Gears of War: Judgment is an upcoming entry in the Gears of War series being developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly; PCF is handling the single-player campaign, while Epic is working on the multiplayer. The game is set fourteen years before the events of the first Gears of War, and will focus on the characters Damon Baird and Augustus Cole along with two new-to-the-series squadmates, Sofia Hendrick and Garron Paduk, all of whom form Kilo Squad.
The game will be told via flashbacks as Baird is on trial, with narration from his testimony framing the action. After finishing things the traditional way, players will be able to go back and play missions in "Declassified" mode, which tweaks things even further by having Baird "remember" things differently.
PlotDamon Baird as he appears in Gears of War: Judgment
Judgment begins a month after Emergence Day, when the Locust Horde suddenly emerge from underground in the world of Sera and stage a brutal war on all of humanity. Lieutenant Damon Baird of the Coalition of Ordered Governments army leads Kilo Squad in defending Halvo Bay, a large resort city with a prominent military presence. Locust forces, led by a fierce general known only as Karn, have invaded the city.
Kilo Squad consists of Baird and his new friend Augustus Cole, as well as Garron Paduk, a prisoner from the Union of Independent Republics who was granted a release to fight for the COG, and Sofia Hendrick, a former media correspondent who was training to become an Onyx Guard before the Locust invasion.
Although Baird manages to kill countless Locust, his unconventional methods draw the ire of Colonel Ezra Loomis, who is a highly traditional officer who believes in a textbook approach, even as the Locust's ferocity and diversity creates new challenges. Loomis detains Kilo Squad and charges them with desertion, cowardice, theft of experimental COG technology, and treason.
GameplayKilo Squad in Halvo Bay
Judgment is designed to be a faster-paced, more intense experience than the previous games in the series, leading to some control changes. Grenades are now treated as an off-hand weapon and thrown using the left bumper and weapon switching is done with a button press (the Y button by default). As a result, players can only carry two weapons of any kind, rather than holding two full-size weapons and a pistol. There is a reticle present on screen even when not aiming, increasing player accuracy.
Enemy spawns are handled by a new system known as the "Smart Spawn System," or S3. With a similar purpose as the AI Director found in the Left 4 Dead series, the S3 watches a player's performance and delivers enemies accordingly. The end goal is to make Gears of War: Judgment a significantly more difficult experience than its predecessors, though traditional difficulty settings are also available to govern player health and damage output.
One new mode is called Overrun. This is a class-based mode that feels like a twist on Gears 3's Beast mode. The attacking Locust players attempt to reach a generator that's being protected by human forces. Meanwhile, the humans are also broken up into classes, including soldier, medic, engineer, and so on. The different classes have different rechargeable abilities, such as spawning ammo crates, healing, creating turrets, and throwing grenades. This is a Stopwatch-style mode, so players play on both sides of the action and the team with the better attack time wins the match.
Another new multiplayer addition is the Free For All mode, Judgment's take on the tried and true deathmatch formula.
Gears of War 3 introduced a standard "high score" system for its arcade mode in campaign. Judgment will award players with between one to three stars for each completed story mission. These stars will be spent in a purchasing system that Epic has not yet revealed.
Overrun features "leveling" in a match for both sides; COG characters improve their special abilities, while Locust players are able to unlock more varieties of Locust with enough experience.
Locust players advance by reopening two sealed Emergence Holes to gain a new spawning point, after which the generator at the heart of the COG's base is vulnerable.
Overrun is playable in a private match and will have bot players available to fill in for human players in private games and possibly quick/ranked matches.
COG classesMedics can throw "stim" grenades to revive downed players.
On the COG side, character classes are based on the members of Kilo Squad.
- Damon Baird (Engineer) - Baird comes equipped with a Gnasher Shotgun, but also has a blowtorch as his secondary weapon. Although the torch can hurt Locust, its primary function is repairing COG barriers and structures on the fly, which is crucial because once they are completely destroyed, they are gone for the rest of the round. He can also deploy smaller turrets to supplement static fortifications.
- Augustus Cole (Soldier) - Cole starts with a Lancer and a Booshka grenade launcher, and can also throw ammo crates for teammates as other "assault" classes are frequently capable of.
- Sofia Hendrick (Medic) - Sofia uses a Lancer and Snub Pistol; she can throw stim grenades to revive players who are down.
- Garron Paduk (Scout) - Garron has a Markza semi-automatic rifle and a Snub Pistol. He can leverage his long-range weapons by climbing up to sniper perches that most units cannot reach. Paduk throws a "beacon grenade" that spots enemies through walls, pointing their silhouettes out to teammates, and also makes spotted enemies more vulnerable to damage.
Locust classesThe Rager as he appears before and after transformation.
- Ticker - The Locust Horde's walking land mines combine abilities seen in the Wild Ticker and regular Ticker from Gears of War 3's Beast mode. Tickers can attack with their claws and teeth, destroying human-built fortifications with surprising efficiency. When shot, the Imulsion-fueled explosives on their back will explode, or the player can detonate it manually (with a short delay) at the right opportunity.
- Wretch - Wretches retain the piercing scream from Beast mode; this scream stuns all humans in a fairly large circular radius surrounding the Wretch. Wretches are also capable of climbing into the perches that COG Scouts can reach, and are therefore important for countering their height advantage.
- Grenadier - Locust grenadiers wield Gnasher shotguns and can throw frag grenades that automatically regenerate after a short cooldown. By riding on a Bloodmount, they can regain depleted grenades more quickly. Grenadiers can also interact with Tickers by feeding them grenades to increase explosive power, and punting them over obstacles to get them deeper in the enemy base.
- Bloodmount - This fast, crafty creature can take Grenadiers and Kantus on its back for quick transport, and jump over mid-sized barriers that normal infantry cannot. In addition, players who ride the Bloodmount will have a reduced cooldown on their special ability.
- Rager - A new enemy in the series, this slender Locust initially appears to be a standard infantry unit that uses a Breechshot in normal combat. However, he has the ability to discard his weapon and enrage, enabling use of a powerful melee attack. Like the Berserker in Gears of War 3's Beast mode, enraging will impair vision and hearing capabilities.
- Kantus - The monks of the Locust Horde wield ink grenades and Hammerburst assault rifles, but are incapable of taking cover. However, their chants can heal and even revive most types of Locust. Riding a Bloodmount will enable them to chant more frequently.
- Serapede - These large, hard-shelled creatures can still attack with their fangs, but can also rear up and spew venom upon enemies. Serapedes are vulnerable in their glowing tail, which will continually shorten upon being attacked until their body is destroyed.
- Mauler - This large Locust infantry unit wields a Boomshield and a spiked flail that can stun enemies when he strikes the ground with it. In addition, he can spin his shield to slice nearby foes and deflect incoming bullets.
- Savage Corpser - These smaller corpsers can burrow under fortifications and are heavily shielded; they are only vulnerable in their heads, which are protected by a set of massive frontal claws.
Versus multiplayerRed vs. Blue has reached the Gears of War series.
Due to the revised control scheme and changed development goals, Epic Games made some adjustments to the competitive multiplayer formula for Judgment. The feature of "Down But Not Out" (DBNO) has been removed. Therefore, players are unable to revive teammates and execute downed enemies. Players can now jump a long distance down in specific parts of maps; they will take slight fall damage but will generally survive unless heavily injured when making the jump.
Other mechanics adjusted with multiplayer in mind include stopping power on rifles, which has been removed entirely to adjust the balance of rifles against shotguns as well as issues of map control. In addition, the concept of "perfect" active reloads that increase weapon damage or grant other benefits has been removed; active reloads are simply active or not active. This was done due to concerns of an active reload making a huge difference in competitive play.
Single-elimination gametypes (such as Warzone and Execution) are not in Judgment, a first for the series. Epic's Jim Brown, lead level designer for Judgment, stated on an official podcast that although they would not explicitly rule out the addition of a game mode without respawns in the future, doing so would not be an easy, "on/off" procedure.
To allay concerns of players who felt that maps could not be appropriately balanced for multiple game modes, Epic will develop maps that are specific to individual modes (including Overrun). It is not known how many maps will be included upon release.
Epic intends to support Judgment with dedicated servers to host matchmade games and retain the system of separating ranked and quick matches seen in Gears of War 2 and 3. They will also add "event" playlists with variations on normal game rules and starting weapons to rotate at different times.
Locust characters are no longer playable in multiplayer outside of Overrun. Quinn Del Hoyo, lead multiplayer designer for Judgment, said that playing as Locust was overall unpopular among the collective player base. Instead of Locust, there will be blue-colored and red-colored COG teams in team games.
In versus multiplayer, like in Gears of War 3, the game will allow users to select loadouts, but only one primary weapon (either a rifle or a shotgun) will be available upon spawning; the secondary will always be the Snub pistol. Players can still exchange the pistol for power weapons or guns that enemies drop.
Loadouts will also give players the option to change their grenade type; they can choose between frag grenades, ink grenades, or stim grenades. Incendiary grenades will only be available on certain maps as a "power weapon."
- Team Deathmatch - introduced in Gears of War 3, Team Deathmatch became the most popular mode among that game's players. Unlike the Gears 3 version, where each team had a limited number of respawns and players were "eliminated" one by one after respawns were depleted, teams will race each other to a certain number of kills, removing the slower-paced and more contentious play that takes place when respawns are depleted.
- Domination - a mode seen in Epic's own Unreal Tournament and that has gained popularity in the Call of Duty series and Halo 4 (as "Dominion"), Domination replaces King of the Hill for Gears of War 3. Players capture rings by standing inside of them, but do not have to stand in the ring after capture to keep gaining points toward victory. Each team starts near their own ring at the beginning of the match, and the "neutral" ring will usually be the most frequent point of conflict.
- Free-for-all - A first for the Gears of War series, the free-for-all mode is similar to the Team Deathmatch mode. Players fight one another to reach a score limit.
Loadout weaponsThe Markza and Booshka were developed by the UIR forces.
- Lancer - Lancer bullets will no longer receive a damage bonus on headshots.
- Hammerburst - The current Hammerburst still fires as quickly as the user can pull the trigger, but recoil is increased.
- Classic Hammerburst - This earlier Hammerburst uses a six-round burst fire mechanic rather than the semi-automatic nature of its modern iteration.
- Retro Lancer - Short-range retro charges that fail to impale opponents are much less damaging. Epic has also said that it should be harder to "feather" the trigger when using the Retro Lancer, making the gun less effective at long range.
- Gnasher Shotgun
- Sawed-off Shotgun - The controversial alternative to the Gnasher returns, but it has had its wide bullet spread significantly reduced. To help offset that change, the shotgun will have two shots per clip rather than discharging both barrels at once.
- Markza - A semi-automatic rifle for precision shots. Although it has a scope, its zoom is relatively weak.
- Beacon grenade - Players throw this grenade to spot enemies through walls, making enemy silhouettes visible to teammates, and enemies within the beacon's radius are also more vulnerable to damage.
- Frag Grenade - The "bolo" fragmentation grenade has a smaller explosive radius, but can stick to enemies when thrown, similarly to plasma or semtex grenades. However, grenades can no longer be planted on surfaces.
- Ink Grenade - Ink grenades will no longer be able to stun enemies (and potentially the grenade thrower) on impact. To offset this, the cloud of ink is more severely damaging.
- Stim Grenade - This new grenade will heal users allies its range and allow dead players to potentially be revived rather than waiting to respawn.
Map-based (power) weaponsThe Breechshot, a Locust-developed semiautomatic rifle.
- Boomshield - Players can now carry the Boomshield and use it in tandem with any weapon, whereas before picking up the Boomshield automatically caused the wielder to switch to a pistol.
- Boomshot - The Locust-developed grenade launcher makes a return and is currently intended to be slightly stronger than it was in Gears of War 3.
- Booshka - A grenade launcher of UIR origin. Unlike the Boomshot, which has grenades that explode and spread on impact, the Booshka's explosives bounce on hard surfaces before eventually exploding. This is meant to assist in eliminating enemies who are behind cover or who would otherwise be unreachable. However, the Booshka can also explode after impact if the user chooses.
- Breechshot - A semi-automatic rifle that will kill with one headshot. Recoil between shots is increased to compensate for the advantage over the bolt-action Longshot sniper rifle; the Breechshot also lacks a scope.
- Hammer of Dawn
- Incendiary Grenade - These grenades will do more damage to players who stand in the patch of fire it creates as compared to Gears of War 3.
- Torque Bow
- Boltok Pistol - the Markza is intended to fill a similar role as this precision-based revolver.
- Gorgon Pistol - the Classic Hammerburst will be a similar burst fire weapon.
People Can Fly's involvement in the project was initially kept secret from the public, but after the unveiling of the game, rumors began to circulate and became more substantiated thanks to twitter hints from Adrian Chmielarz, People Can Fly's Creative Director. Epic's Mike Capps replied to Kotaku's Stephen Totilo inquiry on the subject with a simple "YES YES YES!" retweet. People Can Fly was previously rumored to be working on a Gears of War prequel-trilogy in November 2011.
In an attempt to learn how to possibly better develop the game's cast and their motivations and personality traits, Epic Games sought insight from the CGI movie making studio, Pixar. Epic Games producer Rod Fergusson specifically called out Woody from the Toy Story franchise as an inspiration because of his well-defined characteristics.
Pre-order BonusesAlex Brand in Judgment
All pre-orders will receive a code to unlock the "classic" version of the Hammerburst assault rifle in versus multiplayer.
Pre-ordering from specific retailers will grant players an exclusive character in versus multiplayer. Characters are as follows:
- Young Marcus Fenix - GameStop (United States)
- Young Dom Santiago - Amazon (U.S.)
- Alex Brand - Best Buy, Microsoft Store (U.S.); Shopto (United Kingdom)
- Anya Stroud (as she appeared in Gears of War 3) - Walmart (U.S.)