The latest game release of Gears of War, Gears of War: Judgement sees Lieutenant Damon Baird and Private Augustus Cole brought up before a military court on charges of treason after illegally using a lightmass missile. This installment focuses on Damon Baird and Augustus “Cole Train” Cole, who did not disappoint as my favorite character; delivering the funniest one-liners! Judgement also introduces you to Sofia Hendrick and Garron Paduk the ‘newcomers’. All of which you will get a chance to play personally through the single player mode as the characters relive the experiences while on the stand and under oath. Each mission tells the story of what happened to the squad. You will relive the flashbacks as these soldiers tell of how they were simply trying to rescue their squad mates when things took a turn for the worst. It was an interesting and unexpected choice for the franchise finding a new way to present the material while staying true to its successful head exploding formula.
I really really enjoyed the game but be warned, this is not to be compared to its older and more established brothers. Judgement is very different and is not to be compared side-by-side but rather to compliment them. It posses real individuality while still feeling like a Gears game, and in my opinion that’s what a prequel should be. The new characters help the game play like its own and feel, dare I say, fresh and new. I couldn’t put the controller down, at first, but by the time Chapter 4 rolled around on single player mode I felt a bit brain-dead. The waves of Horde come at you hard and unrelenting and the AI is nothing to brag about. Toward the start of a mission the player will have the ability to opt-in to a tougher challenge called Declassified Missions (details which were omitted from the official public record of Baird and Cole’s campaign). Declassified missions allow for each level to be unique and act as a pallet cleanser for the non-stop player. They offer interesting parameters to complete such as adding a tougher enemy, limiting your weapon choice, or reducing visibility a few meters. Timed missions offer the same head-bashing difficulty I’ve come to expect from a traditional GoW game, and Judgment did not disappoint. Although I get flustered when in the middle of them; there is no pride like the pride you feel after one is behind you!
The game’s graphics are beautiful, and they’ve really pushed the 360 to its limits in trying to show you what Sera looked like before the massive war broke out on her soil. The characters are more life-like in their movements, which is fantastic because the way their mouths moved in previous games always kind of creeped me out. The architecture of the world was stunning and glimpses of truly beautiful landscapes are to be seen.
The game introduces new monsters and weapons as well as promises hours of longevity and fun in the all new Overrun and Free-for-All. My only sincere gripe is that they’ve left out the online play that I really enjoyed in previous titles and I fear that it’s to offer them up in the coming months as DLC. Still, the new weapons and enemies were necessary and I’m glad that Epic did them right! Although, my personal fighting style always ends with me chainsawing anything and everything… I still found it fun to explore the new materials. Multiplayer is really what makes this game shine. I’ve always been a devoted Online player for Gears and the hours of challenging play offered more than make up for the short story that is normal for a GoW game. Typically I can finish a single player Hardcore campaign in a week, and I take a lot of breaks. More serious players can finish this campaign in a day or two easily especially if opting out of the Declassified levels.
The achievements on top of letting you track your progress and giving you something to brag about, also serves to unlock Aftermath mode. Aftermath is sort of the second game included in Judgement. Think of it as bonus material or the DLC you don’t have to buy, or an I’m sorry from Epic for taking away Horde… Aftermath takes place alongside the campaign of Gears of War 3, following Baird and Cole and answering questions left over at the end of the last title. So if you didn’t play 3, you probably won’t appreciate it as much. It’s a change of pace from Judgement and this is shown in the battles you’ll have. For example,one of the first missions is to escape a landslide, and not a ‘bad guy’. If you’re a fan of the franchise or just simply want a fun game to play with your friends, I really suggest you pick up this gem and play the holy hell out of it! If you haven’t followed Gears up until this point and are looking for an in-depth story to really get you invested, Judgement falls a bit short and is clearly not meant to stand on its own.