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

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User Comments

Wido's Avatar

Wido

@Munkee 7 @ETO - 7/10 scores have been a stigma for the past couple of years. Take it as you will. The score alone for this specific game hasn't put me off from getting it. I just lack a 360 to play Gears Judgment, and I loved the previous Gears games, big fan of them.

In terms of reviews on the site. 'They' have been in decline for a while now for me personally. It all went to pot when freelancers came in to fill the games which the team haven't got the man power nor time to do, so I respect that. I like reading TomO's reviews for example. You know what to expect and always got a decent read, because the games he reviewed, he knew them like the back of his hand.

Like James with Football Manager.

I would like to see Dave to do some reviews.
Posted 14:08 on 18 March 2013
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Woah, there! Beven's point is still valid and I think criticism is important to the continued improvement of the site. He may put this across in a slightly more over the top way than some, but I do agree with the sentiment.
Posted 13:35 on 18 March 2013
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
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ EverTheOptimist

Quote:
VG reviews are written just as well as any others

I stongly disagree on that by the way it's going personally, esspecially with the criminal Hitman review with non existent problems.
This site use to be easilly the best for reviews* but it's gone down hill lately.

I don't mind anymore as I prefer the video content they are doing at the momnent and it's sort of a balancing act quite clearly.
You can either keep the standard of reviews or concentrate on something more that you wanna do and might appeal more to others.

Edit:
*Sorry mean't the reviews not the site as a whole!
Posted 12:00 on 18 March 2013
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist@ rbevanx

We may not choose to read a review, or take its opinion on board, before buying a game but that review will still exists regardless. VG reviews are written just as well as any others, I just think there needs to be some sort of guide in place so people don't think a game awarded a 7/10 is crap. It goes against the point of even having a review.
Posted 11:55 on 18 March 2013
DancingRhino's Avatar

DancingRhino@ rbevanx

Or better still, win it :D
Posted 11:53 on 18 March 2013
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ DancingRhino

Quote:
How about reading the review, remembering what previous games were like and coming to your own conclusion.

I go better than that now. Get the game if I fancy it and just play it for myself with the way reviews are going at the moment.
Maximum it's gonna cost me is a price of a pint or I just rent it via Lovefilm, simples.
Posted 11:42 on 18 March 2013
DancingRhino's Avatar

DancingRhino

How about reading the review, remembering what previous games were like and coming to your own conclusion.

7 is still a good score, no matter if people realise it or not.
Posted 11:23 on 18 March 2013
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist

Agree with Munkee, 7/10 is a very good score but online reviews are so skewed no-one views anything less than a 9/10 as being decent or playable.

How can 7/10 possibly be a low score?!

I'd really welcome a VG chart explaining each score because others need to understand what that means. For me:

1/10 = Don't go there. Ever.
2/10 = Seriously, it's still not worth it.
3/10 = Might be a laugh if you're very curious and see it for very cheap
4/10 = A couple of good moments but very heavily flawed
5/10 = Not bad, but only to be purchased at a reduced price
6/10 = Pretty decent, worth a look at a reasonable price
7/10 = A good game, for those who like the genre/previous games it's a full price
8/10 = A very good game, a lot of people will really, really enjoy this
9/10 = An excellent game, one of the best examples of its kind
10/10 = An outstanding game, something all gamers should experience

That's how I weight it up in my head, but it doesn't help when there's no overall score policy/guide from a site.
Posted 11:13 on 18 March 2013
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ munkee

Or VG are just looking for hits/reaction now with their reviews.

It's very "Price is Right" at the moment.

"I'll go one lower Bruce!
Posted 11:12 on 18 March 2013
DancingRhino's Avatar

DancingRhino

I like the sound of the arcade type aspects, good incentive to mix up play in the campaign. I think I've had enough after three games. I'll probably pick it up and blast through when it's silly money price.
Posted 10:58 on 18 March 2013
munkee's Avatar

munkee

How is 7 low?! That's only out of 10! Surely a 5 is mediocre and anything under that is low.

Or perhaps the whole web-based scoring system for games is bent out of shape and completely irrelevant.

Who knows?
Posted 10:50 on 18 March 2013
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Same here, so not in a hurry to get this.
Posted 10:30 on 18 March 2013
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

Still have Gears 3 sitting here awaiting a playthrough...!
Posted 10:04 on 18 March 2013
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Will be getting a reputation for low scores at this rate!
Posted 09:41 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: 2,121 58
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