Review: Gears of War: Judgment (X360)
Gears of War: Judgment looks into the past before the events of the first Gears of War, or canonically, “Emergence Day”. Lt. Baird and his team are caught in a COG military tribunal accused of defying military orders amounting to treason, thus “Judgment”. Keeping in mind this is at least 15 years before the chronology of the game we know, so hey, they are soldiers who listen to no one.
The game looks at the story of the Kilo Squad up to the tribunal as each of them recounts the story in their testimony one by one. this allows players to have a go at the story through the eyes of the entire team as playable characters. With Lt. Baird as the sarcastic burlyman leader of the group, his best friend Cole and his explosive and energetic personality by his side, along with the coarse Easter-European type Major Gaduk and Onyx Cadet Sofia Hendrik wanting to prove that she can make something out of herself, the quartet makes for an interesting bunch.
Again, you do play the story, and the story is retold through your actions. That said, the game has its surprising non-linear routes to take. The new Declassify system allows player to tweak the story by making gameplay slightly more challenging with each mission of gameplay. Interacting with glowing COG insignia on the wall before the start of a new section of the game offer players optional changes to what would just be another normal battle.
Tweaks to gameplay upon Declassification include the sudden switching of weapons, limitation to certain weapons, reduced visibility, more brutal enemy waves or time-limit instant-death scenarios, adding up to more challenges during parts of the game when these are activated. But these aren’t just for show, as the testifier will add in to reflect the changes, like how they suddenly ran out of ammo and had to used unauthorised weaponry or how an old dusty library caused poor visibility.
It’s a really clever idea and the implementation of this system is flawless as the choice of doing these Declassified missions are purely optional. But with the growing trend of bird-throwing games with three-star performance ratings, high score chasers and perfectionists will want to go for the full three stars, which are easier to attain when Declassification is activated. Even during normal gameplay, higher scores and stars are easier to reach using more brutal enemy elimination methods like a chainsaw through a locust’s neck or a Boomshot to the face at point-blank range.
Playing alone, the game’s AI, both teammate’s and enemy’s, can sometimes be a little dumb. The AI members of Kilo Squad will swarm around a Corpser and drop one by one after several thrashings from its mighty claws, leaving you to finish the job. The enemies also tend to be distracted by the COG AI, so sneaking around their cover makes them an easy target for several round from your standard Lancer. I didn’t find myself in cover a whole lot (usually playing as a mindless gamer who thinks he’s smarter than the AI), but “camping” and waiting around for the enemy made me realise their level of impatience as they do gather around my person in no time at all.
The levels also seem to help keep gameplay fresh without the same enemies popping out all the time. If you play through a mission once and end it, you probably won’t notice, but come back and play the level again and you’ll find weapons and enemy spawns can be different the second time around, keeping players on their toes and not expecting a flamethrower around the corner every time. Specific weapon spawns also help players to predict what to expect lying just behind the doors, so when the game leaves you with a sniper rifles of several flavours, it may be wise to swap one of your two weapons out for it.
Gathering enough stars unlocks Aftermath, the extension to the ending of Gears of War 3, But if you’re tired of story, there’s always plenty of multiplayer modes to explore, especially the new OverRun mode, pitting COG vs. Locust, or vice versa, depending on how good the humans are at holding the Locusts off until time runs out. Also included with the game is the original Gears of War, so players can go relive the moments following Emergence Day after the events of Judgment.
Gears of War: Judgment alone provides plenty to absorb with its in-depth, non-linear storytelling through the Declassify system. Nothing in the game was put there for the sake of it and makes it that much more believable. Varied enemy types and an extensive selection of weapons you can pick up to deal with them, with plenty of on-your-toes action has won my vote for one of the better third-person shooters in a while.
- Declassifying missions pumps in action and spices up gameplay on-demand.
- A competent storyline told across the team of four makes for a more likeable team.
- Plenty of weapons to pick out your favourite to use to pop enemies.
- Enemy and non-human AI can make gameplay frustrating, although minimal.
Gears of War: Judgment is a Epic Games/People Can Fly game for Microsoft Game Studios exclusively on Xbox 360.