Publisher(s): Microsoft Studios
Platform(s): Xbox 360
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Let’s not beat around the bush here: I’m an avid Gears of War fan. Contrary to that, when Judgment was announced, I was less than thrilled. As it stands right now, the first three Gears of War games are personal favorites of mine to play with friends and have a good time. Judgment, the upcoming fourth entry in the series, is a prequel that aims to bring Gears back to its roots; however, alongside the hope that brings, is worry that the game will succeed in some ways, but fail in many others. There are a few reasons for this, and they are right at the forefront of the footage shown off so far.
First and foremost, my personal view is that not enough time has passed for a new entry in the series. The original trilogy has been concluded, and we’ve been told there will never be another Gears game starring Marcus Fenix. Gears of War 3 came out September, 2011. Judgment, slated for a March, 2013 release, will leave less than two years between the finale of the trilogy, and the prequel. It’s obvious why Judgment is arriving so soon: the Xbox 360 has very few exclusives. Halo, Forza, and Gears of War are the three biggest franchises on the system. As there are no Halo, Fable, or Forza titles releasing 2013, it’s pretty clear why a push was made; however, had more time passed, there could have been more time to change things around and make this standout as not just another Gears.
Release cycles aside, one of the first things learned about Gears of War: Judgment is that it’s a prequel. That word is usually met with groans. Lots of people complain sequels never live up to the original, but how many prequels actually meet expectations? I’m not even going to mention Star Wars, even though it is the perfect example. When it comes to Gears of War, with each subsequent release of a title in the series, the developers aimed for “bigger, better, and more badass.” This was accomplished with new enemies and weapons. With a new entry, players want to see new enemies and new weapons.
Strictly speaking with Judgment, a few new types of locust have been shown off in the gameplay videos, and there are a few new weapons in the Cog’s arsenal. As for the new types of locust, players already know that these locust will be extinct by the end of the game, as it is a prequel. Weapons will follow a similar fate, and the only explanation for a gun no longer being used would be it not being capable of killing locust, which would allow for the ridiculous possibility of playing half the game with weapons unable to hurt the enemy. Either that or the timeline will be fudged, which isn’t necessarily going to kill the game but will make for some hilarious rants in various online forums.
Most people worry about the overall story of the series being changed for some new guns, though; they play Gears to kick some locust ass. In terms of gameplay, Judgment will be a great game for players that aren’t fans of the series. Judgment will also raise the voices of long standing fans of the series. There are a few key changes that will cause this split: you can only carry two weapons and “Y” switches between them, “RB” throws grenades and equipping them is no longer necessary, primary weapons can be fired from behind a boomshield (mobile cover that can be planted anywhere), and crosshairs are always on the screen. As for the controls changing, the new control scheme is very similar to the Call of Duty layout, which is good since it won’t be too long till every game has that scheme. The issue is that holding a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, a pistol, and grenades made sense with the armor the Cog wears and led to different strategies being employed, and was another element that set Gears apart from other shooters. This two weapon limit ties in nicely with the ability to fire any weapon while carrying a boomshield, since not everyone will have a pistol anymore. The pistol only approach to walking with the boomshield made sense as it balanced the fact that the holder of the shield was much harder to shoot. Unless the weapons fired are wildly inaccurate, there will be some issues online.
The final change listed above is crosshairs always being visible on the screen. With previous Gears of War games, aiming the weapon brought the markers into view. Firing without aiming led to spraying bullets vaguely towards the center of the screen. Aiming or not, the crosshairs are always present in Judgment, just half faded away. What this visual change will inevitably lead to is players not using cover as much and just running around spraying bullets. The bigger problem is that each Gears game has been visually striking in terms of graphics, models, and set pieces. Always having the middle of the screen obscured will definitely detract from that. It’s just ugly, and I can’t imagine someone thinking it looks better now.
So, there is the possibility of the overall timeline of the series being changed, and multiplayer will be more like Call of Duty. The other main element to the game is the single player campaign, which is also the part that peaks my excitement. Putting aside the always visible crosshairs and control changes, the single player could be the best campaign yet. Judgment brings us back to the gameplay of the first Gears of War: the locust are overwhelming and our backs are to the wall. One of the first things about Judgment we learned, was that one of the goals is to make the locust scary and not just fodder for an action scene. The most obvious way this is being accomplished is the number of locust attacking at a time, which is something that Epic increases with each game. Another way to keep the locust threat feel like an actual threat is that each time you attempt a level, the enemies are different. If three blood mounts lead to your death, there might be a pack of boomers waiting for you next time. The beauty of this is players will have to develop new tactics on the fly and constantly change the way they approach an obstacle.
The final game mode is also new to the series: overrun. To put it simply, overrun is horde mode versus beast mode. It’s a five on five multiplayer match, Cog against locust. The locust will have similar options to those available in beast mode. The Cog players have four classes to choose from: scout, engineer, soldier, and medic. The scout gets a sniper rifle, the soldier gets a boomshot, the soldier builds defenses, and the medic revives downed squad mates. This is the first instance of classes in Gears of War, and it looks excellent. The goal for the locust is to capture two spawn points and destroy a Cog generator. The goal for the cog is to stop the locust. Judging from the progressions made in horde mode over the years, overrun should be the same great gameplay we’ve come to expect and will be a great addition to the series.
Gears of War: Judgment will release this upcoming Spring. It looks like the campaign will be terrific for fans of the original game, but the multiplayer will be more welcoming to new players than old ones. As I stated at the beginning, I am an avid fan of Gears of War. Right now, I am torn on Judgment: some parts look great, but some changes are a little less reassuring. I might end up getting it, but it isn’t the game I’m most looking forward to.
Preview by Chris Lohr
Preview by Chris Lohr
Chris Lohr is a freelance writer currently in film school. If you’re looking for him to write for your website, manifesto, or Russian bride catalogue, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put today’s date as the subject line and include a picture of yourself. Must be DDD free and willing to host. All Articles by Chris.