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
Posted by ValeYard

I preordered this just because my XBL buddies will be playing it. Four player coop on a half-decent game will always sell me. I think Jeff is pretty fair to the game, praising some gameplay changes. However, I also think that it's lame to just have four MP maps and expect us to shell out on a season pass to get what in times gone by would have been the 'full 60 dollar experience'. So I pretty much agree with Jeff, he sticks up for the consumer a lot these days. Something many people in the games press don't seem able to do, sitting on their opinionated clouds above us.

Posted by Cold_Wolven

I was never interested in playing this game, maybe I'll pick it up when the slow periods for game releases starts. I'm not a fan of prequels, I want to see a story move forward rather than try and fill me in on things I don't much care about.

Edited by Tennmuerti

@liquidprince said:

@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.

If anything my opinions on GoW: Ascension are much more negative then this review of Jeff's in regards to Judgement.

Ascension is nowhere near as bombastic as God of War 3. Lacks in polish which has been the trademark of the series. The locations are not as iconic, interesting or as diverse. Kratos move set is way more limited. Combat is not quite as fluid. There is only 1 boss moment that measures up to the over the topness of the fights in 3. The gore and violence is toned down. Kratos is less of an angry asshole (which is kinda sad). Camera not as well directed. And on top of that all the game has very buggy sound that is constantly either dropping altogether or is fluctuating the volumes of various sources. It is a stripped down experience in every way imo.

I went back and put in my God of War 3 disk just to check that my rose tinted goggles aren't on; sure enough it was instantly a more enjoyable experience. I'm having more fun replaying the same content of 3, then I did playing Ascension.

2c

Posted by ILikePopCans

It seems like other reviewers did not get hung up on the lack of maps like Jeff did. I think Jeff would have given it a 4 if there was more maps. It was his major critique with the game.

Posted by Hansolol

I've been sour on this franchise since the second game. Gears 1's multiplayer was so good too.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@maskedarcstrike: Actually, I kind of have a thing for darker skinned guys. But I don't have a thing for monsters, and Cole was wayyyyy too big and veiny and stuff for my taste.

And everyone got warmer skin tones in 3, everyone. So it doesn't surprise me that he got a similar treatment. And he also looks younger.

Look at pictures of Morgan Freeman, most of them he's got a pretty similar color tone to Cole in that picture. And some, he's got color tone much closer to the original. It's all about how the skin is lit. Thanks to spending hours learning multi-layer SSS in blender, I have a much better appreciation for how much the lighting affects the appearance of skin.

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!!!!!!!!!!!!

Edited by Xshinobi

About the maps thing. I think Shawn Elliott made a great point back on GFW Radio. Who cares how many maps are available as long as the ones that are included are well made. TF2 shipped with a hand full of maps but no one really cared because they were well done maps. I can't speak to the quality of the maps as I haven't played the game but getting bent out shape over the number maps included seems a silly.

Online
Edited by Veektarius

Even if I agree with some here that Jeff would be more likely to knock this down a peg than some others based on its sameness and extraneous position with regards to a completed trilogy, I had basically decided I was only getting this at full retail if it proved to be a huge surprise labor of love like 3 was. I think this is evidence enough that that's not the case here.

Posted by Lockeyness

@xcharliesheen: You're going to buy it anyway. This review is clearly not for you. Calm down and get your season pass. Four multiplayer maps is clearly a ding against the franchise. In the past, Gears 3 launched with ten maps. Don't you think that stripping it down by six maps is a negative? It's certainly not a positive. Also, your Revengeance analogy is strange as it isn't part of a franchise that is known for its established multiplayer. Also, Tomb Raider has five maps and its multiplayer is, arguably, trash, but it also isn't part of a franchise that is known for its established multiplayer.

Now, before you get upset at me, take a while to realize what you're upset about: a slightly middling-to-decent scored review of a game that you've already decisively made the choice to purchase. Me, I'm not interested in it at all. Sure, because of some of the points brought up in the review, but also because of Baird. Because fuck Baird.

Edited by civid

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

At this point that's a pretty low score with IGN's standards. Christ, even Gametrailers scoring system is more reasonable than IGN's and that scoring system is fucking broken!

Posted by AssInAss
Posted by WiqidBritt

Man, I don't get this, Brad gives 5 stars to a $40 20+ mission expansion that also does a lot to revitalize the multiplayer game and everyone freaks out because "Of course Brad gave it 5 stars"

Whereas Jeff gives an average score to a full priced game that in some ways feels like an expansion pack, that also removes one of the most well liked modes from the previous iterations and everyone freaks out because "He's being too hard and just trying to generate pageviews"

You people are insane.

Posted by fleshribbon

It sounded alright with those campaign modifiers until I read that there are only 4 MP maps!?! That's just a blatant rip-off for a game that many people just buy for the multiplayer these days.

Posted by Lockeyness
Posted by Drekly

Can't wait for the quick-look, if there's one before the guys leave.

Edited by Sammo21

So far I think this is the lowest review I've see for this game yet.

Edited by TheLastGunslinger
  
Posted by Creamypies

Hmm, think I'll pass and stick to Gears 3. Why the fuck would you get rid of Horde mode?! It's the best thing Gears has.

Posted by tourgen

Y for frags is pretty cool, but no sidearm is a rough trade off for it.

And yeah 4 maps and no horde. I'll pass on the multiplayer.

Anyway good to hear the campaign is a little different. Sounds fun

Edited by ShaggE

After Gears 3, it'll be tough for any follow-up to not seem a little thin. That game was just packed to the gills.

Really, the only thing that seems like a downer to me is the lack of Horde mode. Why would they cut that?

Edited by Snakepond

I hate the 5 star system rating and how metacritic interprets the Giant Bomb score. If your going to put yourself on metacritic and have the everyone outside of Giant Bomb look at your review you need to move to a 100% scale. 3 out 5 starts here is a decent to good game, but on metacritic it's a 60% and that's garbage on their site.

Posted by MisterBananaFoam

Lots of Baird hate here. I genuinely like his character more than most of the guys in Gears of War.

But I had a feeling that this game would be average; the fact that Cliff left the company before it came to fruition certainly doesn't help. I might rent it sometime if nothing else.

Posted by Tr0n

@snakepond: Metacritic is über crap and shouldn't even be a site on the internet.

Posted by SerHulse

@shagge said:

...Really, the only thing that seems like a downer to me is the lack of Horde mode. Why would they cut that?

DLC? According to Epic, 2 of the planned DLC includes new modes. I would have to guess one of them would be Horde...

Edited by Krakn3Dfx

Lack of horde mode means a lack of interest for me. I bought Gears 3 pretty much JUST for the horde mode, I played it at a friend's house, picked it up on the way home, and put probably 40 hours into horde mode all by itself. To date, I've never even touched the campaign in Gears 2 or 3. Just doesn't interest me.

Also, if they release it as some sort of paid DLC option down the line, they can kiss my ass.

Posted by pingolobo

I have a big problem with purchasable XP or disadvantageous gear but if Gears' XP is only for cosmetic purposes then let'em go nuts. I'm still gonna wait on this game.

Posted by DharmaBum

I'll stick with Gears 3 and its 20 or so maps until this sees a massive price drop. So many recycled assets from 3, even down to the look and sound of the menus.

Posted by divergence

By the time I finished off Gears 3 I was done with the series, at least for now. The plot is never fully developed (what the heck is with the Locust Queen? Thanks for not answering these questions..) I might pass and see what Gears looks like on next gen systems.

Edited by ShaggE

@serhulse said:

@shagge said:

...Really, the only thing that seems like a downer to me is the lack of Horde mode. Why would they cut that?

DLC? According to Epic, 2 of the planned DLC includes new modes. I would have to guess one of them would be Horde...

If so, that's... not good. I'm pretty accepting of DLC in general, but offering Horde as DLC would be unbelievably shady.

Posted by Colourful_Hippie

@mordeaniischaos: Have you played any of the Gears games for a decent amount of time? The online modes are great but the real content are the maps because they allow you to see the full dynamics of the different modes (like changing strategies for Horde in each of the many maps in past games)

4 maps for MP is pretty crazy for any game, that goes double for a Gears game.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@colourful_hippie: I never said it wasn't, just that its not the end of the world and not worth two stars. I get it's not the optimal thing, but at the same time, it feels like the number impact is not at all the same as the actual impact, so people will see "only four maps!" and freak out.

I also never got the impression that Gears game types needed special maps to really work. 4 good, diverse maps is fine. It's not awesome, but it's plenty to get by on, especially in a game that seems, as I've said before, to be more focused on the campaign.

Posted by pornstorestiffi

This will be the first game I buy this year.

And it will be one of the many games i won´t buy this year.

Posted by Little_Socrates

@clonedzero: I totally get that. I trust the part where there are four competitive maps and four maps for OverRun that practically end the game's multiplayer before it can ever get started, though.

I worry that a lot of people will think he's just being cynical, not read the review, and will buy the game and hate it for lack of MP content. That is a comically small amount of content. As a person who did not enjoy Gears 3's campaign (and didn't finish the first two) I will be skipping this one.

Posted by kennybaese

I plan to play through this campaign in co-op and have no interest at all in the multiplayer otherwise. I expect to have a pretty decent amount of fun with it.

Posted by Atary77

I feel the same about this game they way I felt about God of War: Ascension and Halo 4. They're not bad at all but, even as a fan of these series I don't feel too compelled to go out and spend sixty bucks on them. =/

Posted by Fwankenstein

Interesting story twists in a gears of war game hahaha. I think not. I usually trust your judgement Jeff but you have steered me wrong when it came to Gears before (Gears Of War 3)

Edited by benu302000

Train roll on.

#yearOfTheThreeOutOfFive

Edited by Little_Socrates

@mordeaniischaos: You are operating under the presumption that Gears of War Judgment would have earned a five-star review otherwise. Jeff repeatedly iterates that he found the story kind of bland and that the constant attempt to sell you DLC and microtransactions is frustrating. Especially due to the lack of content in the multiplayer, but the point is made before the number of launch maps are mentioned.

If the game felt content-complete, I still believe it only would have earned four stars. But the multiplayer portion feels especially thin, so three.

Also, scores are less important than one's actual feelings on a game, so.

Posted by Captain_Tolerable

Cynicism is a great quality in a game reviewer and it's baffling to me to suggest otherwise. I want someone to be harsh on a game because I want to know everything that is -wrong- with the game and decide whether to buy it after the Pros and Cons have been weighed. People are putting WAY too much stock into the rating system without actually reading the points in the review that actually matter.

Posted by RazielCuts

I came here to be part of the 'web hits.'

Posted by LegendaryChopChop

Seems dumb and generic, and I don't see this moving over the hardcore Gears players from 3. Total cash-in game.

Edited by gogosox82

Wait there's only 4 maps? I thought the whole point of this thing was the multiplayer(at least that's the impression I got from all of the trailers and such) and they only have 4 maps? That's kind of a bummer if you were looking forward to this.

Posted by Kohe321

Think I'll pass on this one, good review!

Edited by Colourful_Hippie

@mordeaniischaos said:

@colourful_hippie: I never said it wasn't, just that its not the end of the world and not worth two stars. I get it's not the optimal thing, but at the same time, it feels like the number impact is not at all the same as the actual impact, so people will see "only four maps!" and freak out.

I also never got the impression that Gears game types needed special maps to really work. 4 good, diverse maps is fine. It's not awesome, but it's plenty to get by on, especially in a game that seems, as I've said before, to be more focused on the campaign.

3 stars and you're talking like someone from the outside looking in. The numerous, diverse maps have been the norm for the franchise. 4 just seems crazy especially when they are planning on selling you a lot more but for extra.

EDIT: Thought you meant the review score, I know what you mean by 2 stars now.

@little_socrates said:

@mordeaniischaos: You are operating under the presumption that Gears of War Judgment would have earned a five-star review otherwise. Jeff repeatedly iterates that he found the story kind of bland and that the constant attempt to sell you DLC and microtransactions is frustrating. Especially due to the lack of content in the multiplayer, but the point is made before the number of launch maps are mentioned.

If the game felt content-complete, I still believe it only would have earned four stars. But the multiplayer portion feels especially thin, so three.

Also, scores are less important than one's actual feelings on a game, so.

This is what I think too.

Posted by Toug

Baird is the best Gears character.

That.... doesn't really make me any more inclined to play this one, but I'm reppin' Baird anyway.

Edited by iAmJohn

@mordeaniischaos: You are operating under the presumption that Gears of War Judgment would have earned a five-star review otherwise. Jeff repeatedly iterates that he found the story kind of bland and that the constant attempt to sell you DLC and microtransactions is frustrating. Especially due to the lack of content in the multiplayer, but the point is made before the number of launch maps are mentioned.

If the game felt content-complete, I still believe it only would have earned four stars. But the multiplayer portion feels especially thin, so three.

Also, scores are less important than one's actual feelings on a game, so.

This is what I think too.

Seriously this. Did these people who think that the lack of maps is the only thing making this a three-star game read the same review as me? Everything Jeff has written sounds like a four would have been generous.

Posted by GasparNolasco

@mordeaniischaos:

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.

Agreed, the start of the generation offers a window for new ideas, but let's not forget that the mentality of the industry was very different 7 years ago when the generation started, they may not be willing to take that opportunity window this time. Most previews of next-gen games that we've seem in the last E3 and the Sony event are notably similar (or sequels) to what we have now, just with better graphics.

With each successive generation the risks are higher just for the sheer value of time and money needed to generate assets. Game companies will be willing to bet less in the novelty value of new titles or genres since it is established that the best selling games are 1st and 3rd Person Shooters.

Posted by KatyGaGa

oh man, Brad isn't going to like this. He's been waiting so long for this game :(

Posted by Linkster7

Goddamn it. I wanted this game for one reason, horde mode. I do not like the sound of this survival mode shit