Here we are again with another installment of a beloved franchise Gears of War, equip with our Lancers, Longshots and the same excitement as if we are going home again. Because it’s familiar. Gears of War has been a staple for this generations gamer; and it took over the charts as Xbox’s second most popular exclusive title, with numerous awards, and a hefty fan-base. Stepping into the driver seat of Gears of War: Judgment I put my curbstomping boots on, and attempted to enjoy the ride.
Opening up with showing the destruction and havoc wreaked across the planet Sera, earlier days in the war against the locusts. As choppers land in front of a government building, we see our new protagonist Damon Baird being ushered up the stairs in cuffs. Along with the rest of Kilo Squad, including Augustus “The Cole Train” Cole, Sofia Hendrik, Garron Paduk all deemed war criminals.
When you actually get into the campaign you do so from the perspective from each character at different points of their mission. Their testimonies are heard as you go through the game as they strive to prove their innocence to absolve them of their crimes. In some ways I thought that the narrative was well done, even in its attempts to be engaging, but I found it lackluster in comparison to what it could have been. Each mission progresses with little fluidity save for the cut-scenes that tie them together and the spoken word testimony. Switching between each character could have been saved for extra after-missions content. Instead they clumsily pushed two new under-developed COGs on your plate, who served little to no real purpose in defining or really bringing closure to the story.
There is one thing to be said though, the gameplay is pretty good. I have one quam and that is with the controls. For six years we have been used the same controls, and they decide to change it on this installment. Why? What we are used to is the four weapon D-Pad load-out, but instead it has been tossed to the wind to be more like every other shooter. You can feel it when you hold the controller and you haven’t yet adjusted, like you should be doing a whole lot more. Which is comparable to putting an elephant in a shoe box.
Judgment brings no clarity to the series; it’s a prequel without purpose–like a filler episode. On that point, it shouldn’t have been marketed as a Gears of War if they insist on the name, it should have included more of main storyline plot. True, it has all the design elements of the previous three installments–including some of the staple weapons–but it at no point does it bridge the connection to the first game. Which would make it a justifiable. When creating a prequel there should have been more characters we cared about, not new characters we have to ask more questions for. Showcase a younger version main characters in the series. Don’t pander with an already tertiary character and his rag-tag motley crew of quasi-rule breakers.
After finishing the campaign you are left with multiplayer and Aftermath, the latter is supposed to be a second installment on the Gears 3 storyline. However, much like the campaign it leaves you wanting more, running back to one of the other games because this one just doesn’t satisfy. Not to mention still more questions, elements of it just don’t add up. The boat that you are venturing to get is nowhere in the end of Gears of War 3, there is no real point for Paduk. Besides sparking more questions, why did Sofia leave the Cog to be with Paduk? A woman that devoted her life to the service, studied, and honed her skills—left for what? Love? That makes no sense because the war is still very real and still going on. And its things like this that make it so uncharacteristic and hard to be, believable. In the way they just throw off a character that would have had more use as a plot device, versus a character that did little besides supply a boat.
Moving to multiplayer at first it seemed that it would be one of the higher-points of this excursion. But it’s just as limited as the campaign. With survival you are limited to four classes, Engineer/Baird¸ who can build turrets repair fortifications and uses a Gnasher for a main weapon. Soldier/Cole, perk is the ammunition pack which consistently refills ammo if you are in the radius. Soldiers also use the Booshka, a COG version of the boomshot, accept the grenades ricochet and a Lancer. Scout/Paduk, perk beacon grenade, equip with the Markza, and Snub pistol—a strictly long to medium ranged class. Beacon grenade allows you to spot enemies through objects. Medic/Sofia, she can revive dead comrades with stem grenades, equip with the Lancer and Sawed-off shotgun. These classes carry into Survival and Overrun.
Even online you really can’t catch much of a break, because the avatar selection outside of Free-for-All and Team Death match is really nonexistent. Online play comes with four maps, possibly more to come in DLC along with Execution mode. But the trademark ‘Down but Not Out’ has been taken out, which eliminates executions hopefully they bring that back in the DLC as well. Team Death Match isn’t COG v Locusts anymore, but COG v COG which makes the mode even more confining. Frustrating as it is, the only salvageable mode is Overrun, and that is stacked in favor of the Locusts because there is so much more available. Why? Because the same four classes you can pick for Survival are the only four in Overrun.
Overall Gears of War Judgment is the easy mode of the series, enemies go down so quickly throughout the campaign and you can pretty much stick to the Gnasher and Lancer for the whole thing. While I respect a new direction, I also firmly believe that the Gears of War series was done with 3. Objectively it would suffice it to say Gears of War Judgment does nothing but make more questions for a series that has long since finished. So if you have a formula that works, why would you change it? At the end of the day I am just disappointed with the game, because there could have been so much more.
6.5 / 10