Yet, it has taken me more than two-years since its release to play Gears of War: Judgment. From the very beginning, it seemed clear Judgment wouldn't be a groundbreaking or driven experience quite like the main-title entries. The little fare it had, it was more like a side-game meant to keep the brand fresh in people's mind and give something for fans to chew on. Canadian video-game developer The Coalition will be releasing the real followup to Gears of War 3 in late-2016.
Gears of War: Judgment is a 2013 military science fiction third-person shooter video-game, and acts as a prequel to the main-franchise. (Try saying 'military science fiction third-person shooter video-game five times fast', eh?) The video-game was developed by Epic Games (and child-company People Can Fly), and is the last-game in the series to be developed by them.
Since release, Judgment has been received well from critics and fans alike with the average-rating I found being about an 8.0out of 10.0.
The game's story follows familiar faces Damon Baird and Augustus Cole as well as their team, unitedly dubbed as Kilo Squad. In a hearing at a military tribunal, the crew is forced to backtrack the events that led to Baird's unauthorized use of a lightmass missile and the death penalty it beckoned.
Almost everything's told in flash-backs, and you'll find yourself as all four members of the squad before it is all over.
It all comes off as very underwhelming and insignificant, and in-fact, the narrative seems more like a very large piece of DLCthan it does a game by itself. This wouldn't be so bad, but Judgment had the full-retail mark-up at first launch, and that makes it all seem a tad too short-a-show for the cost of admission. Then again, I bought it for $7 from a local game store, so that criticism is no longer relevant. And, for what it's worth, the storyline itself wouldn't have been half-bad had it not been for the lack of depth in the characters.
This isn't Baird and Cole's first rodeo, but every shred of likability and depth they once had might as well have been chopped into pieces by the Lancer's chainsaw. You remember them, right? Baird plays a stone-cold straight-face through the whole thing and never has the neurotic narcissism that made me like him. I could have accepted that, but I definitely couldn't accept Cole being a mute instead of a loud-mouth. In Judgment, these aren't characters we've seen before, rather, they are namesakes and little else.
Like I've said, Judgment was never about reaching new heights, and some might even argue it as a blatant cash-in. This could very well be the truth, but another truth is, Epic Games knows how to make a fun time and in-terms of game-play, they tried to breathe new life into the series. Though, the series is far from over-the-hill as it is, for a game that's so little about the exposition, the new tweaks were well-appreciated.
The game-play operates with the same cover-based shooter mechanics seen in earlier renditions, but finds itself more dependent on it than the others. They remedy this by adding new optional objectives to make the experience more difficult and more satisfying, whether it be adding a 'field of smoke' throughout the area or forcing the player to use only a 'specific weapon'. It doesn't sound like these would be very fun, but I thought they added an awful lot of depth to Judgment's experience. The approach works because of their approach. It doesn't feel like a collection of hardly integrated levels, or thrown-together waves, but feels like it all goes through as a straight-forward linearity with cogency in its trajectory.
Some levels in-particular resemble madness to the Nth degree, and embody sheer mindless bliss, and it's in those moments that the fourth entry in the series earns its keep.
I noticed it was a lot easier than the others as well. I have beaten the first two Gears games on Hard difficulty, and went through hell-fire and brimstone to do it, but Hard on Judgment was a tiptoe through the tulips in-comparison. One would imagine this could easily be remedied with the Survival difficulty ... but it struck me as odd.
Gears of War: Judgment is worth the time and attention of all Cog Hogs or Gear Heads … or whatever we're calling Gear fans, but it isn't the ideal starting-point for those only first becoming acquainted with Epic's epic. It's an afterthought and a holdover, and it neither illustrates the franchises' equilibrium between character-development and action, nor does justice to the spectacle surrounding the whole series. What it does do, however, is offer a 'take it or leave it' adventure that touches on many of the bullet-points for what made the series so much fun.