Thursday, 28 March 2013

Gears of War: Judgment

Review – Gears of War: Judgment (Xbox 360 only)

“Gears of War: Judgment takes fresh ideas and brings them back in time to the beginning of the Locust invasion. Terrific character development and story pacing combines with thrilling gameplay that’s expanded beyond what we have come to know from Gears of War to make this not only the best game in the series but the best third-person shooter on the market.”

Big guns are back in GoW: Judgement

Just like humanities battle against the Locust, Gears of War goes through a powerful resurgence in Judgment. A formula that was beginning to rust around the edges has been leased with new life, deepened and explored further to become not only the best instalment in the series, but also one of the best third-person shooters of this generation.

Judgment is a culmination of all the finest things from the series, polished into one beautiful package. The story, set 15 years before the events we have all come to know and fear, concentrates on two of the series side characters – Baird and Cole. No longer battle-hardened veterans, Judgment looks at these recruits as they begin their journey as COG soldiers and come to grips with their new lives. The squad they belong to Kilo is also full to the brim with entertaining personalities that blend together in stereotypical Gears of War fashion bringing heated rivalry, sarcasm, jokes, puns and other interesting dialogue.

The story-telling itself has had some real thought put into it, Gears of War that quality it was always missing from the narrative department. Your journey with Kilo is fast paced but always engaging and this interaction not only bonds you closer with the characters, it keeps you invested in the story all the way till the very end.

When you get an play a COG soldier with Judgment’s new mechanics and tweaks to the system, you will be very pleasantly surprised. While the core gameplay remains the same, there’s enough change here to make Judgment feel like a totally fresh third-person shooter. Characters move a lot faster now, weapon swaps are more fluid, grenades have a quick throw function and not to mention the new weapons and upgrades to old ones (I’ll talk about this later in the multiplayer section.) If you have played a Gears of War game before will find familiarity here but at the same time enough change to force another round of learning the ropes once again.

Judgment feels smarter than previous titles in the series. Perhaps this is due to fantastic level design but a new semi-random spawn system as well as further enhancements to AI intelligence makes battles against the Locust enemy hard-hitting and absolutely enthralling. This becomes especially apparent in Judgment’s fantastic ‘Declassify’ system – an option that you can activate before enemy encounters. Declassify allows you to activate certain handicaps to make your battle more challenging – in exchange however, you accumulate loads more points for the new scoring system that synchronizes to leaderboards. These handicaps range from increasing the enemy count to lowering ammo supplies – you name a frustrating scenario and Judgment will probably put you in it. Approaching different battles using the Declassify system opens the ability to make each and every encounter different from the last, which really helps increase Judgment’s replay value as well as making it one of the most enjoyable campaign experience either by yourself or with up to four friends.

It’s hard to believe things get even better for Judgment, but the multiplayer is really the highlight here. One of the new game modes titled OverRun sees COG’s go against the Locust in an attack-defend style game where the Locust aim to push forward through COG defenses while trying to open new areas while the COG’s aim to keep them at bay. A new class system has been implemented as well as some tweaks to balance the Gears of War multiplayer formula. In OverRun players on the COG team can choose from characters that specialize in mending defensive weaponry, healers, offensive soldiers and so forth while the Locust can choose between the different types of creatures like Wretches, Tickers and normal brutes. Naturally, each has their own ability, starting weapon and a noticeable changes have occurred with players only carrying one main weapon from the beginning as opposed to the traditional machine gun / shotgun combination. The Locust on the other hand have a variety of different skills depending on what type of creature you go, as expected. Tickers move with lightning speed, have the ability to destroy defenses quickly and can even eat ally grenades to really cause absolute mayhem against groups of COGs. There’s plenty of variety depending on who you choose to play as and without spoiling any more, each character and creature is unique and interesting in their own way.

The traditional horde mode has for some strange reason been omitted from Judgment and instead replaced with Survival mode. Not quite the same experience but with similarities – Survival pits you against waves of enemy foe but not through unlimited numbers of waves.

Those of you looking for a more familiar experience can jump into Team Deathmatch. The new maps are strikingly large and more importantly are layered with top, bottom and intermediate sections meaning enemies can come at you from any angle. Characters can now jump and roll off relatively high ledges too so you always have to be on guard and ready for potential battle. Choosing your starting weapon is vital here because the weapon limitation means you can play with only one of the previous weapons – gone are the days of holding a retro lancer AND gnasher shotgun. Some new weapons have also been introduced like a large-clipped sniper rifle, a grenade launcher and previous weapons have been tweaked like the sawed-off shotgun now has 2 rounds in exchange for nerf’d power. New grenades including the stim and beacon have also made the cut with the former regenerating teammate’s health while the latter spotting enemies and temporary hindering their health and damage capabilities. There’s enough change here to keep you invested and curious as all these different game modes and weapons make a seemingly old formula feel exciting once again.

These changes make Judgment a very impressive technical achievement. The new development team have really brought the stunning Gears of War universe back to life with a vibrant new make-over while gameplay has been brushed up to be a fluid and fast-paced experience. Musical presentation and dialogue are brought together nicely in a well thought out narrative and gameplay is tight, responsive and varied. This all comes together as a perfect Gears of War package.

Gears of War: Judgment sets the stage for the future of third person shooting. As we move ever closer to the next generation of gaming, one can only hope that titles in this genre will aspire to not only recreate but also innovate on the fantastic ideas the Gears of War series has produced. Terrific gameplay and excellent story telling makes this fresh new take on a well-known formula a true joy.

9.0 | Gameplay |

Gears of War: Judgment brings entertaining and varied gameplay back to the series. Clever technical design takes advantage of fantastic level structure and clever AI intelligence to provide a thrilling challenge offline. Online the multiplayer has been tweaked and is the best version of the Gears of War formula to date thanks to an awesome class-based system, varied game modes and balancing tweaks to the weapons.

9.5 | Presentation |

Gears of War has always had a very unique and distinctive look. The boundaries have been pushed even further by People Can Fly as this development team’s bold and vibrant artistic design brings the series to life with even more passion. The story is interesting, moves well and keeps you invested throughout while the character narrative is brilliant too.

10.0 | Replay Value |

The campaign is so great you’ll want to complete it numerous times to get through all the difficulty levels. On top of that Declassify mode ensures further challenge and variation throughout your time with not only each level, but every single set-piece enemy encounter, which is stunning attention to replay value. The multiplayer is simply one of the best out there and there’s no reason why you won’t be playing this a year down the line just like you’re still playing Gears of War 3.

9.5 | Final Thoughts |

Gears of War: Judgment is almost absolutely perfect. There’s literally nothing you can say that’s negative. A thrilling campaign that is so well designed it just shows off the absolute best of Gears of War’s terrific storytelling and ability to engage players in awesome battles against varied and challenging enemies. If that’s not enough for you, an almost limitless multiplayer mode is almost present that’s so much fun you won’t be able to put the pad down. Gears of War has certainly had a resurgence and it’s come in the form of Judgment – this is how you take a slightly rusty formula and boom it right back onto everyone’s radar.

Similar games: Gears of War 3, Bulletstorm & Vanquish

Igor Kharin.
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