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Veteran Member - Level 11
What can I say, I like Gears of War. I've played all of the
games, read (almost) all of the books and know a fair amount about the series.
It might be more realistic for me to say, I like the premise behind Gears of
War. The games...well, ever since the first game was released back in 2006, they
haven't really been able to capture the same (or better) essence that made the
original such a huge success. It's definitely one of the few (and maybe only)
video games where I enjoy the books better than the games.
Thinking the Gears of War series ended with Gears of War 3,
I was somewhat surprised and perhaps a bit disenchanted with the news of
another game in the series. Yet, I purchased and played it (and finished it
earlier this evening) and once again found myself disappointed with certain
elements and entertained by others. For the sake of this blog, I'm only going
to talk about the single player "Judgment" campaign (apparently the game also has
an Aftermath campaign that takes place around the Gears of War 3 timeframe).
Set years prior to the
events of the previous "Gears of War" trilogy, "Judgment"
centers on Kilo Squad, a troop of soldiers led by Damon Baird and Augustus
"The Cole Train" Cole. They are joined by newcomers to the "Gears"
series Sofia Hendrick and Garron Paduk, as they attempt to save the besieged
city of Halvo Bay from a terrifying new enemy.
What does the game do
Four perspectives - The first two thirds of the game you
play in different intervals as each of the four characters. During your play of
each character, you are providing testimony during an impromptu military
tribunal for the events leading up to a controversial decision and violation of
a direct order from a superior officer. Playing the game and hearing the
testimony from each of the different characters was an interesting way to tell
the story. I enjoyed it.
Diverse characters - The game features two new and two old
characters. It was interesting learning more about Baird and Cole since they've
been in the other games, but the two new characters (Garron Paduk and Sofia
Hendrik) were compelling characters too. The voice acting, dialogue and
character development was spot on, or so I thought.
Assorted weapons - Weapons are an important aspect of Gears
and Judgment has plenty to choose from. Most (if not all) of the previous
weapons are available, but there are some new (at least I think they're new) weapons
and equipment to choose from. I happen to be a big fan of the torque bow and
was glad to see it return.
Co-Op campaign mode - One of the best features of Judgment
(all Gears games for that matter) is the ability to play through the campaign
in a cooperative mode. What made it so good in this game is there are four main
characters, so when Player 1 gets assigned to play a particular character,
Player 2 gets assigned somebody else, but still a primary character. For
example, if Player 1 is playing Baird, Player 2 might be playing Augustus
"Cole Train" Cole. Halo could learn a lot about co-op campaign mode
from Gears. Ouch, did I say that out loud.
In-game challenges - the game incorporates this feature
called "Misson Declassification" - a
system that lets players experience more challenging gameplay scenarios and
achievements by uncovering critical information during the course of the
campaign. Basically the way it is implemented...you see the Gears skull painted
on a wall; you click it and it gives you a list of conditions you can accept or
ignore. Should you accept it, it usually limits your weapon selection,
restricts your visibility, impedes your recovery time, and a few other consequences.
I thought it was a neat feature (especially how the characters implement the
consequence into the story) that made the game a little more challenging.
What the game does
Ridiculous story elements - In order to not spoil anything I
won't say too much, but having a military tribunal when you're being engaged by
the enemy (never mind the world as you know it has been turned upside down) seems
completely ridiculous. The fact the original Gears of War had a legal issue
with Marcus Fenix being in prison for abandoning his military post and Judgment
also relying on a legal issue as part of the story element seemed...unoriginal.
Copycat gameplay - Playing Judgment is just like playing any
of the other Gears games. If you like that gameplay, then you won't mind; but
if you're not a fan of it, then you're certainly not going to like Judgment.
Idiotic AI - There is one particularly annoying habit
demonstrated by the AI that drove me absolutely nuts. In Gears of War: Judgment,
I suffer the ole "down but not out" rather frequently. And thankfully my AI
(and human partner) revive me almost as frequently. The problem is, you might
be inches away from an AI player, and sometimes they won't revive you...but you can
be on the other side of the map and get knocked down, and they will brave the
incoming rounds to rush to your rescue (and sometimes get taken out in the
process). It's so annoying to restart the round because you're crawling around
on the ground and your teammate is practically tripping over you...but not
Blue on Blue (Friendly Fire) - I dunno, maybe it's just me...but
some of my teammates look strikingly similar to the bad guys...and I will shoot
at them and shoot at them and shoot at them before I realize I'm being dumb. I
don't know if this was intentional or not, but I wish my allies looked at least
a little bit different than my enemies.
Lackluster ending - The game just sort of ends. It wasn't
If you're a fan of the previous Gears of War and you enjoy
the mechanics and gameplay - you'll love Judgment because it truly is more of
the same; if you don't like it, then you'll want to skip playing this game. If
you've never played any of the other games, you may or may not enjoy what this
game has to offer.
One thing I would like to comment on before I go, Gears of
War: Judgment features a new female character - Sofia Hendrik. I thought she
was a likable enough character, but early in the game there were a few scenes
that struck me as odd. I couldn't tell whether I was being too sensitive with the
scenes or if the developers had some hidden message or point they were trying
to make. The other characters (both good guys and bad) kind of treat her badly
and dismiss her contributions to the team. In this age where male/female
equality in games and the gaming industry is such a hot topic, it just seemed
kind of inappropriate, especially since it didn't really add to the story. I
dunno, maybe I'm making something out of nothing, but I played the entire
campaign with my son...and when it happened I wasn't going to comment on it until
he noticed it and said something. So, we at least both noticed it. I'm wondering if
anyone else thought so or not. It's kind of subtle and only happened a few times.
In closing, like I said in the introduction - I like Gears
of War...what can I say? This game wasn't spectacular and certainly isn't a Game
of the Year contender, but it is part of the historical lore of the series now,
and therefore I must play it, good or bad.