The Gears of War franchise has been a stable title for many fans over the years, and with the release of Judgment, it has again proven the success of its formula – even if there are a number of changes to the core experience.
For the latest title, developer People Can Fly and Epic Games removed the familiar face of franchise veteran character Marcus Fenix, and crafted a story that revolves around the events before Gears of War 3, and focuses on a gung-ho group of four soldiers – headed up by Damon Baird.
But the delivery mechanism is a little different from what gamers are used to - it now features a narration-style technique, where gamers are informed of the happenings in the game by means of retrospective dialogue.
What we like about it
The Judgment in the title refers to the court marshal of Baird and his squad, as they went against direct orders not to set off a lightmass missile. The game’s narration focuses on each member’s individual testimony, and players get to replay what happened leading up to the launch.
Taking on the role of Baird first, gamers will get a good idea of how the title implements the small changes and will be given short tutorials as to how everything works.
There are a number of changes in the game play and dynamic, but it is just subtle enough to breathe new life into the title, while still retaining it’ familiar look and feel – as well as control scheme, which still includes executions and timed reloads.
The biggest change, besides a bunch of new weapons, is the addition of Declassified information at the start of every level. While giving their testimony, players will have the ability to add a bit more information to their statements by activating the Declassified modes.
The mode tweaks the level conditions which essentially make it harder for the player to complete, but as a reward, they will be earning stars at a much faster rate than normal. Stars in Gears are used to unlock the Aftermath levels, as well as unlocking other goodies that can be used in the game.
It also added a number of new weapons, such as the tripmine crossbow and a new grenade launcher to mix, and while ammunition is plentiful throughout the level, gamers should worry too much about ammo. At the beginning of each level players will find either a large cache of ammo, or a weapons rack with different weapons for the taking.
By having Baird, Augustus Cole, Sofia Hendrik and Garron Paduk all present testimony gives players a chance to break away from Marcus Fenix, who has dominated the previous Gears games.
In terms of graphics, gamers will be greeted with the familiar design aspects from the previous titles, but there is a distinct increase in the quality. While it may not be immediately noticeable, players will definitely realise that the graphics tend to be a bit sharper, with more detail than usual.
What we did not like about it
As good as the game might sounds, there are a number of small issues that pop up here and there. The cover system has never been fully fixed since Gears of War 2, and Judgment suffers from it.
Players who go into cover will have to take care that they are situated in the right position, as a character will often hug the wrong side of a wall – resulting in some severe damage being taken. The difficulty also seems to have been dropped a notch, as Medium plays a lot easier than the previous titles.
Which can also be tied to the boss battles… The level-ending enemies and the big boss battle at the end of the game seemed to be over too quickly, as the spirit of the true fight has been removed by slightly dropping down the strength of the enemies. Players want an epic battle to finish off the game, but the final boss was tedious and simple to overcome.
For the multiplayer, the developers opted to keep things rather low-key by having only four maps and four game modes, with OverRun and Free-for-All being the two new modes. The popular Horde mode has also been renamed as Survival, but pretty much still functions in the same way.
While Judgment can be labelled as more of the same and not really incorporating anything new into the franchise, it does afford the series a fresh start. If there is going to be more Gears games, Judgment has certainly set the tone for future development – but a number of improvements still linger on the sidelines.
Our score: 7.7/10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor