Gears of War: Judgment, the 4th game in Epic’s Gears of War franchise, is out this week (Tuesday 3/19) and so far the reviews are mostly positive! Personally I was beginning to tire of the Gears series so it’s great to hear the positive feedback on the new game; most of which complements the tweaks Epic, and co-developer People Can Fly (Bulletstorm), made to the campaign’s structure. Of course, multiplayer is a big part of Gears of War and Judgment’s new mode OverRun is also getting high praise.
Let’s get to the reviews:
Polygon: Gears of War: Judgment provides multiple main player characters for the first time in the series, and each character's point of view and sometimes conflicting motivations for going off-mission are explored enough to flesh them out. People Can Fly do a workmanlike job in building a story that keeps the game moving, doesn't get in the way, and provides for great set pieces that belong, rather than plopping down random bits of bombast.
Those set pieces are oriented around the great, cover-based shooting that's driven all of the Gears of War games so far. You take cover against various surfaces, moving from one position to another with the A button, and aim around corners and the like with the left trigger. In this respect, Gears of War: Judgment is immediately familiar. But it's the additional wings built on top of Gears' now well-established foundation that make things interesting — like the dynamic spawning system. Rather than the static, scripted enemy spawning and positioning of previous Gears games, Gears of War: Judgment adapts to player strategy and play style by mixing up enemy types and tactics based on how you're playing the game.
IGN: Both story and gameplay really come together in the brilliant Declassify system. These optional objectives, which you can activate before most enemy encounters, trigger a challenging variable that handicaps (your) Kilo Squad. If a Declassify variable impairs your vision, adds stronger or more enemies, cuts your ammunition in half, or forces you to use specific weaponry, the way you play the encounter changes dramatically. Each of these awesome combat mods comes with a reasonable narrative conceit, too. An explosion, for instance, may cause a cloudy layer of dust to sweep through the battlefield and reduce your visibility.
Declassified sections also modify another of Judgment’s new wrinkles: the scoring system. Melee executions, explosions, and turning Locust into gibs increases your star rating during each encounter, and activating a Declassify option multiplies the rate at which you earn stars. Leaderboards and arcade scoring are one thing, but this is another of Judgment’s clever ploys to tinker with the way we play Gears. Knowing what scores big points can drive you in a specific direction – if you want to score big, maybe risking an explosive Torque Bow’s limited ammo instead of the Markza sniper rifle’s full clip is worth your while. Judgment’s evaluation of skill is rewarding in its own right, especially when you know you’ve conquered a tough Declassify mission.
Destructoid: This focus on leveling and winning things leads to Judgment's campaign having a lot more of an "arcade" feel than prior installments. Missions are very short, lasting a few minutes at most, which leads to the already basic story feeling segmented. However, the trade-off is a faster, more chaotic, more varied solo and cooperative experience which, coupled with the declassified extras, leads to an altogether different type of Gears that players are used to. Whether fighting in a room covered in thick dust and full of sword-wielding Therons, or defending a position with sentry bots and turrets, Judgment constantly switches things up on the player, and the bite-sized nature of individual missions leads to a feeling of greater replayability.
Eurogamer: What pushes Judgment over the line from "pretty good" to "pretty great" is multiplayer. Not the same old versus matches that have been a staple of the series since 2006, nor the wave-based Survival mode, nor the late addition of a basic free-for-all deathmatch, nor or the King of the Hill variant, Domination. Those are all fine, but standard fare. No, the secret weapon in Judgment's arsenal is OverRun, a hybrid game mode that pulls together the best elements of the series' online play into something epic and satisfying.
At heart, OverRun is a close relation to Battlefield's Rush mode. The COG team is on the defensive, holding back a player-controlled team of Locusts and (hopefully) preventing them from opening sealed Emergence Holes. Fail twice and the humans have to fall back to protect a generator. If the Locusts destroy that, it's all over. Similarly, if the COG can hold the line until the round timer runs out, the Hammer of Dawn fires up and obliterates the monsters.
With a fuss-free class system and tight, well-planned maps, OverRun is Gears multiplayer at its best, combining the strongest elements of deathmatch and survival game types into one nail-biting experience. There's a great balance between frantic action and tactical collaboration, while the addition of some verticality - reachable by the Scout class for sniping duty - subtly changes the ebb and flow. It's a mode where players of any skill level can find room to shine, but only the best will emerge with the medals and ribbons.
Sounds good, right? Is Gears of War: Judgment a day 1 purchase for you? Let me know!