Previews// Gears of War: Judgment

Posted 5 Mar 2013 11:00 by
If it ainít broke, donít fix it. Thatís the approach Epic is taking with Gears of War Judgment, a game it is developing in conjunction with Bulletstorm creators People Can Fly to bookend the popular sci-fi shooter. Jumping into a few stages, fighting off Locust in a pre-war-torn Sera, felt just like putting on the most familiar glove.

As such, this game isnít going to rock the boat, gameplay wise. Mechanics feel essentially the same as Gears of War 3, with level pacing and multiplayer premises almost identical to its predecessors. Instead, the developers have focused their efforts on how the story of Baird, Cole and the Kilo Squad story is told.

Epic and People Can Fly revealed to me that they didnít feel like ďjust making the next Gears gameĒ - instead, the fans were given an opportunity to feed back what they wanted to see most in the series. Turns out, what the fans wanted was a story surrounding Emergence Day, the moment where the humans of Sera were first attacked by the Locust.

The result is a darker Gears title, closer to the 2006 original than the colourful and at-times humourous Gears of War 3. It all begins in a courtroom, with Baird and his Kilo Squad facing a jury for various failures during the E-Day tragedy. To defend himself, Baird must submit a testimony of exactly what happened to his crew while Sera was in chaos.

Unlike past games in the series, Judgmentís campaign mode is arranged slightly differently. Instead of a series of chapters seamlessly segueing into one another to form a long stage, each of these chapters have been separated into bite-size levels, largely focusing on one particular battle or event. This gives the impression that each section of the Kilo Squadís testimony is being explained to - and scrutinised by - the jury in great detail.

While the design of the stages will feel familiar, if not more arcade-like in style, the nature of the enemy Locust will throw you off on your first couple of plays. Epic and People Can Fly have chosen to implement a system which dynamically spawns enemies in response to the way you play. If you rush into a battle area guns blazing, then the first wave might appear beside you. If you choose to hold back, the next wave could spawn targets behind you.

Another new feature in the campaign is called Declassify. These are remixed stages that can be opted-in before you get stuck into a level. Theyíll appear as red COG graffiti on the wall at the start of the stage, and accepting it will allow Kilo Squad to divulge additional information to the jury that might better help its case. Hereís the catch though - these remixed challenges will almost definitely make the level harder to complete as a result.

Iím told that choosing to accept (or not accept) the Declassify missions will alter the story in some way. Both the beginning and the end - Judgment is more than just a prequel story to the Gears of War trilogy. Each stage has three stars that are awarded as you rack up a highscore. If you collect all 40 stars in the campaign, you get to unlock an additional story that takes place after Gears of War 3.

As before, you can engage in co-operative modes during the campaign, but the dedicated multiplayer mode has been revamped slightly as well, allowing for class-based gameplay. Teams can choose to play as a Medic, Soldier, Mechanic, Scout or Sentry, each with different loadouts and perks. Each class also has an item that can be used to help teammates. Scouts can chuck a beacon bomb which alerts your squad to nearby enemies; Medics can help heal others; Soldiers can drop ammo; Mechanics can repair fortifications; Sentry COGs can launch turrets to protect the crew.

Epic recently revealed a brand new multiplayer game to add to the roster - Survival. This is a bit like Horde mode, with a twist: rather than fighting to stay alive, youíre fighting to defend various objectives from being destroyed.

There are ten waves of Locust to battle through, each harder than the last, and on your first go you are likely to lose your objective. If you do, your team falls back to a second objective, and so on until you lose your last outpost. Itís great fun - particularly when you have chatty friends, as you can use your class skills to come to their aid more efficiently.

Underneath it all, however, thereís no reinvention of the wheel (or COG, haw haw) here. Epic and People Can Fly are simply keeping the gears moving so that wheel can still turn and satisfy its fans. If a more arcade-based remix of the Gears of War formula is what youíre after, then Judgment should be right up your alley.

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