When your planned trilogy of well-recieved games reaches its end and you realise it’s not going to make money anymore, there are three options: Come up with some reason the story’s not really all over, make a prequel, or create something entirely new. I’m joking, of course, there are only the first two options.
Gears of War: Judgment is set just after Emergence Day, which is when the Locust first arrived on the scene and gave us the excuse to slather our screens in the beautiful guilt-free blood-splatter caused by indulgent alien brutality.
Some years before Gears of War brought Marcus and Dom’s bromantic escapades into our lives, the love-him-or-hate-him, wise-cracking Private Baird was the not so wise-cracking Lieutenant Baird. Baird’s crew, Kilo Squad, included an uncharacteristically subdued Augustus ‘Cole Train’ Cole and two brand new characters. From Sera’s version of Russia we have Paduk, the tough guy, who fought against the COG in the Pendulum Wars and Sofia, whose job it is to be ‘The Girl’.
Kilo Squad are in trouble and I don’t just mean that the Locust want to turn them into gooey chunks. They are on trial for disobeying orders and the Judgment campaign is told via flashbacks as each member takes their turn to recount what happened while the building they’re in is pounded by enemy forces.
It’s all perfectly Gearsy and familiar apart from a few new tweaks. At the start of each checkpoint players are given the option to ‘Declassify’ with huge glowing Crimson Omen symbols appearing on the walls for a short time. By activating these the gameplay will become tougher by limiting weapons carried, reducing visibility, or setting an objective timer which, if failed, results in death.
Declassifying enables you to earn stars more quickly, which are your grades for completing each section. There are a total of three stars to be earned per battle and their colour depends on the difficulty attempted. From Copper for Casual, to Onyx for Insane.
Sections are short, so Gears veterans will want to knock the difficulty up once or twice. Newcomers needn’t worry as there is a skippable tutorial at the beginning to get them familiar with the workings, and A.I. squadmates are near invincible, don’t need ammo, and will have you revived a second or two after you’ve dropped to your knees.
The unlockable Aftermath campaign tells the tale of what happened when Cole, and Baird disappeared for a little while during Gears 3 then reappeared with a crap-load of reinforcements while Marcus and Dom were off being the real heroes. It is likely ripped straight from the game; taken out of the final product for being the least interesting part, not finished in time, or maybe just planned as DLC. There are a few Judgment additions such as weapons, the Rager enemy type, and Paduk, whose people we are supposed to care about, despite not even caring about any of the humans anymore because we know what happens in the end.
Survival mode is Judgment’s take on Horde and is basically Battlefield’s Rush game type, with the COG having to protect covered up emergence holes while waves of Locust attempt to destroy the fortifications. Once the emergence holes are uncovered the COG must fall back and try to protect the next objective. If they kill all the Locust before three objectives are destroyed they win. There are four classes players can use: Engineer, complete with repair tool, Soldier, who replenishes ammo. Scout, a sniper that can deploy a beacon that highlights enemy forces, and Medic, equipped with healing Stim Gas grenades. Survival is incredible fun, especially with a group of friends all working together.
Overrun is the Versus version of Survival and borrows from 3’s Beast mode, allowing for the attacking team to choose from a range of Locust types depending on how many points they’ve earned in game. Free for All makes for a chaotic 12-player Gnasher-up that you’ll want to makes sure you have your headset on for – footsteps EVERYwhere/ Domination is your standard hold as much of three capture points as you can to win, and, of course, you have your good old Team Deathmatch.
All in, though, it’s weak. It doesn’t matter that the story isn’t great or that the Judgment campaign is more like a new mode than a full title, it matters that it’s a half-arsed package. It’s made up of bits of gameplay ideas, and scenery left over from the main trilogy, carried by a ‘nerfed’ side-character, that’s been slapped together in a £35-£40 box. A few fun new game types can’t save it from feeling like it should have been a 2400 MS points expansion pack. Also, there’s no new Carmine. ‘Nuff said.