"Gears of War Goes to Court"
Towards the end of a generation of systems, publishers get too comfortable with releases. Taking the templates from best-selling title from past years, newer releases are given a little polish and are sent out to satisfy a hungry audience. Gears of War: Judgment is one of those titles, taking the things that made Gears of War 3 great, but lacking in content to keep players coming back for more.
Being presented as a prequel to the series, Gears of War: Judgment's story takes place in a series of flashbacks through the eyes of Kilo Squad. Led by series staple Baird, the squad has just launched a missile against orders and are being put on trial for their crime, with the penalty for getting found guilty being death.
The campaign of Gears of War: Judgment takes place over the course of six main levels, and for the first time, all characters are controlled over the course of the story, being used at least once if playing single-player. 4-player co-op is available during the story, and the game is made easier through the ability to be DBNO (Down But Not Out), which allows downed characters to be revived before they are decapitated.
The campaign pretty much feels like a smaller series of Horde mode level for the majority of its duration, with a timer counting down the time until the enemy assault starts in some levels. The six main sections of the campaign are actually separated further into seven smaller sections, and score is emphasized here through a star system that is used for unlocks. Taking a nod from Left 4 Dead 2, the campaign offers mutations that make the campaign difficult but help scores increase faster. Called Declassifications, these mutations make the campaign better and add a little bit to the story, but a few of them repeat too often.
Multiplayer is back, and the highlight is a new class-based mode, Overrun, that pits the COG against the Locust. Here the campaign characters each have a focus, such as healing, repairing recon, and ammo supply as they defend points on maps from being destroyed by the locust. The locust are also playable in this mode and basically steal the show, with 8 classes available compared to the COG's 4 and very diverse abilities. The difference between the sides is so different that when forced to play the COG team, it became more of a chore before having more options as a locust team member.
While everything in Gears of War: Judgment is solid, there are quite a few gripes to be had with the game's leveling system, which allows players to prestige 3 times. The level up system and its unlocks are pretty dull to be honest, with most of the unlocks being cosmetic. For each level reached through stars from single-player and points in multiplayer, a prize box is earned that is basically a raffle ticket. Prizes earned can either be experience towards leveling up further or a skin for a character or a weapon. The problem is the items unlocked don't even appear in all modes, like the overrun mode!
Overall, Gears of War: Judgment isn't bad, but it isn't something that could be recommended to people who are just getting into the series. Judgment feels like an expansion pack to GOW3, and in some ways will never surpass it, aside from the entertaining locust mode. The campaign feels light, anti-climactic, and it doesn't really set up the first game aside from seeing the younger versions of a few characters, while the multiplayer is limited and the map selection is very small. Sure, the gameplay is mostly the same as previous games, but the title rides the thin line between something that is for everyone and something that can only be recommended to hardcore series fans.
GameDynamo's Score for Gears of War: Judgment (X360)
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