*REVIEW* Gears of Wars: Judgement
The much anticipated shooter Gears of Wars: Judgement will be in stores tomorrow. I was pumped to receive an advance copy and spent most of the weekend blowing through the Campaign mode. Now, the Gears of War franchise is highly successful and is an Xbox best-seller. Needless to say, expectations are quite high.
Gears of Wars: Judgement is the prequel to the original trilogy and retells the event following Emergence Day. Set on planet Sera, the city of Halvo Bay is under siege by a new Locust Menace. Lt. Damon Baird and his Kilo Squad - Augustus "The ColeTrain" Cole, Cadet Sofia Hendrick and Garron Paduk - are escorted from the battle field to stand trial while war still rages outside. As the squad members deliver their testimony detailing the events leading to this trial, they trigger flashbacks and you play through all the chapters with each characters telling a part of the narrative. Completing the Campaign will unlock perks like playable characters and armor skins but most importantly, it unlocks the epilogue chapter "Aftermath" which ties the event of Judgement to the original Gears of Wars trilogy.
Campaign mode is playable cooperatively with up to three friends via Xbox LIVE or you can blow through it solo. I'm unfamiliar with Gears of War however, I've played other coop games like Left 4 Dead which is roughly the same style except you replace the highly trained soldiers with zombie apocalypse survivors and the Locust with zombies. While Left 4 Dead is not that great of a solo game, Gears of War: Judgement is actually great fun in single player. Playing alone, I found the A.I. for your allies to be well made as they actually showed great coop abilities like taking down an enemy that's standing behind you or quickly reviving you when you are down. Veteran Gears of War players will appreciate the new Mission Declassification feature which delivers more challenging gameplays like completing a mission with only one type of weapon.
Although I found the campaign to be great fun, the replay value of these coop shooters is the multiplayer. Judgement features new modes like OverRun (COG soldiers vs Locust in class base battle), Domintation (team based competitive mode) and Survival (revamped Horde Mode with a dash of OverRun). Returning classics are the aptly named Free For All and Team Deathmatch.
Now wether this game blows its predecessors out of the park or not is hard to say. The opinions will differ greatly depending on players' personal preference. However, I find undeniable that this game is great, regardless of its ranking with the other Gears of Wars titles. Every battle is heart pounding and high paced. Some of them are down right epic. I was surprised by the slightly cartoony style of the graphics as I though it clashed a bit with the grittiness and desolation of the ravaged environments and the grand scale war overtaking Sera however I see how it ties in with previous Gears of War games. The controls are finely tuned and easy to learn and master. The missions offer a good variety of combat styles from full on offense, like advancing while taking down enemies, and defense, like fortifying and defending an area against waves of Locust. Every time I found the gameplay to get repetitive, a new type of enemy or weapon would throw me off balance and put in peril my chances of victory.
If you love shooters, coop games and/or the Gears of War series, I strongly suggest picking up this one. If you are new to shooters, this is a good game to ease into the genre. You can blow through the Campaign in an easy difficulty setting - completing missions, unlocking achievements, completing the Missions Declassified objectives - and work your way up in difficulty before tackling the multiplayer. Veterans will find the challenge they seek by playing in "Hard Core" difficulty.
Gears of War: Judgement is available March 19th for Xbox 360. For more information, visit gearsofwar.xbox.com