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Customer Review

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still fun, but not really on a par with the previous games., 30 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Gears of War: Judgement (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
Back in 2006, XBox 360 gamers were treated to the first in the Gears Of War franchise, which was such an enormous success that it spawned two critically-acclaimed sequels in 2008 and 2011 that the gaming audience lapped up with aplomb. But surely that was it after that? After all, those three games completed a story, didn't they? Well, yes they did, but despite this, now we have Gears Of War: Judgment, which is actually set before the events of the first game (although to be fair there is a separate section called "Aftermath" in this new game that is set during a specific point that occurred in Gears Of War 3.

The first thing you notice about Judgment is the absence of familiar characters Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago. Instead we have Damon Baird and Augustus "Cole Train" Cole taking something more akin to centre stage, flanked by new members: Cadet Sofia Hendrick and former UIR (Union of Independent Republics) soldier Garron Paduk. Baird is actually in charge of Kilo Squad the same way that Marcus led Delta Squad in the preceding games.

The game is mostly told in flashbacks as Baird and the rest of Kilo Squad are being forced to stand trial at the mercy of Colonel Ezra Loomis after Baird took a frowned-upon action without authorisation. The gameplay is set during a series of such flashbacks as each of the members recounts to the court different moments during the time leading up to the event for which Baird is accused, and it is in these that you take control.

Each small section allows you to collect three stars, which is part of a meter in the top corner that accumulates as you destroy members of the Locust Horde, and, as added pressure, if one of your team is downed then the meter depletes! Because of this it is advisable not to run off too far away from everyone else. To help accumulate stars faster you have the option of adding an element of increased difficulty (this differs from one section to another, but examples include having to complete the level in a set time-limit, greatly reducing the kind of ammo/weapons available or having to protect certain things from total destruction; these elements are called Declassified Missions, and take the form of a large, glowing Crimson Omen logo that you go up to and select, and it will ask whether or not you wish to proceed with this Declassified Mission). Also hidden in each level is a COG Tag collectible.

As in Gears 3 you can have up to four players during the Campaign (although only two at once on the same console via split-screen), and this is still as much fun as it ever was. However, because of the issues mentioned in the previous paragraph expect to have to rely on teamwork more than ever before to reach a decent number of stars.

What do you have in the way of weapons? Well, old favourites are here, such as the Lancer (with its trademark chainsaw bayonet), Hammerburst (although unless you got your version from a specific retailer it is the one that featured in the two previous games, rather than the version of the Hammerburst that you saw in the first game), Boomshot, Torque Bow, Digger, Scorcher, One-shot, Gnasher shotgun, Sawn-off shotgun (or "Sawed-off shotgun" in the game, but that is not really considered good English grammar here in the UK), Longshot, Retro Lancer and Mulcher. You can also get the Vulcan but now there is no need to have someone else carrying the ammo box; it's all built into the weapon so that one person uses it. New ones include the Markza (a semi-automatic sniper rifle, but arguably not as advanced so you cannot zoom in as much as you could with the Longshot), Breechshot (a bit like the Markza but you get no scope whatsoever) and Booshka (which fires small explosive rounds that, if you do not hit anything directly, can bounce off walls and other things before settling and exploding; expect to have to practice with these to get the best out of them). Grenades-wise you get the familiar Frag grenade, Incendiary grenade, Smoke grenade and ink grenade, plus the new stim grenade and spot grenade (more about those later).

Multiplayer-wise the Horde Mode and Beast Mode from the previous game are now gone, and instead we have Survival and Overrun.

In Survival you and up to four other human players (again only up to two on the same console) have to hold off against ten waves of Locust to prevent them from destroying two emergence hole covers and a generator. However, you cannot just choose any character; you are restricted to four different characters that have differing abilities that is reminiscent of the way you help each other out using various soldier classes in the Battlefield games. The Soldier can throw ammo grenades that allow people to stand in the circle and top up their ammo in all their weapons (although the circle only lasts for a short time); the Medic can throw stim grenades that can heal damaged fellow COGs and revive downed ones; another is a Scout that can throw spot grenades that identify any Locust that come into its range (again, this only lasts for a short time) and the Engineer character can raise short-term sentry guns and use a repair tool to repair damage to Troika turret guns or barriers. Unlike Horde in the previous two games, however, each character is constrained to specific weapons and you cannot pick up guns from downed foes the way you can in other game modes. The Soldier is restricted to the Booshka and Lancer; the Engineer's only real weapon is the Gnasher (although his repair tool also does some damage to enemies), while his grenades become Sentry guns that last for about eight seconds; the Scout uses the Markza and Snub Pistol (note that there is no Active Reload for this particular pistol any more, so there is no chance to reload faster or give yourself the temporary damage boost that still exists for the other weapons, but luckily it does not take long to reload); while the Medic has the Lancer and the Sawn-off Shotgun.

Overrun is just the same as Survival, the only difference being that the Locust are controlled by human players and that Overrun consists of two rounds on the same map, with the teams alternating between being COG and Locust, and the Locust pool you can select from is restricted, even more so than in Beast in the previous game, which is more than a bit of a shame.

The other adversarial multiplayer modes include Team Deathmatch, Free-for-all and Domination, which pretty much do what they say on the tin even if you have never played a Gears game before.

But is all this any good? Well, yes and no. Yes, it is still fun, and no, because there are some things about Gears Of War: Judgment that somehow do not quite measure up to the sheer brilliance of the previous games (especially not the second and third ones).

The first shock came when I found that, instead of being able to carry four weapons that could be selected with the D-pad, I could only carry two that you switched between with the Y button. Why did they change a control system that had been a standard of these games for over six years? It did take a bit of getting used to. They also changed the grenade-throwing control to the Left Bumper. Again, why? What happened to not fixing something that was not broken? I lost count of the number of times that I accidentally threw a grenade (sometimes killing myself) because I pressed that to try and locate my other teammates, and this is how you did that in the previous games.

Another issue that has arguably been a big problem even in the previous games is the AI of your cohorts when you are unlucky enough not to have humans controlling them. This is still as bad as ever, and is particularly frustrating if you are playing on the Insane difficulty level or if you are playing Survival by yourself -- the AI-controlled people clearly do not have a working brain cell between them and quite often prioritise things that really aren't that important compared to rescuing someone that has been downed or going off glory-hunting in Survival when something more pressing like protecting the E-hole cover or generator, or even something like the Medic rescuing downed team members or the Engineer repairing fortifications damaged by Locust. In fact, if you do end up playing Survival by yourself then the likelihood is that you're probably better off quitting while you're behind because of this!

Another element from the earlier games that seems to be lacking (although apparently at the time of writing is due to re-emerge in a DLC add-on) is the ability to perform executions. These were good ideas and added a bit of depth, so why remove them? It is precisely this kind of thing that prevents Gears Of War: Judgment from being anything as special as the games that preceded it.

There are other slight niggles that I could go on about, including the same old problem when there are lots of weapons lying around and having trouble standing in exactly the right place to pick up the one you want (which is even more of a problem if a downed teammate is thrown into the mix as you can still inadvertently pick up a nearby weapon when you intended to revive the teammate in question), the Sawn-off shotgun seemingly not being quite as powerful as it was in Gears Of War 3 (when it could kill Boomers and Grinders with just one shot at the best of times) and the versus modes (save for Overrun) not being COG versus Locust (instead they seem to be differentiated by one team being blue and the other being red).

While we're talking about weapons, I have to admit to taking a bit of a disliking to the Booshka and the Breechshot. To be honest, in many cases I found them to be a bit crap. The Boomshot is way more effective than the Booshka and doesn't bounce off things and require luck in hoping that the projectile will explode when you want it to, while I just found the Breechshot incredibly annoying to use. Because the Breechshot is just a Markza with no scope, it comes across to me as being not only a bit pointless, but also restricted in terms of usefulness; I didn't find it particularly useful in general combat (particularly when enemies were closer), and its lack of scope made shooting at long distances more about luck than anything. That having been said, I do not have a problem with the new Spot and Stim grenades.

So the game is still good and still fun, but don't expect it to quite have the same appeal or effect on you as the previous games.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Nov 2013, 16:10:30 GMT
Good review, but I have to argue that gears has always REALLY only let you carry two weapons. Then a grenade and a sidearm (which don't really count). All they have really done here is speed up the selection process (I can't remember what happened to the sidearm since I have only tried the demo to this.) I must admit having an extra step to throwing a grenade in gears never really made much sense. Especially when compared to nearly every other action game.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Nov 2013, 16:41:10 GMT
I agree that Gears always admitted the carrying of only two PRIMARY weapons, but if you wanted a sidearm in GOW:Judgment then you cannot even do that -- not the greatest situation if you're up against some seriously powerful foes, and even more so if you are on Insane difficulty!

As for the selection process, I still maintain that, after over six years of using the D-pad to select weapons in the previous games, it did take some getting used to the new control system, especially the bit about inadvertently throwing a grenade when you were simply trying to find out where your team-mates were!
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