild success in the past despite excellent critical reception.

Posted by peterpasinili007

Hmmmmm, IGN gave it 9.2????! Oh well!!!!

Posted by zudthespud

@ez123 said:

@zudthespud said:

Only 4 multiplayer maps? sounds like a massive step backwards. At lest I will always have the original.

Overrun counts as multiplayer, doesn't it? Hell, it's the only interesting part of the multiplayer unless you've been dying for Gears to have free-for-all. So, it's 8 maps with 2 free ones on the way.

I guess, I don't really get why overrun can't use normal multiplayer maps like horde mode but I know little about it so I'll shut up. They just have such a back catalogue of maps, why not make a free DLC for people that buy the game new full of classic maps like they did for the second game? Just seems super slimy when you look at how hard they are pushing season passes and stuff.

Edited by warrenEBB

well, I love Baird. so i'm psyched.

However, what I really want to know is : is Insane mode still fucked? I really enjoyed replaying gears 1 and 2 with my co-op pal in insane mode (after beating it on hard mode). when we started this replay ritual in Gears 3 - and found that they'd changed insane to mean "no more bleeding out. just instant death" it fucked up the whole series. (ie., we went from huge gears fanatics to "fuck this fucking game"). so. super curious if they kept this for judgement or fixed it.

neither of us is buying the game until we find out.

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

After playing all of the other gears games I'm just burned out maybe some day I'll get this.

Posted by maskedarcstrike

@maskedarcstrike said:

To switch topics though let's talk about Cole, how did he go from this... In gears 1

To this.... I understand its a prequel but still.

I ain't a black man but if I was I'd be fucking pissed. So is it uncool to be a dark skinned brother all of a sudden?

This is just an extension of the change of pallet the whole game has seen. Everyone and everything is getting "warmer." Also, Cole didn't look like a human in Gears 1. Now he's pretty sexy. I'm okay with this change :3

@gasparnolasco said:

@sooty said:

@canucks23 said:

Man... The new consoles can't come soon enough.

Meaning what? New consoles aren't going to mean games suddenly become varied and less phoned in. I guarantee you the endless releasing of third and first person shooters will continue for many years to come.

I mean hell, just look at that Killzone demo. It was literally Killzone 3 but prettier. I don't get the idea that new consoles mean interesting games.

True. People don't seem to realize that it's not just the age of the generation that made games so uninspired, the AAA mentality did. Huge budgets and extensive focus testing resulting in safe bets like GeoW, CoD, Halo and GoW. New hardware will hardly make the situation go away, if anything, the tendency is for it to get worse.

It's all about the money, the business. New hardware means a much much smaller game library, and that means games require less marketing and hype to do well. Look at Oblivion. If that game had launched on the original Xbox, it would have just been a cool sequel for ES guys. Because it was out very early on the 360, it was one of the few high profile games on the system, which launched them into being incredibly successful to the point that they were able to make a whole other franchise with a similar design philosophy and structure that also sold super well. Some times, all a kick ass game needs to be a phenomenon instead of a middling success is a lack of competition. Skyrim was the most anticipated game I could think of that year, and Fallout 4 is something people are salivating for, especially with the idea of it being a next gen title.

Plus, hardware absolutely enables new cool things. Like bigger games with scale and scope closer to ArmA. A big scale on consoles means Dynasty Warriors or Halo's campaign (at least later titles like Halo 3), but on PC it means hundreds of intelligent entities and "maps" that take you 30 minutes to drive across. That kind of stuff enables the sort of experience that is WILDLY different than any console game has yet to offer.

TLDR: New consoles make risky investments much less risky. Yes, the install base is smaller, but they are also much hungrier for games, and will try new things they normally wouldn't have, allowing publishers to put games on shelves that are less like the current champ in the hopes of discovering the next big thing, such as when Bethesda skyrocketed to success, having only enjoyed mild success in the past despite excellent critical reception.

So a dark skinned brother can't be attractive? I'm okay with warmer environments and other bs talk like that but just assuming someone is a better person just because they have a lighter skin tone is just fucking wrong. I get that society is like this but that doesn't mean I have to like.

This whole "change of pallet excuse" is fucking garbage when it applies to characters.

And since when did Marcus Fenix ever look like a real human being?

Edited by xXHesekielXx

Too bad :/

Edited by OGred

@pudge: I've felt that pain since Halo: Reach.

@phatmac It does...it's now called 'Survival' though.

Edited by Winternet

Reading this made me wonder: why isn't there a God of War Ascension review? Is Ryan really incapable of doing a review in a timely fashion or is he just simply not going to do the review?

Posted by Hew7

I love Gears of war, I played to first one so much that I unlocked the seriously achievement easily. It feels so strange that there is another Gears game just around the corner and I feel zero excitement for it :(

I just don't know if it is worth it.

Posted by Pudge

@ogred: I liked Reach. It seemed more in line with Halo 1 MP than either of the other two games, which is a step in a different direction. I think we can both agree that the jumble of COD features they threw into 4 doesn't please anyone though.

Edited by OGred

@pudge:

I feel a lot of the changes that made Halo 4 into COD stemmed from Reach. The addition of 'classes', armour abilities, sprint and changing melee from B to RB changed the whole dynamic of the game.

Halo was unique because everyone was on the same playing field. In all Halos before Reach everyone spawned with identical 'loadouts'.

All the new abilities in Halo 4 play exactly like cod 'perks', i.e. perks have counter-perks. Because of this, abilities like active camo are useless and the majority of people prefer to rock promethean vision (hardly anyone uses the 'cold blooded' counter). This added an artificial layer of depth but also ruined the balance of the game.

Edited by Superfriend

The whole modifier stuff and the smaller areas broken up by "safehouses" makes it look really weird. Like Bulletstorm or something. What I wanted out of this game was a return to Gears of War 1, at least from the enemies and environments. Does it have the dark, bleak atmosphere of the first one? Because they were sure as hell talking that up before release.

Are the levels in campaign made for four player coop like Gears 3? Because that game was kinda designed around coop and while the levels were okay, the game was waaay too easy even on hard. And on insane the difficulty just jumped all over the place. Especially the bosses were kinda shitty on Insane (and a total cakewalk on any other difficulty)

Shame about the lack of content coupled with the extreme selling of ingame items and season passes. Guess Halo 4 was the last game I bought on xbox.

Edited by KittyVonDoom

@radioactivez0r said:

The review text reads a lot more positive than 3 stars, somehow, and much different than the tweets that went out after it posted. Maybe Jeff had time to stew on it a little more? Anyway, is the Declassified thing on the main campaign or Aftermath? That part was confusing (though I like the idea).

Well, Jeff's given 4 stars to games and not long after, could barely stand to speak the name of the game, let alone given a reason to play it. The whole numbered rating system is just weird and only seems to benefit MetaCritic creeps.

Posted by blueinferno

I think I'll wait for the price to drop on this one.

Edited by xxDrAiNxx

We all saw this coming...

Posted by PhilipDuck

Hmm i'll still buy it and see how it is, just good fun to play through these games. These prequels seem to be just blemishing great franchises from this to God of War.. That's enough now. New consoles new IP's.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

I'll get it anyway, the Gears campaigns provide some great co-op experiences.

Edited by SixteenSaltines

3 Stars. Pretty much what i figured Jeff would give this.