Ahh, we welcome the return of the sound of our Lancers revving, the grunts of the Locust horde moving closer to our position, the sound of burst fire from our team mate’s Hammerburst.
These are sounds of an epic game franchise brought to us by Epic Games.
Of course I am talking about the superb Gears of War, which has developed a huge fan base since its first outing.
We are now on to our fourth instalment, once again developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly and published by Microsoft Studios, titled Gears Of War: Judgement - bringing us the infamous cover-based gameplay this series has come to master.
In Judgement, we are witness to Lieutenant Damon Baird and his Kilo squad standing trial at a military tribunal where they are accused of treason. The game begins when Baird gives his version of events leading up to said trial and he pretty much acts not only as the game’s main protagonist but as the game’s narrator as well. This is the basic premise of the game, which leads up to the events of the first Gears of War.
Along with Baird standing trial are his fellow colleagues Augustus Cole (The Cole Train!! Wooo!!) and newcomers to the series by-the-book female COG soldier Sofia Hendrick and the Russian Garron Paduk. All these characters have their own backstory and reasons for joining the COG. The story is told in traditional Gears fashion with the returning twists and turns. However, the Baird narration throughout feels like it’s being read from a text book and carries next to no emotion whatsoever.
Kilo squad also are meant to be a tight knit team but the communication between them all leaves a lot to be desired. To be frank, it bored me to tears. The Baird-and-Cole banter that plagued the other games has been watered down somewhat with most of the dialogue being military speech rather than Cole and Baird bouncing off one another, which made the older games very entertaining.
The gameplay is typical untouched Gears of War style cover-based shooting, roadie run and all.
Judgement brings nothing new to the table; however the stages are set out differently thanks to the new Star rating system. Basically, the better you do in a level with regards to speed and accuracy and creativity, you gain stars with a maximum of three per level. Get a certain amount during the game to unlock new characters, weapons, skins and also Aftermath mode, which is a lost chapter to Gears of War 3.
Multiplayer modes return with two new additions, Overrun and Free-for-all, keeping things fresh without compromising precious gameplay. Overrun mode sees players of two teams, one Locust and one COG with the objective being the COG having to defend five points on a map. If the Locust team take over one, it’s on to the next, similar to Battlefield 3’s Rush mode. Free-for-all speaks for itself and is perfect for players wanting to jump right in.
It’s sad to see the usual traditional story-heavy campaign mode being dissected and separated into segments. It feels like that game has split the story into areas. Start the area, fight loads of locust then head to the exit where you are given a summary screen, rinse and repeat until the credits role.
The newly added Gears logos, strategically placed at the beginning of every level, allow the player to earn more stars by rocking the boat so to speak. These challenges ramp up the difficulty of the stage ahead by adding a time limit, making you protect a key item, adding more Locust and impairing sight amongst other things.
Gears of War weapons are all here with a few new additions, like the Markza sniper rifle, to battle all of the Locust types we have come to be accustomed to throughout the past three games.
Things get hectic fast in Judgement. It’s easy to lose yourself in crowds of Locust mixed with your comrades and you will almost always find yourself mashing the melee button whilst your often confused team mates end up dieing and needing saving constantly. This causes frustration and ruins the whole game.
Visually, Gears of War: Judgement looks great. From beach environments to cramped corridors to town streets, there’s plenty of variety. Baird and his team, along with other COG you will encounter, have their infamous COG armour and look just as tough as they did the first, second and third time around. But it’s disappointing to see no sign of Marcus Fenix. The games main antagonist, General Karn, doesn’t really make much of an appearance to make much of an impact and his exit is as abrupt as his entrance.
The fourth game in the Gears of War series is a disappointing one; it brings nothing really fresh and new to the formula which, whilst maintaining the tight and exciting fast-paced gameplay, has been done before…..three times. There are no set pieces like the Brumak ride and that infamous car ride Nemecyst encounter and the new multiplayer game modes do add some incentive to the overly-familiar mano-et-mano romp but it’s forgettable. Gears fans will find something to satisfy their appetites but for other gamers... approach with caution.
Gears of War: Judgement
Developers: Epic games, People can Fly
Publishers: Microsoft studios
Release Date: 22nd March 2013
Story – 2.5/5
Gameplay – 3/5
Graphics – 3/5
Overall – 3/5