Parent Talk: This should come as no surprise, but Gears of War Judgment is rated M for mature because of blood and gore, intense violence, and strong language. To put things into perspective there’s a gun you can use that has a chainsaw attached to it that you can use to saw a Locust in half. That should be enough to make you realize this isn’t for little Timmy.
Plays Like: I’d love to say this one plays exactly like the other games in the series, but that would be a lie. Developer People Can Fly took some bold risks and made some rather significant changes to the core mechanics. While you still have to use cover and the game retains it’s third person perspective, you can no longer plan your attacks ahead of time. Gears has changed.
Review Basis: Completed the campaign and tried the various online modes. Microsoft was kind enough to send a review copy prior to release so we could get this review up ASAP.
Gears of War Judgment takes everything that worked with the original trilogy and adds an entirely new dimension of gameplay elements into the mix. As a result the series feels fresh again, and while some may not like the new direction, I personally believe this is the best thing to happen to the series since the original hit the scene. This universe still has a lot of secrets yet to be revealed.
The new Declassify system allows players to choose whether to keep the fight going as usual, or to add a new twist into the mix, that ties directly into the storyline. For example, if you activate the system right before an encounter the narrative might say “suddenly there was a big explosion” and then for the rest of the encounter visibility will be reduced therefore forcing you to use cover better than had you kept things going as they were. It’s an outstanding addition that completely changes the dynamic of the game.
+ While some story elements are cliched, it works. Cole left a life of luxury to protect what he feels he must. Baird disregards orders to protect his home, therefore destroying any possible future he might have had with the military. These are young men doing what they feel is right, instead of what they’re told. They aren’t the battle-hardened warriors you remember from the original trilogy, and because of that you can sympathize with them at a much more personal level.
+ New arcade scoring system ties the declassify system and risky gameplay into a fun and rewarding experience. New content is unlocked based on how well you perform.
+ Level design is radically different than what you’re used to. Gone are the linear hallways, replaced with massive non-linear areas. Players can choose how they want to tackle not only cover, but also where to place protective sentries.
+ New randomized spawn points keep you on your toes. If you die in an encounter and try it again, the system knows if you’re using the same tactics you did before. As such the Locust spawn in different areas, forcing you to constantly change or tweak your strategies.
+ Online multiplayer is about what you’d expect from a Gears game. The new OverRun mode has five player groups going after each other, and alternating between being a COG and the Locust. Each side has its own advantages and disadvantages, and only by mastering both will you start to earn impressive kill numbers.
+ Survival mode pits players against 10 AI-controlled waves of Locust as they do whatever it takes to make it out in one piece.
+ This is without a doubt the nicest looking Gears yet. Gone are the gray hallways and, mundane look. Because the storyline takes place so many years before the original game, the world apparently still has color left in it. Spectacular environments, stunning animations, great lighting effects and more round out a superb package.
+ The soundtrack is equally powerful. It’s quiet when it needs to be, yet emotional during key scenes. Sound effects are also rip-roaring and strong.
+/- Non-human controlled partners haven’t become any smarter than they were in the past. Often you will require reviving only to bleed out while your teammates continue the fight without you.
– The final boss battle is anti-climatic and downright disappointing.
Playing the Gears of War 3-inspired multiplayer mode and then going back to play the campaign. It feels a little jarring to see all that gray again.
People Can Fly took a lot of chances with Judgment. It could have backfired or ended up becoming a huge disappointment, but the end result is a fresh and invigorating Gears of War that longtime fans will love. It breathes new life into the series, and shouldn’t be missed.
Final Score: 9/10