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 zombie2011

This will be the first game I buy this year.

Posted by JayEH

Expected this :(

Edited by DonChipotle

I forgot there was a new Gears game coming out. Now I know why.

Edited by Fram

Map count sounds like a cheap excuse to sell more DLC. Damn.

Posted by sissylion

Fuck Baird

Edited by canucks23

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

Posted by Fr0Br0

Seems like you've made some slight edits since the review written on Unprofessional Fridays

Edited by big_jon

Too bad.

Posted by Milkman

The one game starring Baird turns out to be one Gears game that isn't very good. What a surprise. #FuckBaird

Edited by DJJoeJoe

Is there not a less grimmy image you can use for the big header image that displays on the front page of giantbomb? It's so grimy! Yikes.

Posted by Hockeymask27

After reading the first few lines about how this game is not about Marcus and the whole jail situation. I now know why I am not feeling the love sorry Baird I'll pass.

Posted by deerokus

Can't believe they've removed the amazing horde mode from Gears 3, by far the best thing about that game :(.

Posted by Garrador

I always planned on buying this game, but not at full price. I am sure it will be 20 bucks off everywhere in two weeks.

Posted by SaturdayNightSpecials

Hey, if it's good for a rent, that's all I expected of it anyway. Could've been worse.

Posted by Yummylee

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!

Online
Posted by MadLaughter

What replaced Horde Mode sounds immensely uninteresting.

Edited by Morbid_Coffee

From what little I played of the beta the game seemed really off in a way that wasn't really fun. Hearing that the rest of the game is super thin on content is making me glad I didn't jump the gun and pre-order.

Edited by Supergooder

Cinco presents double xp week

Posted by Deathpooky

That campaign declassified sounds weird, though I suppose I probably need to see it in action to see if it makes sense.

Edited by big_jon

IGN rated this game high, though I don't trust them hugely, this is Jeff here people, take the review with a grain of salt.

Edited by FiestaUnicorn

I should really pick up a copy of Gears 3

Posted by Darkness2386

Loved the first 3 Gears games but had no interest in this at all. Maybe wait for a price drop

Edited by GioVANNI

Baird is the worst.

Posted by Suspence

People Can Fly should have been making Bulletstorm 2 instead!

Posted by MEATBALL

My copy turned up last Friday since it shipped early, and I really enjoyed the campaign. I really like the way it was blended with some Horde mode DNA and the way declassified missions let People Clan Fly flex their creative muscle. Almost all of the enemy encounters were really well designed and super enjoyable to tackle, as well as often being a lot more demanding of the way I play the game than previous entries. They made up for my disappointment in the lack of any boss fights or setpieces that would normally be peppered throughout. Playing through Aftermath definitely hammered home that I'd have liked Judgment to be a little bit more of a traditional Gears of War experience, though.

Story was rubbish, though. Baird was definitely toned down, and the same goes for Cole, which was disappointing in the latter case. Paduk was probably the most interesting character, but that's not necessarily saying much.

Gears is still extremely enjoyable, and as someone who normally plays more campaign than horde or multiplayer modes I really dig the potential the campaign has for repeat plays in co-op thanks to the random element to enemy spawns. I like the way Judgment messes with the formula and think it's a pretty cool spin-off of sorts that's a worthy (if non-essential) entry into the series. A little like ODST in that way.

On another note, as far as unnecessary prequels go, I think Judgment does a lot more to justify its existence on the gameplay front than God of War Ascension does.

Edited by Patman99

They really should have left the franchise alone after Gears 3. I just feel that, much like farm soil, developers need to let their big franchises rest after harvest. I mean give it a few years so that everyone has a chance to take a breather.

Posted by Clonedzero

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.

Posted by Krataur

Honestly, Baird is the only think making me interested in this game at all.

I'll wait for it to hit $20.

Posted by joshthebear

This is the score that I thought it would get.

Edited by MikeydCT

I dont want to play as Baird ewww

Online
Posted by courage_wolf

So how have they changed the Hammerburst this time?

Posted by superkebabi

Interesting. Did anyone expect this game to be the 'wacky character filled spinoff' of the series?

Posted by Yummylee
@big_jon said:

IGN rated this game high, though I don't trust them hugely, this is Jeff here people, take the review with a grain of salt.

Eurogamer and Joystiq have a lot of nice things to say about it as well. The lack of content does still stand as a legitimate criticism, though. Especially considering how much stuff was packed into Gears 3.

Online
Edited by Jeff

@djjoejoe: Yup, I'm uploading new screens now. Couldn't upload them until after the embargo hit so I had to base all this promo stuff around existing (crummy) images.

Staff
Posted by bwheeeler

Did I read that right? Literally four competitive multiplayer maps?

Edited by Ravenlight

Should have stuck with the version you "wrote" on the stream last week.

Posted by Mystyr_E

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

Edited by bybeach

I'll get this down the road. Thankyou for the review.

Lately all I have is games I'm waiting to drop in price, except for Bioshock Infinite. That for the first time in a long run I'm thinking of pre-order. I'm glad Gears of War, judgment at least held it's own, and has at minimum some improvements

Posted by Phatmac

Utterly shocked that it doesn't have horde mode.

Posted by Yanngc33

Can we move on to next-gen now?

Posted by maskedarcstrike

So since they switched up the controls for weapon switching to Y can you still carry two main weapons and a pistol?

Jeff's review mentioned that grenades are tied to the bumper now he but didnt mention anything if you can still carry two main weapons + a pistol.

Posted by Deusoma

@clonedzero: You don't trust Jeff because he's too cynical... but you would trust Alex Navarro?
:u

Posted by Yummylee

So since they switched up the controls for weapon switching to Y can you still carry two main weapons and a pistol?

Jeff's review mentioned that grenades are tied to the bumper now he but didnt mention anything if you can still carry two main weapons + a pistol.

Nah, it's just two guns -- full stop. Carrying a pistol no longer counts as a sidearm but as your secondary weapon, which... yeah, that's weird.

Online
Edited by mrfluke

i REALLY want to know where did epic get their data that says baird was the favorite character.

still picking this up, preordered it for 50 bucks on newegg, so ill play some more gears for a bit.

Posted by BaconGames

@meatball said:

My copy turned up last Friday since it shipped early, and I really enjoyed the campaign. I really like the way it was blended with some Horde mode DNA and the way declassified missions let People Clan Fly flex their creative muscle. Almost all of the enemy encounters were really well designed and super enjoyable to tackle, as well as often being a lot more demanding of the way I play the game than previous entries. They made up for my disappointment in the lack of any boss fights or setpieces that would normally be peppered throughout. Playing through Aftermath definitely hammered home that I'd have liked Judgment to be a little bit more of a traditional Gears of War experience, though.

Story was rubbish, though. Baird was definitely toned down, and the same goes for Cole, which was disappointing in the latter case. Paduk was probably the most interesting character, but that's not necessarily saying much.

Gears is still extremely enjoyable, and as someone who normally plays more campaign than horde or multiplayer modes I really dig the potential the campaign has for repeat plays in co-op thanks to the random element to enemy spawns. I like the way Judgment messes with the formula and think it's a pretty cool spin-off of sorts that's a worthy (if non-essential) entry into the series. A little like ODST in that way.

On another note, as far as unnecessary prequels go, I think Judgment does a lot more to justify its existence on the gameplay front than God of War Ascension does.

Based on the review alone (we'll be hearing plenty on the Bombcast I'm sure) it seems like at the very least the campaign is structured in an interesting way and the gameplay is potentially tweaked for the better in some cases. Either way, as you said, it's still got dat Gears gameplay and that's certainly enough. Shame about the multiplayer though. I feel like enough people could have said "meh, it's got more hoard mode stuff so I'll grab it" but obviously not the case here.

As someone who has never played past the first one because I don't own an Xbox, I can't say the story bits in this one are all that surprising. I can make a concession that Gears 3 is good for what it is story-wise but yeah, I'm with the crowd, fuck Baird and all that entails.

Lastly, I totally agree that I think if people were waiting to compare this game and God of War Ascension, this seems like a better unnecessary prequel than GoW.

Posted by maskedarcstrike

@yummylee said:
@maskedarcstrike said:

So since they switched up the controls for weapon switching to Y can you still carry two main weapons and a pistol?

Jeff's review mentioned that grenades are tied to the bumper now he but didnt mention anything if you can still carry two main weapons + a pistol.

Nah, it's just two guns -- full stop. Carrying a pistol no longer counts as a sidearm but as your secondary weapon, which... yeah, that's weird.

Thanks for answering that for me, yeah that's kind of a bummer.

Edited by dOm_CaTz

how in the fuck did they only release 4 maps for online play, 4 MAPS. can you imagine if cod released only 4 maps at launch. and on top of this they remove a game mode that they made popular. this just makes me sad. i'm gonna cuddle my gears 3 disc tonight to make myself feel better=[.

Posted by lord_karnack

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

Posted by MJones916

@sissylion: FUCK YOU! BAIRD IS THE MAN! Coupled with the Cole Train. WOO BABY!

Sort of being facetious, but still...Baird is awesome.