Grizzly Gaming

Friday, April 26, 2013

First Impressions - Gears of War: Judgment brings new ideas to the series but stubborn fans may not approve


“Gears of War: Judgment” marks the first time in the series that someone other than Marcus Fenix is in the spotlight, though the new protagonist is already well-known to fans. Damon Baird, mechanical whiz and all around smart ass, takes the lead role in “Judgment,” along with everyone’s favorite Thrashball player, Augustus Cole. Two new faces join Baird and Cole to round out Kilo squad – Sofia Hendrik, an Onyx guard cadet, and Garron Paduk, a former UIR soldier.

“Judgment” is also unique in that it tells a story closer to the beginning of humanity’s war with the Locust on the planet Sera. Told through a series of flashbacks, where different characters take the lead role while they relate different parts of the story, it’s very interesting to see Sera and the COG before the Locust horde ruined much of their civilization. As the game begins, we see that Kilo squad is being led, in handcuffs, into a military tribunal where they are questioned about some sort of heinous crime that they are accused of committing. As the game roles on, you’re given bits and pieces of information which keys you in on their actions but given the circumstances of their trial – it’s being held in a crumbling hall as the city burns around them – Baird and crew must have done something pretty serious.

I really liked the setting and the change of characters from the established “Gears” storyline. Setting the story earlier in the timeline of the war with the Locust and introducing new elements and characters to the war’s history gives you a perspective of just how far humanity falls during the conflict. Sure there’s always the problem of retcon when adding new elements to an earlier time in an established story, but everything that “Judgment” adds feels so natural, you hardly notice.

The theme of the game so far has been “change from the original,” as we’ve already seen from the storyline and the characters populating it. Not to be left out, the gameplay of “Judgment” sports some serious departures from the original trilogy of games. Each section of the story told equals a mission. Each mission now features a three-star rating system, where a better performance (kills, gibs, earning ribbons, etc) earns stars quicker and a post-mission stat screen meters out exactly how your performance affected your star rating to give you an idea of how to improve. Other changes to the gameplay include reducing the amount of guns you can carry to two (switched with the Y button) and quicker gameplay.

Overall, it seems that “Judgment” has a more arcade approach to combat and gameplay – meaning there is a bigger emphasis on scoring points than just surviving battles and reaching your next objective. It’s a huge departure from the story-driven narrative of the original trilogy but I really enjoyed the way that you can play for 10-20 minutes and still get a feeling of accomplishment. Purist fans may not see it that way, though, and feel that it’s too much of a difference from the series they know and love.

There is another new element to the new mission make-up of “Judgment.” Near the start of each mission, you’re given the option to play the “declassified” version of said mission. Selecting this option will impart some new stipulation on the mission that will usually up the difficulty but also allow you to earn stars much more quickly. These declassified mission elements can be as simple as restricting your arsenal to certain weapons but some can completely change your approach to a mission. Declassifying a mission isn’t required, though you’ll have a tough time getting three stars without doing it.

So far, it seems that earning stars really only goes towards unlocking a post-campaign chapter called “Aftermath.” Though you do need 40 stars to unlock it and with each mission only offering a max of three stars, you’ll need all you can get to unlock the epilogue chapter. Also, as in previous titles, your story campaign progress translates to your overall persistent XP pool, which lets you unlock new weapon and character skins and other customization options.

Developer Epic Games was joined by developer People Can Fly for “Judgment” and the influence of the new studio was seen all over this title. Having played People Can Fly’s previous offering, “Bulletstorm,” I could see the similarities almost immediately with the faster action and the arcade presentation. Though, hardcore fans of the series may not be too comfortable with the changes to their beloved franchise, I found “Judgment” to be a breath of fresh air to a series that was getting a bit stagnant.


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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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