Unsurmountable odds are the driving theme in the latest ‘Gears of War’ installment, aptly named ‘Gears of War: Judgement’. The story follows just one squad and their fight against the enemy, themselves and their leadership.
Judgement is a story of adversity, it allows player’s to question the given authority, to reevaluate the cost of leadership and calls into question a person’s moral responsibility to others. Players begin the game just before the first attack, on what is known later as ‘Emergence Day’. It was this day that Sera was attacked by the Locust army and the war on the Locust first began. This is when Baird makes a tough decision, he disobeys his orders and attacks a large Locus unit in the heart of Halvo Bay. This single act has the Kilo Squad on trial throughout the game.
This is the framework for the title, it is also the setting and staging event for the missions that players will be sent out to complete. Each member of the Kilo Squad has to testify to the courts, the players reenacts this testimony through the missions and the player learns of the actions of Kilo Squad as the courts do. This allowed for an excellent gameplay mechanic. The player can choose the difficulty of the game, that difficulty affects how much information is revealed during the testimony (the mission). If you are a seasoned player, I can not stress enough how much the higher difficulty missions (or declassification missions) pays off in the story. It’s just an excellent decision made by the developers, that allows for a bigger payoff for hardened players than simply an achievement or a score.
That’s not all that is new to series however, People Can Fly developed a few tricks of their own. The AI that controls the enemies movements is some of the best to date. Instead of just a smarter AI though, enemies aren’t even in the same spot your second time through. If you respawn and have to go through a room again, don’t expect the same two guards to be at their usual locations. The game constantly keeps you on your toes. The new system makes you adapt on the fly, you can’t just die and go in better prepared, continuing means you have to earn it.
I mentioned this is a game about unsurmountable odds and I’ve already touched on the invasion, which is your first indication that nothing goes the right way for Kilo Squad, and the trial. Then there are the ‘Hoards’ that you have to fight. ‘Hoard Mode’ is so popular in the Gears of War multiplayer that it just makes sense to see it in the single-player campaign now. There are moments of the game that are tailor-made for Hoard enthusiasts and they work extremely well.
This game seemed sharper than others in the series, I felt former titles were based more on locations, weapons and enemies rather than a new combat systems or new AIs. In Judgement battles are more intimate, smaller but more fierce. There is a sense of desperation in the battles, the theme of ‘unsurmountable odds’ plays itself over and over again in close-quarter firefights and waves of enemy soldiers. Often times I wasn’t even sure if it was possible to win when these battles kicked into high-gear.
[quote_right]The desperate feeling of the single-player campaign is also present in the multiplayer side of the title, something that I was happy to see. [/quote_right]Gears of War: Judgement has a giant multiplayer fan-base waiting for it, and some of the best multiplayer games on the Xbox 360 had ‘Gears of War’ in the title. The desperate feeling of the single-player campaign is also present in the multiplayer side of the title, something that I was happy to see. The multiplayer has your standard game-modes and fan-favorites (Free for All, Domination, Team Deathmatch and Domination) but it also brings Survival and OverRun.
These game-modes that I mentioned at the end, Survival and OverRun, are the most unique to the game. There are class-options present in these modes, something that hasn’t been done before in a Gear’s of War title. There are your foot-soldiers with ammo drops and extended health, who are a mix of a support role and assault class. The Scout has the ability to highlight enemies, even if they are behind walls or cover, using a grenade that shows their location. The Medic is your standard medic class, allowing the player to revive downed brethren from afar.
Survival adds a few extra layers on the standard Hoard Mode. Players will form a group of five, they are then charged with protecting certain locations. The enemies are CPU and get progressively more difficult to take down. If you fail you will have to retreat and regroup at the next location, but if you fail too many times, before you kill the ten waves, you will lose.
OveRun once again has players assume the role of the locust fighting against the COG’s and vise-versa since both are human-controlled. Both teams will get a chance to play as either the locust or the humans and has the same format as Survival. Playing as the locust offers a gigantic switch in gameplay tactics, as you progress in pushing back the COGs, stronger locust come into play. While defending as the humans you can’t help but feel that you are outgunned, since you are already handicapped by having to defend points and survive, but that makes winning so much more rewarding.
[quote_left]Working with each other, rather than just being on the same team competing for kills and points, made winning a team effort[/quote_left]For both game-modes it was the cooperation of the classes that made the multiplayer more enjoyable for me than before. Working with each other, rather than just being on the same team competing for kills and points, made winning a team effort and the class selection gives players another way to feel valuable and help others.
Under all the new gameplay, new AI and new mechanics is a quite simple game, and I think that is why it is so perfectly polished. No one tried to reinvent the wheel it seems, the game played like a checklist of fantastic Gear’s moments, only sharper and more enjoyable from the continuation of the theme. It’s an easy win for any Gears of War fan, but if you haven’t picked up the series before, it will mostly likely encourage you to start with the next title in the story (which is Gears of War).