Where’s Marcus and Dom?
Gears of War: Judgment has been developed primarily by People Can Fly, with Epic Games taking more of an overseeing role. Now, on the whole, People Can Fly have managed to create a very “Gears” experience, with a few little twists of their own thrown in for good measure. But I can’t have been the only one to notice that they seem to have misplaced the star of the Gears of War Games, Marcus Fenix, and his long time partner in Locust dismemberment, Dominic Santiago. You would have thought someone would have mentioned this…
Set during the early days of the Locust invasion, players this time take control of the much less liked smartass Damon Baird, “The Cole Train” Augustus Cole, and newcomers Garron Padduk and Sofia Hendrick, together known as Kilo Squad. The game begins with Kilo Squad being on trial for treason and is played through a series of flashbacks as each member of the squad gives their testimony.
Let’s face it, the Gears games have never really been about telling an involving story. Gears of War Judgment doesn’t change this formula and whilst the story manages to loosely tie the events of the game together into something more or less coherent, it really doesn’t matter.
But the way that the story has been structured does allow for an interesting change to the dynamics of the game. Due to the flashback nature, the game is made up of much more “quick hit” missions, short and action packed for instant satisfaction. The missions can be played with up to four players cooperatively and, as each mission has its own leaderboard, there is much more emphasis on playing for score, and more encouragement to go back and retry a mission to score even higher.
And it also gives rise to modifying missions for more reward. Players are rated at the end of a mission by being awarded up to three stars. These are gained for various accomplishments during the mission, such as headshots or dismemberment. However, to increase the chances of gaining all three stars, players are also given the chance to make the mission “Declassified”, which adds certain challenges to the mission. These can be by limiting the weapons allowed in the mission, making the enemies more difficult, or reducing visibility. These modifications change the dynamics of the missions, forcing the players to perhaps play outside their usual comfort zone.
The “Declassifications” are a welcome addition to the game and further encourage the replayability of missions, although it does feel like they are not used to their full effect. The modifications are not as varied as they could be, often reused as if the developers couldn’t think of any other changes that could be made. Still, they are good fun.
Otherwise, the gameplay in Judgment is exactly as you would expect from a Gears game. The brilliant snap to cover is still a primary gameplay mechanic, it is still very fast moving and brutal, and the weapons still have a satisfying thud. If you have played the previous Gears games, you will know exactly what to expect.
And the same is more or less the case for the brilliant multiplayer. The single player campaign comes in at about six hours or so, which is not the longest. But the multiplayer game is where most players will spend their time.
Your standard package of Team Deathmatch, Free For All and Dominion are all present and correct for the multiplayer. The Beast and Horde mode has been replaced by Survival mode, in which co-op players fight off the Locust and a new multiplayer mode has been introduced in the form of OverRun. This mode plays out essentially similar to Survival mode, except that opposing players are cast as the locust. OverRun is class based action, with the COG players defending as the more offensive Locust attack. It is pretty good fun, and one of only a few things to change about the multiplayer game.
But I will say one thing, there has been a subtle change in the dynamics of the multiplayer, at least from where I am sitting. I am not quite sure why, but I am spending an extraordinary amount of time dying by shotgun in the standard multiplayer games. Did I miss the memo that said everyone has to equip with a shotgun and shoot other players from behind? I will admit to not being very good at the game, but that never stopped me from spending hours upon hours enjoying multiplayer in Gears of War 3. So far, Judgment does feel different, it feels a lot more “up close and personal”. Time will tell if this is an anomaly, due to my “rustiness”, or a permanent thing.
There are no drastic changes in Gears of War: Judgment and, considering the involvement of a new developer, that is no bad thing. Judgment is what it is, classic Gears of War with a few tweaks along the way. If you are a Gears fan, there is no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this latest title. If you have never been taken with the adventures of Marcus and Dom, then Baird and Cole will have nothing to offer.