Gears of War: Judgment Review

Gears of War: Judgment screenshot
Gears of War: Judgment screenshot

Gears of War: Judgment is an odd one. On the one hand, anyone vaguely familiar with Epic's schlocky, irony-deficient combat opera will feel completely at ease with it, sinking straight into its dramatic, ridiculous world, popping heads and chainsawing all and sundry. On the other though, it's only been a year and a half since Gears of War 3 came out, and it's hard not to think of Judgment as a quick moneymaker before everyone piddles away their hard earned cash on consoles that render Marcus Fenix's massive neck at two billion polygons. Having said that there's still a lot of good here. It's by People Can Fly after all, the chaps behind cult favourites Painkiller and Bulletstorm.

Gears games always look good, but even by the series' own standards Judgment is an especially good-looking bit of work, although the 'destroyed beauty' aesthetic feels somewhat overdone now. The characters look more human too. They're still hulking colossi (it wouldn't be Gears if the characters weren't on the juice), but they don't look quite so much like they were fashioned in clay by a drunk that's watched too much WWE this time around.

Judgment is a much more low-key affair than its predecessors. It's a prequel focusing on the exploits of Augustus Cole and Damon Baird, before they became the comedy sidekicks bolstering the bromance between Marcus and Dom. Because Baird was the nerdy one that made more quips than a hastily hashed out Joss Whedon character he naturally became a fan favourite, although he isn't as over the top or whiney in Judgment. Cole Train's a lot quieter too actually. They're joined in their unit (Kilo Squad) by two largely forgettable new squadmates, Sofia Hendrik and Garron Paduk, who bring their own frowning dynamics, making up a predictably mismatched quartet.

Without giving too much away, the plot involves a tribunal presided over by a sour-faced frump by the name of Colonel Loomis, who's accusing the squad of being a bit naughty. Each member of the squad gives their own testimony, each testimony in turn becoming part of the campaign.

The campaign structure itself also feels different than in Gears 2 and 3, which although engaging, were ultimately bloated, occasionally tedious affairs. Judgment mercifully avoids that, thanks no doubt to People Can Fly's arcade-style, trigger happy influence. There are no ‘slowly walking with finger in ear bits' (thank Christ) and there's far less emphasis on blustering, melodramatic cut scenes. There's also an added incentive to play skilfully, with stars to earn during segments of each level, which go towards unlocks (like the Aftermath campaign; more on that later).

Gears of War: Judgment screenshot

Adding a rudimentary points system is a simple but pretty nifty way of making Gears feel a bit fresher again, encouraging you not to play like a feeble wimp, urging you instead to dive around and roadie run like a hulk possessed, going for that elusive headshot or gib. We're not talking a Vanquish-style metamorphosis here, but a little incentive to be a bit more daring adds a lot to the game.

The mission declassification system — triggered by Crimson Omen symbols dotted around the stages — is pretty nifty too. These add little stipulations to certain segments, such as reduced visibility, time limits, reduced ammo and harder enemies. Your star rank gains quicker if you opt to turn it on, so it's often worth giving each one a pop.

It's at this point that Aftermath needs a mention. Set during Gears of War 3, it's fine in itself, but it doesn't have the star ranking or Declassified missions, playing much more like one of the earlier iterations. As such it feels somewhat lacking and even maybe (whisper it) a bit dull. Still it's a nice little incentive to not play like a fingerless klutz in the main game.

Judgment has, of course, been designed with multiplayer in mind. Playing on your lonesome is good enough, but it's much better with three other idiots joining you on your bloody soiree. The bigger emphasis on points scoring means there's an increased focus on working well as a team, so playing with friends rather than foul-mouthed eight-year-old American children is probably for the best. If you do feel the need to teach the rest of Xbox LIVE a lesson in respect, there's (finally) a Free For All mode, that lets you loose on everyone else.

Gears of War: Judgment screenshot

It's probably the most enjoyable new multiplayer gametype, especially if you're vaguely competent at it, as making mincemeat out of lower level imbeciles is always satisfying. Elsewhere, it's business as usual. Survival is basically Judgment's Horde mode, but with a class-based system implemented, so there's a greater emphasis on tactical play. It's a lot more intense than Horde mode too. OverRun is similar, but sees you alternating between Locusts and Humans, so it adds in elements of Gears 3's Beast mode. Which is good; scuttling about as a critter and causing all sorts of grief to fatnecked cogs is a lot of fun.

The standard Team Deathmatch returns too, which seems fine, although it'll doubtless turn into the rolling shotgun orgy of the other games once everyone else gets their hands on it. Though let's hope not. Multiplayer maps look aesthetically similar though, leading to the experience feeling a touch one-note, and as things stand at the minute, there aren't enough of them.

On the whole however Judgment is a solid effort that, in some ways, changes the Gears formula for the better. Whether it will be remembered as anything other than a stopgap is questionable, but small qualms aside, it's a good one.

Played through Main Campaign and Aftermath on Normal Mode in eight hours, doing at least half the Declassified missions. Played each mode of Multiplayer multiple times over. Even came first in a couple of free for alls.

7 / 10

  • Arcade-style approach adds a lot
  • Campaign is far less bloated
  • Feels a bit ‘knocked out’
  • Plot is forgettable

Click above for enlarged Gears of War: Judgment Screenshots

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Highest Rated Comment

munkee's Avatar

munkee@ rbevanx

You're against the VG reviews and you don't care what score they get because you're going to ignore them, then buy the game anyway.

So, why bother continually bitching about the scores on almost every review going? You've said yourself, It's completely irrelevant to you.

#AttentionSeeking #GetOverIt #BrokenRecord #ICameISawIConquered
Posted 13:20 on 18 March 2013

User Comments

Wido's Avatar

Wido@ Clockpunk

You should know me by now! :p Its definitely in my plans, though with everything taking a different path down the self employed and running my own business. Gaming will definitely be put on the shelf.
Posted 11:19 on 19 March 2013
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ Wido

I might play on my MOTM copy of the game but it depends on my to do list. I wanna get cracking properly on Borderlands 2 and X-Com which I keep delaying and really don't wanna delay playing on any further.

If others get it on here and wanna do co-op for it when it comes out, I will take it out of the shrink wrap rather and do that rather than put it on eBay to fund other future gaming needs.
Posted 10:55 on 19 March 2013
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk@ Wido

Quote:
though I'll end up playing it on my brothers 360 via co-op or something

What happened to the preowned console plan...? (need I really ask :p)
Posted 10:10 on 19 March 2013
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist

I'm not bothered either. Played the first and it was alright but I wouldn't venture back into the series.
Posted 10:03 on 19 March 2013
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister@ Wido

Never really been a Gears fan, got 1 and 2 but haven't even started on 2 yet, let alone finished 1.
Posted 09:05 on 19 March 2013
Wido's Avatar

Wido@ altaranga

Its the forum and you guys that keep me coming back plus the VG team.

Anyway...

Who is getting Gears? I would love to get it, though I'll end up playing it on my brothers 360 via co-op or something. I do like how horde has changed a bit and with proper character classes.
Posted 08:56 on 19 March 2013
MJTH's Avatar

MJTH@ altaranga

Kind of agree with you there. I only come here for the forum, video/ livestream stuff and podcast nowadays.

It's not even that I dislike the freelancer guys work with reviews, I quite like reading Jon and Chris's stuff. But since they're not full staff, they don't contribute to the site in anyway but reviews. Since they don't appear on the podcast and we don't get to hear who they are, what their personalities are, where their view points stand, it's harder to get behind what they say since we don't know them.
Posted 21:05 on 18 March 2013
altaranga's Avatar

altaranga@ CheekyLee

Inconsistent.

Twitter has its advantages but is not the same as a forum. I like the fact that I can not come on here all day and the in the evening still be able to read what everyone is talking about. Twitter is a lot more jumbled and doesn't lend itself very well to that behaviour.
Posted 20:55 on 18 March 2013
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee@ altaranga

Twitter?
Posted 20:28 on 18 March 2013
altaranga's Avatar

altaranga

The only reason I come to the site these days is the forum. If there was another site where I could readily find a few of you guys then I wouldn't come here at all.
Posted 20:21 on 18 March 2013
munkee's Avatar

munkee@ rbevanx

Quote:
LOL I wound up the munkee. As I always answer your silly questions, how about you answer my childish ones now
Sure. It's only fair.

Quote:
Do you just have it against me as other uses once again refer to me by my real name...You see it's just not me on that front, are you gonna have a nut case rant at them as well
I don't like anybody doing it. But the original time I tried to oppose it I also said that if nobody else agreed then I wouldn't mention it again. There's no need for me to bring up an old argument.

Quote:
Also why are you even posting on here when you don't even play 360 games?
I've played and finished the first two. The third one was pretty cool, but I haven't got around to finishing it. I don't own an Xbox. I have played most of the exclusives.

Quote:
Anyway, I just don't agree with them and they have been that poor of late and I have said why they are weak etc giving actual reasons to why they are wrong because I have actually played on them and they have been miles off the mark.
The reviews on here before were a brilliant standard and I just don't like the way it's going.
Why don't you tell us again about how you don't like the scores on Videogamer.
Posted 19:56 on 18 March 2013
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ munkee

LOL I wound up the munkee. As I always answer your silly questions, how about you answer my childish ones now :p

Do you just have it against me as other uses once again refer to me by my real name...You see it's just not me on that front, are you gonna have a nut case rant at them as well :D

Also why are you even posting on here when you don't even play 360 games?


#ChildishFunnyPointlessInternetWars

Anyway, I just don't agree with them and they have been that poor of late and I have said why they are weak etc giving actual reasons to why they are wrong because I have actually played on them and they have been miles off the mark.
The reviews on here before were a brilliant standard and I just don't like the way it's going.


But hey if anything I defended the Hitman review while other users were being unfair on Schilling in terms of being abusive which is out of order.
It was when I actually played the game I said back his review was wrong because some of the problems in his review were not actually there!
Also I'm not the only one here who doesn't rate the reviews so rant on them as well.
Posted 17:17 on 18 March 2013
Neon-Soldier32's Avatar

Neon-Soldier32@ munkee

A little overboard?

I think his point is fair. Bear in mind that it isn't just Bevan who disagrees with review scores and buys the games anyway - the core do that, hence why things like Sniper Ghost Warrior do well (and then warrant a sequel).

I think his point is more than the quality of VG's reviews have gone down whilst their video content has improved and I agree with him.

Before the staff change there was a consistent team of reviewers whose style you got to know (i.e. Martin's) and now that reviews are being outsourced to any Tom, Dick and Harry their quality has decreased. I mean, one of the new guys (sorry I don't know which) is the review's editor, although I'm sure outsourcing these reviews isn't the best play for VG.

Personally, whilst VG's video content did need improving I think that they're putting too much emphasis on it, especially whilst they have one video editor (compared with GameSpot which has a couple as well as having excellent video content.)

I feel that we should have a more consistent review team to allow us time to get to know them and if reviews are going to be constantly outsourced to Jon Denton (or whoever) then just employ them.
Posted 15:30 on 18 March 2013
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist

To be fair, my opinion of the reviews being as good as others is probably out of touch anyway - I rarely ever read other sites reviews and tend to stick with VG because of posting on the forum. I should have made that clear.
Posted 14:50 on 18 March 2013
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

If only Neon could be tempted back to do some freelance reviews... :p
Posted 14:30 on 18 March 2013

Game Stats

Gears of War: Judgment
7
Out of 10
Gears of War: Judgment
  • Arcade-style approach adds a lot
  • Campaign is far less bloated
  • Feels a bit ‘knocked out’
  • Plot is forgettable
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 22/03/2013
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: People Can Fly
Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Third-person shooter
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 1,005
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