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 Yummylee
@ez123 said:

@mr_skeleton said:

Why would anyone think that making a game around the most hated character in the franchise it a good idea..

Exactly. No one thinks that's a good idea. That's why Epic made a game around a well-liked character that was missing in large portions of Gears 3.

Yeppers. Baird is quite possibly the most popular character in the series. And I'm not surprised, because Fuck Yeah, Baird!

If this was to be a game following the exploits of Jace, then he'd be onto something.

Posted by Lockeyness

Man, all the people complaining about this review are dicks. Luckily, there are some people commenting that are decent rational people, but overall, it is not a positive experience. I give this comment section 2 out of 5 stars :(

What?! You're clearly just trying to create controversy and generate page views!!

Posted by George_Hukas

Jeff likes shooters?

News to me.

Edited by revel

I hate 5 star ratings.

Dead Space 3 - The game practically ruins the trilogy. The end is atrocious. Horrible sidekick crap. Horrible in game micro trans stuff. Terrible ending to an otherwise great franchise/trilogy

3 out of 5 stars!

Gears of War Judgement - Decent game. Sucks it is 60$ and has 4 MP maps, but is worth playing and fun. Really its just mostly the lack of MP maps up-front. Perhaps they will fix that later. But upfront only 4 maps.

3 out of 5 stars!

There are a lot of negative reviews getting 3/5 and a lot of not-bad but not-great reviews getting 3/5. :/

Edited by Brackynews

There's only one piece of DLC that could sell me on this product.

DOIN' IT!

Edited by LethalEnforcer

Well I agree,,

Also,, since this is the end of the console cycle you can expect many more lackluster games,,

Edited by Raven10

@fiberpay: You realize they gave SimCity 3 stars before it was released right? As in, they didn't take the server issues into account because they made use of the press servers, which were perfectly functional. Alex wrote a lengthy article discussing that whole issue, which was very interesting to read.

Edited by Raven10

@ez123: What he really meant but was too afraid to say out loud was that what he really wanted was a night with Sam wrapped in bacon. I mean eating bacon off a naked woman. Can't think of a much better meal than that.

Posted by fiberpay

@raven10 said:

@fiberpay: You realize they gave SimCity 3 stars before it was released right? As in, they didn't take the server issues into account because they made use of the press servers, which were perfectly functional. Alex wrote a lengthy article discussing that whole issue, which was very interesting to read.

Yes sir I do, I also realize they have an edit button. Plenty of site do edits, it's time for the game industry to catch up. Living a word where a games performance after release is a thing, Giantbomb should be covering that too. Point still stands, a broken game on this site gets a 3 and a perfectly running game gets a 3.....makes sense to me lol.

Posted by Lockeyness
@fiberpay said:

@raven10 said:

@fiberpay: You realize they gave SimCity 3 stars before it was released right? As in, they didn't take the server issues into account because they made use of the press servers, which were perfectly functional. Alex wrote a lengthy article discussing that whole issue, which was very interesting to read.

Yes sir I do, I also realize they have an edit button. Plenty of site do edits, it's time for the game industry to catch up. Living a word where a games performance after release is a thing, Giantbomb should be covering that too. Point still stands, a broken game on this site gets a 3 and a perfectly running game gets a 3.....makes sense to me lol.

What would the point of that be, exactly? They go back and edit the review to say that the servers aren't meeting the demand of the game and what? Fine, they take off a star. What do they do when the servers start to act normal and the game can be played as intended? Let's say that happens, oh... now. Then they go back and edit the review again to say that the servers are stable then throw the score back to three stars. That is something a CRAZY PERSON does.

Posted by Raven10

@fiberpay said:

@raven10 said:

@fiberpay: You realize they gave SimCity 3 stars before it was released right? As in, they didn't take the server issues into account because they made use of the press servers, which were perfectly functional. Alex wrote a lengthy article discussing that whole issue, which was very interesting to read.

Yes sir I do, I also realize they have an edit button. Plenty of site do edits, it's time for the game industry to catch up. Living a word where a games performance after release is a thing, Giantbomb should be covering that too. Point still stands, a broken game on this site gets a 3 and a perfectly running game gets a 3.....makes sense to me lol.

What would the point of that be, exactly? They go back and edit the review to say that the servers aren't meeting the demand of the game and what? Fine, they take off a star. What do they do when the servers start to act normal and the game can be played as intended? Let's say that happens, oh... now. Then they go back and edit the review again to say that the servers are stable then throw the score back to three stars. That is something a CRAZY PERSON does.

Like I said, Alex wrote a lengthy article on this very subject describing why he chose not to alter the review. But this is one of the key points. At what point do you stop editing a review? And what warrants an edit and what doesn't? I agree it is a major issue but with the staff here as small as it is it would be impossible to cover new games while still keeping track of all the old games they have already reviewed. Look at, say, Arx Fatalis. That game got a patch last year to update it to work with Windows 7. The game came out a decade ago. No one cares anymore about the score on that game. But why is it fair to not update that review when you do update the SimCity review? Do you have a specific cutoff date? What if a game like The Witcher 2 adds a huge number of features a year later? If that is beyond the cutoff date do you ignore the new changes even though they are far more substantial than the free changes in virtually any other game?

I guess my point is that in a perfect world a review would always reflect the current state of a game. But that is impossible given the number of games that need to be covered.

Posted by fiberpay

@fiberpay said:

@raven10 said:

@fiberpay: You realize they gave SimCity 3 stars before it was released right? As in, they didn't take the server issues into account because they made use of the press servers, which were perfectly functional. Alex wrote a lengthy article discussing that whole issue, which was very interesting to read.

Yes sir I do, I also realize they have an edit button. Plenty of site do edits, it's time for the game industry to catch up. Living a word where a games performance after release is a thing, Giantbomb should be covering that too. Point still stands, a broken game on this site gets a 3 and a perfectly running game gets a 3.....makes sense to me lol.

What would the point of that be, exactly? They go back and edit the review to say that the servers aren't meeting the demand of the game and what? Fine, they take off a star. What do they do when the servers start to act normal and the game can be played as intended? Let's say that happens, oh... now. Then they go back and edit the review again to say that the servers are stable then throw the score back to three stars. That is something a CRAZY PERSON does.

First of all this is not my site and I am not a game reviewer so the decision should be left up to someone who does it, not me. But if it were me running a site and doing reviews, I would do the initial play through before launch and post the story. Then on launch day I would I would put in a couple hours and adjust accordingly. I seriously think reviewers have to look into something like this with the coming generation of consoles, because this is a big problem. When a site like that has hundreds of thousands of people visiting it for game information they cannot just report on their limited very structured tests. That leads me to the point since you cannot figure it out and that is, all those people come here for advise and they gave Simcity a passable review, yet all those people who bought it, including me, could not play it. That is not acceptable from a professional company that reviews products.

Posted by fiberpay

@raven10 said:

@lockeyness said:
@fiberpay said:

@raven10 said:

@fiberpay: You realize they gave SimCity 3 stars before it was released right? As in, they didn't take the server issues into account because they made use of the press servers, which were perfectly functional. Alex wrote a lengthy article discussing that whole issue, which was very interesting to read.

Yes sir I do, I also realize they have an edit button. Plenty of site do edits, it's time for the game industry to catch up. Living a word where a games performance after release is a thing, Giantbomb should be covering that too. Point still stands, a broken game on this site gets a 3 and a perfectly running game gets a 3.....makes sense to me lol.

What would the point of that be, exactly? They go back and edit the review to say that the servers aren't meeting the demand of the game and what? Fine, they take off a star. What do they do when the servers start to act normal and the game can be played as intended? Let's say that happens, oh... now. Then they go back and edit the review again to say that the servers are stable then throw the score back to three stars. That is something a CRAZY PERSON does.

Like I said, Alex wrote a lengthy article on this very subject describing why he chose not to alter the review. But this is one of the key points. At what point do you stop editing a review? And what warrants an edit and what doesn't? I agree it is a major issue but with the staff here as small as it is it would be impossible to cover new games while still keeping track of all the old games they have already reviewed. Look at, say, Arx Fatalis. That game got a patch last year to update it to work with Windows 7. The game came out a decade ago. No one cares anymore about the score on that game. But why is it fair to not update that review when you do update the SimCity review? Do you have a specific cutoff date? What if a game like The Witcher 2 adds a huge number of features a year later? If that is beyond the cutoff date do you ignore the new changes even though they are far more substantial than the free changes in virtually any other game?

I guess my point is that in a perfect world a review would always reflect the current state of a game. But that is impossible given the number of games that need to be covered.

They need to extend the review to cover a launch. Getting home or DL'in and being able to play is integral part of how a person money should be spent.

They are not to busy to jump in launch day and a play a couple hours to see how the launch is going.

They are way more demanding jobs than what they do and those people get a lot more done that these people do, so I think they have time to jump in on launch day and play a couple hours and adjust a review if need be.

Posted by Marokai

@revel said:

I hate 5 star ratings.

Dead Space 3 - The game practically ruins the trilogy. The end is atrocious. Horrible sidekick crap. Horrible in game micro trans stuff. Terrible ending to an otherwise great franchise/trilogy

3 out of 5 stars!

Gears of War Judgement - Decent game. Sucks it is 60$ and has 4 MP maps, but is worth playing and fun. Really its just mostly the lack of MP maps up-front. Perhaps they will fix that later. But upfront only 4 maps.

3 out of 5 stars!

There are a lot of negative reviews getting 3/5 and a lot of not-bad but not-great reviews getting 3/5. :/

A problem I similarly hate and that they themselves invite by maintaining an anachronistic score system purely for the purposes of getting more clicks.

Edited by MooseyMcMan

Hm, all these changes to the campaign structure seem strange to me. Those challenges seem interesting, but making the whole game into very defined combat zones like that does not seem like the way to go. I mean, if every area has that three star thing, then that kinda puts a limit on how small battles get. IE, fights that aren't big enough to warrant three stars of combat won't happen. And with the giant Gears logo before fights, you always know when they're going to happen, which takes out any surprise.

And having the scoring thing appear after each fight just takes you out of the game. Past Gears games just kept rolling on and on until you got to the end (cutscenes included).

And I hope the areas you fight in get bigger than what Jeff showed. Both the parts of the campaign in the Quick Look and the MP maps looked tiny compared to a lot of the bigger areas in past Gears games.

And the changes to the controls and stuff seem like steps backward to me. I get giving grenades their own button, but why get rid of pistols? Were pistols just something that not many people used? I dunno. I was already starting to get a little alienated in Gears 3 when ammo boxes didn't have sniper rifle ammo, so I'm not surprised that a lot of these things seem like negatives to me.

And I need to improve my paragraph structure. Starting each one with "and" is poor form.

Regardless, I'm bummed by what I've seen of this game. I managed to avoid any coverage of it until today, and this stuff is completely turning me off from the game. Maybe I'll play it at some point, I dunno. Probably not.

Moderator
Posted by Yummylee

@mooseymcman: You can still use pistols, it's just that they will now count as your secondary weapon like any other, rather than as a permanent sidearm.

Edited by Brackynews

@marokai said:

@revel said:

There are a lot of negative reviews getting 3/5 and a lot of not-bad but not-great reviews getting 3/5. :/

A problem I similarly hate and that they themselves invite by maintaining an anachronistic score system purely for the purposes of getting more clicks.

A proper use of "anachronistic" might be to reference thumbs up / thumbs down. I'm not sure what you're trying to get at, unless you're saying switch everything to just a Like button because that's where things are headed... oh it's full circle isn't it? Crap.

There's a good quote on that Youtube blog:

Thus, the ratings system is primarily being used as a seal of approval, not as an editorial indicator of what the community thinks about a video.

Editorial. Hmm. Sounds useful. Especially when making a weighted purchase decision given wildly differing personal tastes. Or, y'know, feel free to call Ryan & Jeff names I guess. In which case you shouldn't even be concerned with their reviews.

Edited by bybeach

A lot of posts! A fair amount of ppl. were actually anticipating this game. I myself had heard of it, but did not expect overmuch. On the other hand I had the un-researched opinion it would retail for 40-50 bucks. Sometimes I think console games arbituarily shoot for top dollar. I still think I will hold on to my model, valid or not. It will be vindicated for the price-point I thought or less in probably a reasonable amount of time.

As for Baird/Cole being subdued in this, I am sorry. I can deal with a noisy Baird/Cole. Maybe that did not translate with much of the dev being outsourced, as capable as PPl. Can Fly are. It's a little bit like Platinum doing a MGS game..comes off a bit different. I do like PPl. can Fly, and am not drawing a direct comparison for success or failure.

I'm not sure though I like the declassify mechanic, just to say it. I prefer a story arc and intrinsic difficulty rather than a by-set arcade approach with rules and limitations. I ought to try it anyways.

Posted by H00NER

Every criticism leveled against this game could just as easily be applied to any of the recent Halo games.

Edited by aceofspudz

I like the prequel tribunal-flashback framing device. It's been used very effectively in other media, but it's too bad they couldn't think of a story to tell with it here.

Edited by fartGOD666

I almost forgot to read the comments on this, and oh man, I cannot tell you how funny it is to see people emotionally invested in the Gears franchise

Posted by Livingitlarge224

@livingitlarge224 said:

Man, all the people complaining about this review are dicks. Luckily, there are some people commenting that are decent rational people, but overall, it is not a positive experience. I give this comment section 2 out of 5 stars :(

What?! You're clearly just trying to create controversy and generate page views!!

You got me! I'll just have to rely on these Doritos and cases of Mountain Dew to console myself! Maybe if you tune in next week, my review of Bioshock Infinite's Review's comment section will be more to your liking!

Posted by laserbolts

4 maps? Sawed off gets 2 shots before reloading and no horde for 60 bucks. Yeah fuck you epic.

Edited by tgoldberg

I think this is the sign that GoW has run out of steam.

Edited by Marokai

@brackynews said:

[lots of random links that were completely beside the point but i'm sure made you feel smart]

I think you missed my point there. Admittedly, the "just for the purposes of generating more clicks" line was too harsh and didn't accurately get at what I meant, so I apologize, but the apparent reason for using five star review systems (or any other review systems) aren't much better, if there's even one of them you can nail down specifically.

What I meant by "anachronistic" was that these review structures are rooted in and best built for one very specific thing: print media, and the way to write and distribute video game reviews basically hasn't changed much because it's all they've ever known and almost no one experiments with the formula. It's reached the point that, to best hear their thoughts on a video game, the review itself basically doesn't enter the conversation whatsoever. You get your best and most well explained purchasing advice by listening to Quick Looks and Bombcast segments; the score systems themselves are worthless.

Listen to any response to criticism of a review, and the response you'll get from them is "Stop looking at the score, ffs, just read the review." Which, even in cases where the review itself isn't directly contradicted by their own words or attitude in later video or audio appearances (which has happened, multiple times), is a shitty response that only draws attention to how vestigial the score system has become and how insignificant of a purpose it actually serves.

Score systems seem to do nothing but serve as gold stars for good developers, assist in score aggregate sites (which itself is another negative), and facilitate end-of-year award shows. From the consumer's perspective, I get nothing out of scores but confusion at what the hell they mean, and that's not my fault, as I said. That is a problem that they perpetuate by stubbornly maintaining a system that even they admit serves little purpose on their own but to draw people in.

I'm willing to concede that, for low-information audiences, scores serve as a quick and easy shorthand. If you're browsing a newspaper or you got a subscription to Game Informer practically against your will, a score system is just an easy way of telling you "buy it or not, because you're probably too ADD to read this whole column." But Giant Bomb is a site that, ostensibly in Jeff's own words "skews harder edge." If that's so, I don't see why this site needs them to simultaneously put on their "average joe hats" and assign an arbitrary number to a game when their audience is dramatically more informed on average than other sites or publications.

Score systems are not inherently bad, the AV Club uses them to great effect when reviewing TV shows and movies because they have their own little spin on a letter grading system; but that's the point I'm getting at. Giant Bomb should create their own way of grading a game because this site is, and I don't think people would necessarily argue against this, niche or at least serves (or should, at least. God knows they're doing they're best to turn that around in the last year or so) a different audience than your IGNs of the world. In one of Jeff's jar time videos since the new year, he basically defended the score system by arguing it draws more people in to read the review than otherwise would. That's basically an admission that the primary, if not the only, purpose score systems serve is for views. If that's so, then, yes; for shame.

Posted by fisk0

@h00ner said:

Every criticism leveled against this game could just as easily be applied to any of the recent Halo games.

Not that I've played any of the Halo games since Halo 2, but don't they actually have that simple map editor that virtually makes the selection of multiplayer maps endless? That makes one of the major criticisms against this unapplicable on Halo.

Posted by sins_of_mosin

So this site gives the Starcraft 2 exp a 5 star, Simcity a 3 star, and this game as well a 3 star. Wow. Where to begin with this mess?

Posted by VisforVillains

I've always enjoyed this series but this one feels like a cash grab and the ever looming and awful business practice of putting out a yearly SKU. So many good game franchises are being run into the ground to the point where I don't care anymore. I miss the days where a good game came out every couple of years or so. Not just because it gave you a rest from burning out on the series but because it's always so much more polished.

Posted by mr_twinkie

i am not a fan of Baird either, but this reviewer has no idea what he is talking about. This game is awesome they finally bringing gears back to be a game worth $60. it is defiantly a must buy for the year. go to IGN if you want nonprejudicial reviews.

Edited by andrewf87462

Definitely won't be paying full price for this, i'll be picking it up when it's cheaper though, as Jeff's review does make it sound worth playing.

Edited by andrewf87462

You posted nothing. Are you speechless at the review?

Edited by Razputin

I loved Bulletstorm for it's tight controls and a well-directed campaign. Will have to play Judgment and some point.

Edited by Snakepond

I don't get it. Since, when does a short campaign 6-8hrs and multi-player mean the game is not worth $60. Every COD game is 4-6hrs and multi-player and that game always get 4 to 5 stars. What gives?

Star Craft 2 expansion gets 5 out of 5 and it's $40 plus you need to own the original SC2 which cost another $40.

Posted by Zenwork

Playing right now... average I do not like it too much.. generally boring do not buy unless you are the kind of multiplayer guy.

Posted by Zenwork

Almost finished and I haven't chaged my opinion so far. Worst Gears ever....

Edited by twinstarstunts

Wow, I can't believe after reading some of the comments here that people are knocking 'gears of war', in my opinion it is one of the best games out there and I keep playing it over and over from part 1 through to 'Judgement' and they just keep getting better..! (I must say, I never get why anyone ever changes the controls from one game to the next though). I can't wait to see what they bring out next and I wish they would bring out a new gears every 3 months or so..! I'm ready for the next one now...! Bring on the Gears..! Whoa..!!!

Shut up and take my money..!!!

Posted by Zenwork

People can screw a great franchise, go bankruptcy.