Before we get into the nitty gritty of the review I would like to start by saying I’ve played all three Gears of War games and have read all but one of the books by Karen Traviss. I’ve experience the good and the bad of the entire franchise; from the nightmare of Gears of War 2 launch day multiplayer to the infinitely smoother Gears of War 3. I played co-op with Bobby Marquardt on hardcore which took us about 8-10 hours. We’ve also played basic multiplayer and Overrun for about 4 hours. We have yet to touch Survival.
Gears of War: Judgment is told from the perspectives of each member of Kilo squad (consisting of fan favorites Baird and Cole as well as newcomers Paduk & Sofia), all while on trial for a “crime” they committed in the line of duty. Through the entire campaign you learn about the events leading up to the first Gears of War campaign. The first immediate thing you notice when you start playing is the fact that you can only hold two weapons at a time. Anyone who has played the previous games knows how much that having that third weapon in major fire fights can be a lifesaver. They also switched the controls where hitting the Y button is now switch weapons. I’ve found myself trying to hit the D-pad throughout the entire campaign to pull out a pistol because I was out of ammo. It was quite irritating, especially while playing the multiplayer, but I’ll get to that later.
The look and feel of the campaign is the same as the previous Gears games. The graphics are good but nothing far beyond what the produced in Gears 3; they still show what the Xbox 360 is capable of even eight years after launch. If you’ve played any of the other Gears games then you know the feel of Judgment. There is the commander you love to hate, the love story and the big main baddy. People Can Fly didn’t steer too far from the tried and true methodology of Gears story telling even with the departure of Epic figurehead Cliff Bleszinski. At no point did I get confused as to what we were trying do in the campaign or ever think “Why did we just do that?”. Story does grip you because even with the looming threat of the Locust destroying humanity Loomis (the man you love to hate) is willing to put four valuable Gears on trial for an action that meant life or death for thousands. The way they told the story was a breath of fresh air for the franchise instead of the usual way of Delta having to hunt down a major bad guy while trying to save Dom’s wife and finding the salvation of humanity. Without getting too much into the whole campaign and releasing spoilers for those who have yet to play the game it’s worth playing and seeing the beginning of the story.
The multiplayer is a whole different story from the campaign. People Can Fly went with a less dark feel and integrated verticality to all the maps. This doesn’t say much when the game only shipped with FOUR multiplayer maps for the basic gametypes (Team Deathmatch, Free for All & Domination). The game shipped with a total of eight maps but four are for Survival and Overrun. Triple A titles should never ship with only four maps for the basic gametypes, and then try to sell me a season pass at the checkout. That to me shows that multiplayer was just an afterthought. They also took out the signature “down but not out” aspect of the game. That means less executions and less of the signature Gears of War close quarters fighting.
You can still choose your starting layout but you only get a main weapon, Snub pistol and choice of grenade (now including reviving grenades and Ink grenades). That means you either have a mid to long range weapon or a shotgun. The only way to get a Lancer or Gnasher is to kill someone and take theirs. To be honest, it’s really annoying. I’d rather have the option to fight someone one on one with shotguns instead of having to melee three times to win because I don’t have shotgun. Then when it happens to you, you get frustrated. The maps are a good combination of long range and close range fighting but since not everyone has a certain weapon it can turn into a punching fight real quick.
The other two multiplayer modes, Survival and Overrun, are different. I have yet to play Survival but I’ve played a good amount of Overrun. Overrun is basically Beast mode but played against people instead of bots; being three rounds in length of two teams, one Locust and the other COG, trying to open or defend an E-hole respectively. The game can be frustrating due to team mates not playing smartly. You have six minutes to get the first hole open and if you fail the other team just needs to open the first hole to win. Also if you tie the game the team with the fastest team wins, which is rather silly to me. Overrun turns into a game where you only have fun if you’re winning.
Even with all these issues the multiplayer is actually a lot of fun and quite enjoyable. Epic Games has done very well at upgrading and expanding their star franchise. With the addition of more multiplayer maps I can see this game becoming a platinum hit.
Overall: 4 out of 5
By: Max Sturm
Follow Max Sturm on Twitter: @Maxsturm1