The lights are on
Gears of War was the second Xbox 360 game I played and the series has held a special place in my heart ever since. I have always loved most things about the series. From its' somewhat unique enemy variation, the first games' atmosphere, the introduction of horde mode in the second game, the surprising story line events in the third game along with horde mode variations. By the end of the third game the series had evolved and molded itself into a franchise that knew what to add and what to cut. Some of these aspects remained unchanged in Judgment but some changes created a conflicting feeling of doubt in me about the future of Gears if it is allowed to continue in this direction.
The story in Gears of War: Judgment boils down to about the same as previous Gears games. As in, there's not really a whole lot that the player has to pay attention to. There are no long drawn out explanations or overly abundant cut scenes. The game pulls away from Marcus Fenix and Delta squad to take a look at Kilo Squad and "Lieutenant" Baird before the events of the original Gears of War and the dlc mission for Gears 3, RAAM's Shadow, in the earlier days of the war with the locust. Baird and his squad are on trial for disobeying superiors and must tell their side before a sentence can be carried out.
The campaign is broken down into chapters, with each chapter being told from the perspective of a different member of Kilo Squad. While playing you can choose to accept declassified mission objectives which go into more detail about what actually happened. Accepting these objectives will make the game a little harder but rewards you with a faster build up of your stars (a mechanic for rewarding you in and of itself) and therefore lets you unlock different weapon skins, characters, and even a special campaign chapter. However, I found the more I played the more repetitiveness I noticed. The mission objectives are varied enough at first but by the end it seems like I was doing the same thing over and over again. This could come from the fact that Epic and People Can Fly tried to incorporate Horde mode aspects into the campaign, which is fine but after a while you notice that all you are doing is going here, killing this many locust, then move on. The environments did not help either. Unlike previous Gear's where you had a large open battlefield, Judgments' map layout for the campaign was confined and sometimes boring.
I will say this though, the unlockable chapter "Aftermath" helps to alleviate these problems. It functions exactly like previous games in the franchise (longer levels, no horde aspects, no declassified objectives, open areas, set pieces). I won't spoil what this chapter is about, but it's interesting enough to play and find out on your own. The overall campaign story is a little shorter than previous games, a little shorter even than I expected, but this may have turned out to be a good thing.
Gameplay structure remains largely unchanged from Gears 3. You still swap from you secondary and primary gun with the y button, throwing a grenade is LB, etc. There are not really a whole lot of new weapons in this entry, none that stand out anyway. The big set piece moments are pretty much gone as well. These are what helped make the Gear's saga noteworthy so I was kind of disappointed to see only one or two in the main story.
Multiplayer is probably what saved this game from getting a slightly lower score from me. Team deathmatch and free for all are as fun as ever. For someone who usually does not play a lot of versus multiplayer, it was not hard for me to jump in and easily devote more than a few hours to this. The new match type that was hyped is the overrun mode. A deathmatch style tower defense game type in the same vein as horde and beast mode from Gears 3, in fact it's like a combination of the two game types. Each team of five players go head to head with the Cog forces defending a covered e-hole and the locust trying to overrun and push them back. The locust players can pick from a variety of different classes depending on how many points they have which are earned from kills and destroying barriers. New to the cog forces however is picking a class type. Anyone playing on the human side can pick between a soldier, medic, engineer or scout. The replacement for horde, survival, is probably my least favorite game type. This game is better played with four other human players and even then it was not very enjoyable to me. The objective, class types and fortifications are the same as overrun except you only play on the human side.
The Gears of War franchise is what helped Epic games and the Xbox 360 in general become a mainstay, in my opinion. I did not like all of the changes made but some I really did. The omission of a normal horde mode where you can battle wave after endless wave of locust grubs is a big letdown for me. With that said, this is still a gears game. All the gritty bloody action and all the cheesy dialogue is still present. If you have played previous entries, I say this one is worth checking out. Hopefully future games in the franchise will take us to places we haven't seen in the world of Gears. Hell, maybe we could eventually see a game on the pendulum wars.
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