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Game Review: Gears of War: Judgement

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Posted March 19, 2013 by Rú Hickson in Shooter
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Rating

Ramp Rating
 
 
 
 
 


Overview

Genre:
 
Platform: ,
 
Year:
 
PEGI Rating:
 
Release Date: March 19th, 2013
 

Pros:

Still great fun, and less dumb than before, though not much. Co-op mode and multiplayer are still a blast.
 

Cons:

Doesn't shake up the Gears formula enough. Not a whole lot different or new from previous games to make it an essential purchase
 

Judgement is the first in a new prequel trilogy of Gears of War games. Baird and Kilo Squad are indicted for war crimes and have to relive their actions through testimonies in a tale that will shape the future of Sera.

by Rú Hickson
Full Article

The Gears of War franchise is not one that suffers from fan outrage when something gets changed. Imagine the communal bile that would spew from the internet, through your speakers and onto your finest Van Heusen if Valve considered giving Gordon Freeman a voice? Or if 47 started wearing a blue suit-red tie combo by default in the Hitman games? Or if Final Fantasy got rid of turn-based combat? The streets of the games-playing world would be coated in blood, vomit and excrement as the army faced off against the legions of unwashed nerds who had taken up arms at this unacceptable change to their game. Actually, it would look a bit like Gears of War.

Judgement suffers no such consequences, owing to the fact that almost none of the changes affect the game’s appearance or feel in any way at all. On the surface, Judgement might as well be an expansion pack for Gears of War 3, but if you dig a little deeper, you can see that the title is full of fun surprises that practically go unnoticed. As such one could be forgiven for thinking that the game is incidental in the grand scheme of things, but at worst it’s non-essential.

Rewind 14 years from the original Gears of War and all of a sudden Damon Baird, Augustus Cole and two newcomers to the franchise are being frogmarched to a besieged courthouse to face war crimes, specifically the conscious detonation of a WMD in a populated area. The story is told in retrospect (think Monkey Island 2), with the testimony of each member of Kilo squad being recounted in order to justify their actions and avoid a death sentence. Baird, the closest thing the franchise has to a nerd, was the logical protagonist for Judgement, even though primary storytelling duties are effectively shared throughout the four main characters.

Slogging through the same section never gets overly-repetitive, presenting a fresh challenge after each gruesome demise you suffer.

The combat remains unchanged from before, save for a few new enemies and weapons that don’t really affect the game’s tactical encounters (why bother including a mid-range sniper rifle?), though the actual fighting is dictated by a game director similar to the one in Left 4 Dead, so slogging through the same section never gets overly-repetitive, presenting a fresh challenge instead after each gruesome demise you suffer. The single-player campaign presents 42 scenarios to battle through, each of which has a ‘declassify’ option, where, with the inclusion of a few extra criteria (use only pistols/reduced vision/protection missions) the difficulty of the mission is ramped up, and the player gets rewarded with more stars. Stars are effectively style points borrowed from People Can Fly’s previous game, Bulletstorm. A smaller, more traditional mini-campaign called Aftermath, based after the finale of Gears of War 3, provides a little more closure for those who were curious.

Multiplayer is much the same as in previous games, albeit with different names and a class-based system where players can take up the mantle of medic or engineer in a Team Fortress-lite fashion. The soundtrack also warrants a mention, being the only notable one of the series and sounding a lot like Johnny Greewood’s awesome score to There Will Be Blood. The sense of urgency and pace really lends itself to the game, helping portray the developer’s desired atmosphere and feel of a ‘world on fire’. They don’t quite manage to achieve that, as most of Judgement’s battles (even the outdoor ones) take place in claustrophobic urban environments.

There are plenty of parallels between GoW: Judgement and Halo 4. Both are the fourth game in a series, the development of which has been handed over to a new, internally-moulded studio. Both are unnecessary, yet welcome continuations of their respective franchises, and both are best described as pleasant fun. Graphically, GoW: Judgement pushes the Xbox 360 to its absolute limits, rivalling the CryEngine in terms of beauty and dynamics. From a strictly artistic standpoint, Gears of War should be criticised for doing very little original, though it was never the most original of franchise anyway, but the formula has always worked and is as enjoyable a cover-based shooter as you’ll find. It’s the sort of series that puts its fingers in its ears when in the presence of phrases like ‘character development’, but begins to drool at the mention of gibs. It doesn’t feel as rewarding or epic as its predecessors, but is every bit as bloody and enjoyable.

And yes, the chainsaw still works.


About the Author

Rú Hickson

Despite initial wealth, Ru bankrupted himself by acquiring every existing second-hand copy of Duke Nukem Forever and placing it in a pile he uses for the express purposes of urinating onto and crying over in an unhealthy, but surprisingly therapeutic, downward spiral.

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