Gears of War: Judgment – Emerging With Kill-Em-All Brilliance

Passing judgment over a set of badass war veterans is never a good thing, but what if the judgment is passed before they were badass war veterans? Doesn’t make sense?

Well, if it doesn’t, then you obviously need to know a thing or two about Gears of War: Judgment, the next in-line installment of Epic’s Gears of War series. This time around though, Marcus is taking a seat back as the focus shifts to the olden times of his fan-favorite companions Baird and Cole, and their Kilo Squad that witnessed the first horrors of the Locust invasion, or more commonly known as E-Day.

With this lets’-go-back-in-time attitude comes a combination of both minor and major changes to the GoW experience, ranging from those implemented in the singleplayer and those in the multi version. Of the lot, perhaps the most intriguing is the inclusion of Free-for-All. Take that name in front of any hardcore FPS multiplayer veteran and he/she will jump with excitement.

Called Deathmatch in many other games, Free-for-All will have you maniacally fighting and shooting others like yourself in an open arena. The objective: to create death-giving orifices in as many enemies as possible with the help of a variety of weapons. This brutal, chaotic, and extremely fun mode is the easiest accessible form of entertainment, with no requirement of a wise team and no burden of real failure hanging over you.

With such a demanding and fast-paced mode at hand, you’d expect some gameplay changes to shed away some of the constraining aspects of the game. The mode is heavily inspired by Unreal Tournament, and that game offered you fantastic controls that encouraged speed and agility. Comparatively, GoW controls aren’t quite fitted for that same type of in-your-face action, but they can be sort of transformed to make it less hurdling to play.

For example, for the FFA mode, the projectile reticule that normally appears while lobbing grenades is going bye-bye. Instead, every time you press the associated button, your character will automatically loft the grenade according to your screen positioning at that time.

Yes, this does impact your projectile’s accuracy greatly, but it’s a good enough bargain because it provides you with extra mobility and safety. Imagine yourself standing up and patiently aligning that reticule for precision-throwing. Sure, you’ll nice doing it, but it won’t combine well with the huge set of enemies just waiting to get some ammunition through your meat.

To minimize the uselessness of the grenades, they’ve added the ‘sticky’ aspect to them as well. So, if you’ve blindly thrown a grenade that happens to hit an enemy, it’ll stick to him/her until it explodes, giving you a guaranteed kill. But that obviously doesn’t mean that the person the grenade has gotten stuck to can’t run towards you for a gory hug.

The Tac-Com has moved from the LB to the D-pad as well, and the weapon-switching has migrated all the way to the Y button. This may be extremely unsettling for those veteran Gears of War players, but it should also eventually be more comfortable and better suited for an insanity-filled mode like FFA.

Another small amendment is the standard reticule – it no longer disappears when you have your finger off the left trigger. This means that instead of some crazy random shooting in exposed close-quarter fire exchange, you’ll have a fair bit of idea of where the bullets are heading, and you could adjust accordingly. Combine that with the restored strafing instinct and you get a good touch of Unreal Tournament.

The new Free-for-All mode isn’t the only one getting all the pampering. Overrun is getting a facelift with the introduction of class-based combat. This new feature is quite similar to the squad-based system found in Transformer: Fall of Cybertron’s Escalation mode. The COG team is split up into four classes, and each has a vital role to play. The maps no longer feature any ammo pickup, so it comes down to entirely one class type to do the supplying bit. Similarly, you’d want to protect and cherish your precious medic, who can heal people with grenades, and you’d want the Scout to be debuffing enemies with their nifty tools of what-nots.

The Engineer class also manages to make itself present. For some odd reason in the world of gaming ‘Engineer’ and ‘Turrets’ seem to have a must-have relation, and Judgment is no exception. However, unlike most other turrets, this one is more or less only a burst of fire power, as they only last for a few mere seconds before disassembling.

When it comes to the team baddies, you get a nice collection of stupid to awesome Locusts to enjoy with. At the start you’ll mostly get some Tickers, which can destroy enemy frontlines, some ear-popping Wretches that can paralyze their enemies with their screams, and a set of Grenadiers to do the bulk of the damage. These guys also have classes, with the Wretches playing a sort of offensive-support, the Tickers being the front-liners, the Grenadiers being the bombers, and the Kantus being the healers. Of course, these all get replaced by bigger and meaner Locusts as your progress onwards and acquire Tier 2 creatures.

When it comes to good ol’ singleplayer, it’s not only Marcus that takes a seat back, but also the cutscene-oriented story-telling style. Instead of dictating you the story, Judgment combines conventional tale-telling with a bit of atmospheric narration. The campaign levels take the form of narrated testimonies of the individuals of the Kilo Squad, with the events taking place from 3 days after E-Day and onwards. When it comes to in-game, the story is more ‘read’ from the surroundings than actually told, with the environment suggesting how the start of the Locust invasion would’ve been, and what state humanity was just an hour before it.

Another big change is the Valor Points that are earned for every kill and assist. Once they accumulate, you can choose to spend them on glowing blue items that you would encounter during the campaign. These can range from simple ammunition to even turrets. The variety of things you can attain from these points are quite commendable in itself, because they aren’t just limited to items, but can also come in the form of tweaked missions and challenges.

Gears of War is a very, very robust series because of the consistency it has shown. Given such a high-profile past, and also the insane amount of working being put into Judgment, there is no reason why it would fail to deliver in the same many as its mighty predecessors.