Gears of War has always been a huge hit on the Xbox world, with an innovative genocidal campaign of the Locust vs the C.O.G. in the beautiful world and lore of Sera, the badass characters and it’s trademark grotesque violence all around! I’ve been playing it personally for it’s single player story but no one can deny how addictive and fun the Multiplayer is too. Chainsawing an opponent is always as satisfying as pulling his head apart with the torque bow and many other favorites.
But let’s get down to Business, Gears has been around for a while now, does the fourth title stack up to the rest? It’s OUR turn to pass Judgment.
We start our single-player experience in the first campaign available “Judgment”, just a few days after Emergence day and the locust invasion, and we’re introduced to Kilo squad which is currently under a war trial. We briefly learn that Kilo squad, that is under the command of lieutenant Damon Baird, disobeyed direct orders for some reason.
After this point, all the four members of the squad will have a turn to speak and unfold the events that brought them there, and 90% of this campaign plays as a flashback as you take control of the character who is speaking. Does this work as a new way to tell a whole story? Well, it’s a bit forced on the player, and the constant voice off might get confusing or annoying to some players at times.
During the first mission, we’re presented to a very familiar control scheme, with some minor changes (You now don’t change weapons on the D-pad, and grenades have their own button laid out) which can feel a bit weird at the first minutes of the game, but i could very easily adapt to.
The Judgment campaign’s missions introduces a feature i wasn’t very fond of, at the start of every single level called “Declassify” where you can change certain aspects of the mission you’re playing in order for you to play what “really” happened. I personally didn’t liked this feature very much because while some added a challenging new angle to the mission like poor visibility because you’re in a room full of dust, or the enemy has more snipers guarding the area, some others didn’t made much sense. Some challenged you to run trough a level because the automated defense systems of the rich civilian mansions would turn on in 3 minutes (Even if the Locust had been occupying these houses for days now) or suddenly, Kilo squad decided to only use their pistols, yes every squad member. (Because out of nowhere, their ammo suddenly runs out) While this adds to replay ability, it breaks the immersion of the story. You’re faced with choices every 5 minutes of whether do you want to know what actually happened, even if it doesn’t make sense, or if you want to keep playing and feel bad for not choosing.
I think this would’ve been done better if we unlocked a “Declassified” mode only after beating the campaign once, giving us a whole new version of it to play trough and test ourselves against a tougher experience.
It wasn’t very early after that i was faced to one of the most awkward campaign systems I’ve ever saw when 4 minutes into the first mission i encountered a closed door with a blinking way point next to it, i walked up to it and i was asked to press a key to “continue”. After that a score board showed up with the stars, kills, head shots, etc i had scored in this mission.
This became my biggest frustration with the game because, this system pauses your game and completely destroys your immersion and continuity of the story. Imagine going to watch a movie, and this movie pauses every 10 minutes to show you stats… It’s not okay, i understand the why to such a mechanic (If you’re playing with some friends, it’s very common for an urge to know who was the best player to appear) but i think that this menu, again, should be exclusive to a co-op game, and even then, to be optional and that developers should had given us an alternative. Or alternative, to have a scoreboard like this,not after completing each 5 minute missions, but only at after completing a whole act. There were too many times, this little pause in the action totally killed my mood, it was simply frustrating.
I gotta give it to one thing, i like how Epic games managed to use all the kind of enemies and weapons we faced and used in all the previous games (Except the lambent for obvious reasons), this amount of content was pretty satisfying in the end.
Now, the story was a huge disappointment as well. New characters are flat and could use a bit more back story, and there is surprisingly no character development trough the campaigns (A fact that surprised me regarding in comparison with the previous titles). I only caught the names of all the characters by the final missions.
We are introduced to a villain, who was apparently a Locust general or something that rides a big monster and that and the word of one of your squad mates that this guy is dangerous was the only reason that you have to spend the whole game gathering pieces for a weapon to use on him that ultimately, will have no absolute effect. Kilo squad has no actual interaction with the antagonist, not even a small dialogue or event that fuels the players to want this enemy dead. Basically, he’s a big monster, he’s evil, he’s gotta die.
I think it was a huge wasted opportunity to work with the days after Emergence Day and the beginning of the war, to see the desperation of facing a new dangerous enemy and how they started destroying cities all over the planet, and it is unforgivable the few almost next to none references they had connecting this game to the first one.
Now, I did enjoy having another shorter campaign in the game, that used the old format of the other games, without Declassified modes or awkward pauses to show me my stats. This campaign occurs during Gears of War 3, when Baird and Cole are sent out to find reinforcements. You get reunited with Paddock from the judgment campaign and it was an overly satisfying experience, that was unfortunely a bit too short and left me wanting for a bit more when it was over.
In the end, all this felt rushed and ultimately i got it that this whole campaign was just a way to prepare you for the online battlefield and new modes.
Now Multiplayer is where this game ultimately shines and is better than ever. With all the old modes in the previous games refined and improved, and with speed from the first game back in motion, games are much more faster and vicious. Now players can no longer select the locust skins, and maybe some players will miss those, but when it’s down to the core game, i think it became more competitive.
There is no longing the stopping power feature, so players can move a lot more faster and get in close with gnashers. There is also the addition of the new Overrun game mode where players can play either as the locust or the Cog. The Cog have to defend structures and have access to all those barricades and sentries we were “taught” about in the campaign, while the locust will have the option to spawn as either drones, wretches or even creatures like tickers. Every type of locust is on the list (Except of course Brumaks or fully grown Corpsers)
This and there are so many skins for both the character models and each weapon to choose from it’s actually overwhelming at first! Only a shame almost half of them, you gotta pay to use.
My final opinion is:
Gears of War: Judgment fell really short on the single player aspect of things, but eventually made up for it in content and multiplayer experience. Now, if you want a classic gears of war experience and enjoy fast paced and competitive matches or maybee just play a co-op campaign with friends and try to see who scores better at it, i’d recommend you to give this a try for sure since there is a lot to experience, but one the other hand if you’re the type of gamer who is more interested in a story and not really looking for much more than that, this game sadly is not for you.
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