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Gears of War Judgement Review

I have never been a big fan of the “Gears of War” franchise, mainly because of the gameplay.  I have always felt it was clunky, and I completely understand that that was what they were going for, but it did nothing for me. I figured I would give “Gears of War: Judgment” a shot because it was Baird’s time to shine, and he has always been my favorite character.

“Judgement” starts thirty days after E-Day (so that make this a prequel…to everything) with Baird and his team being led to their hearing at the COG military tribunal right at the height of battle. The game is played through flashbacks; each COG is basically telling Col. Ezra Loomis their side of the story. Throughout the game you have the opportunity to earn stars faster by declassifying classified information. The more stars earned, the more extras you unlock. If you decide to do this, the difficulty is usually increased, but will involve having to beat the area in under a set amount of time, only being allowed to use certain weapons, starting with no ammo, armored enemies, more enemies flanking you, etc. The time trial declassification missions screwed me up a couple of times at first because I would finish killing the enemies and I would still fail, resulting in my death.  This was because I didn’t realized that you needed to go to the absolute end and press up on the D-pad to continue.

Although visually the game is brilliant, I did feel that the could have expanded a little further on the story. There is a fourteen year gap between “Judgement” and the first “Gears of War” game, so unless they plan on doing more prequel sequels, it would have been nice to get a little more into the story of E-Day. What happened in that fourteen year gap? Why did the Locust choose that moment to attack? Who is Karn? Why is Loomis such a dick? There are just a lot of aspects not covered that I wish were.

As I said in the beginning, I am not a fan of the “Gears of War” clunky running, and through my experience with “Judgement” it no longer seems clunky but more fluid. Gameplay as a whole just feels more fluid: aiming, reloading, weapon swapping, movements, the cover system…just everything. I honestly had more fun playing this installment than the previous ones. A steady stream of intelligent enemies were constantly flanking me, and on top of that my choosing to do the declassify missions restricted my weapons, more enemies showed up, limited ammo, armored enemies, and time limits made the game fast paced, action packed and finally enjoyable for me to play.

You can no longer carry four weapons.  You are now restricted to only being able to choose two weapons which you alternate between by using the Y button. This is not as big a deal for me as it is with hardcore “Gears” fans, mainly because I only need two weapons to get the job done (technically only one, because I choose my shots and they are usually head shots). I come from a “Battlefield” background, not a pray-and-spray “COD” and “Halo” background, so my trusty rifle is really all I need, unless of course I am doing one of the declassified missions and I am forced to use a different weapon.

In the Aftermath campaign (make sure to watch the trailer in the menus for it so you unlock a super easy achievement/trophy) Baird and Cole head back to Halvo Bay, this time accompanied by Carmine. Your mission is to find a ship and some reinforcements to help with the attack on Azura. Upon reaching Halvo Bay, or as Paduk calls it “Kilo Hole,” in honor of the damage Kilo Squad caused. This is a completely separate campaign that takes place after “Gears of War 3,” and was a good length and just as much fun to play as “Judgement.”

Throughout the game you will unlock characters, earn ribbons and prize boxes that you can use to unlock weapon skins and the like for multiplayer. New to the series is the game mode “OverRun,” which is kind of a spin on “Horde Mode.” In “OverRun” it is player versus player where one team plays as the COG trying protecting two sealed Emergence Holes and a Hammer of Dawn beacon, and the other team plays as the Locust, trying to do the opposite. In “Free-for-All” it will pit COG against COG.  Then of course you have your Domination, Team Death Match, and Survival modes, where you control the COG’s and protect the E-hole covers while fighting waves of enemies.

Multiplayer was fun, but at the same time I have never been a fan of the “Gears of War” multiplayer, so even the new modes did nothing for me. So, I am not going to take that into account for my score. The improved game mechanics, the beautiful visuals, and the voice acting make this a great addition to the “Gears” mythos, even if it leaves us in a place where we are the horrible monsters that destroyed another society’s ecosystem because of our own greed.

Final Verdict for Gears of War: Judgement

4 out of 5