Gears of War: Judgment review-in-progress update

Chris Watters shares some impressions of Gears of War: Judgment in advance of the GameSpot review.

The launch of Gears of War: Judgment is nigh upon us, and though our written and video reviews aren't ready just yet, the review embargo has lifted, and I wanted to share some of my impressions of the game with you. Judgment feels like a Gears of War game all right, complete with weighty weapons, brutal executions, and armored characters sliding heavily into and around cover. The refined mechanics that define the series are still going strong, but the campaign structure diverges significantly from Gears' past, making Judgment feel like something different.

Set before the events of the first Gears of War, Judgment tells the story of Kilo Squad, a group of four COG soldiers who are being court-martialed by a stern colonel who looks like Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind. As each soldier gives testimony, you play as him or her and go through the actions being recounted. Series veterans Baird and Cole are joined by newcomers Sophia, a recruit in the elite Onyx Guard, and Paduk, a former UIR soldier and enemy of the COGs who now fights alongside them. They make a decent crew, and Paduk's heavily accented jabs at his former foes are often amusing.

As you make your way through the campaign, it quickly becomes clear that the structure of the action is fundamentally different. Rather than simply following one continuous story, Judgment breaks up the action into distinct sections linked by short walk-and-talks. These sections begin with the option to add a difficulty modifier and end with a scoreboard.

The difficulty modifier is cast as declassified testimony, so it might say something like "Kilo Squad alleges that the Locust were using heretofore unseen tactics" or "Paduk says they were only able to find shotgun ammunition in the area." Accepting these modifiers changes the conditions of the combat encounter to come. Lower visibility, tougher enemies, limited ammunition, strict time limits, and specific weapons are some examples of the varied limitations you might face. These often make things harder, and generally feel like a welcome challenge for confident players on normal difficulty. On harder difficulties, they make things much more difficult, especially if you are striving for a three-star rating.

Indeed, it's the scoring element that really sets these sections apart. During the action, miniature leaderboards pop up in the corner, comparing your stats (headshots, executions, kills, and so on) to other players on your friends list. Once you've completed a given stretch, the action pauses, and a scoreboard pops up to tally your stats. You're assigned up to three stars and given the chance to try again. When you move on, things pick up where you left off with continuing testimony, and the story proceeds.

The overall feeling then is not so much seamless campaign story as it is story-driven arcade mode. Judgment treats you less like a soldier on a mission and more like a performer showing off combat skills. It's an odd sensation, but it seems to fit with the narrative structure of giving testimony. The Gears are recounting their combat exploits in detail, and what Gears wouldn't want to talk themselves up?

I'm enjoying the campaign, different as it is, and have also had some fun with the new Overrun multiplayer mode. With up to five COG and five Locust players, this team-based competitive mode recalls the cooperative Beast mode from Gears of War 3, only with human opponents. Playing as the different species and varieties of Locust as you try to break open the locked-down emergence holes is still a gruesome, sinister treat. Combating human players in Locust form as the COG team is also more engaging, and the four specific classes of soldier depend on each other in ways that are important to survival. Matches can come down to the wire and create some truly exciting moments, and I'm looking forward to playing more of this and other competitive modes as I prepare to write the full review.

That review will be coming in the next few days, but until then, I hope these impressions will tide you over. Judgment plays with the Gears of War formula in a few interesting ways, so those fearing just another familiar Gears game may be pleasantly surprised. Share your thoughts in the comments below, and keep an eye out for the review coming soon.

Written By

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

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Discussion

472 comments
dmastor
dmastor

Is this game still being reviewed! craziness this is now becoming a good joke.

Zenwork21
Zenwork21

Worst GOW ever, people can screw did a terrible job ruining this franchise. Loved the previous ones especially Gow3, still playing now.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

Let me finish the review for this guy. I bought the game at launch. I'm a diehard Gears fan, Here is a little background, I hated Gears 1, Liked Gears 2, Loved Gears 3. Gears three has been out for what 3 years and I still play it almost every weekend. So based on all of that I think  I have a good basis for an opinion. First , I n some ways its very different to the previous games. The controls changed some, There is only Executions in some game modes and in multiplayer the only time you can fight the locusts is in Overrun mode. Overrun mode is a new mode that lets teams battle over E-holes. This is definitely worth playing. Other new game types are Free for all(everybody against everybody). I like this mode a lot more than what I thought I would. And Domination has replaced King of the Hill Having 3 locations to take and  defend vs one that relocates. I personally like this better than KOTH because it makes it harder for a team to dominate.  They can and still do, but it makes them move around giving opportunities for kills. Campaign was ok. With Gears games I always prefer the multiplayer stuff over the story stuff. Over all after playing it since release I would give it a 7.9. Its not Gears 3 , but its worth buying and worth playing and an excellent game if you want to experience Gears for the first time.

Fandango_Letho
Fandango_Letho

I think it's time to pull the plug on this blog, Chris.

pwnzord
pwnzord

Couldn't care less about the game, just had to click on the article since it was still under review.  I could have sworn that Epic pumped out a few Gears of War this year already so I had to see what's up.

I guess that J_Dangerously got it right - this must be one hell of a boring game to not have finished it yet.  Still though it was a Gears of War game, what was there that was so daunting in the challenge of reviewing it?  Learning some new names?  It certainly couldn't have been the gameplay, since that hasn't changed since the first damn game.

J_Dangerously
J_Dangerously

It's clear the reviewer came to the same conclusion I did.... the game is just too boring to care about finishing.

ahztek666
ahztek666

Why the fuck is this STILL in the "under review" section on the reviews page? Get your shit together Gamespot!

edargnwod
edargnwod

Seriously, just slap a score on it and be done.  This "review in progress" has been going since the 17th.  Pathetic...

cousinmerl
cousinmerl

my bets on a 85 score review..
..been playing it, its good but i miss the original controls with the extra hand gun weapon, weapon swapping and i really miss horde mode sad face :(

REXLAWNMOWER
REXLAWNMOWER

It is a concern for me that Gamespot is still silent on the review.  I guess the money spent on advertising (on Gamespot) also buys your silence.  IGN and the other guys hesitated not, making Gamespot look like a paid critic.  Just Sayin.

aus_pride
aus_pride

Played first few levels and think they have done a great job at making the game feel fresh. You can tell people can fly had a lot to do with the scoring system (think bullet storm). Where I think the bread and butter is tho is in the multiplayer, the new overrun mode is awesome to play (think beast mode vs horde mode) and with the new addition of classes I reckon this game is well worth the price. Only thing I'm disappointed with is the microtransactions. I really hope the devs stop doing this or make the game a budget title and let the consumers choose what they buy afterward instead of bleeding people for money. Don't let that put you off buying tho as you can still unlock some seriously cool looking skins for both guns and characters. 9/10

cainetao11
cainetao11

sounds good to me so far. Always loved gears, like the sound of the mp and classified missions. Just got it on dinner break but got 24 hour guard duty so gotta wait til tomorrow after relief takes over.

pip3dream
pip3dream

Is Sophia a playable character in this game?  I'm a lil confused because I thought EPIC just railed against female characters in this brofranchise. 

GLOBALv
GLOBALv

This isn't Gears of War.  It's watered down garbage. Throwing sticky grenades, falling off ledges, always on reticule, no execution mode out of the gate (rumor has it it came back due to popular demand), and no DBNO feature, which is iconic to the game series. Sorry this isn't GoW. They pussified the hell out of this. Oh, and welcome to micro transaction city too. Funny how they neglected that fact as well, huh?

This series has been on the decline since the release of the first one.

CraZkid37
CraZkid37

According to metacritics, the scores are widespread and really mixed. Most are positive but they range currently from 60 - 96. Very interesting. User score on here is a bit lower than expected so far but its obviously too early to say.

Big fan of the others however I'm just not too sure what to think based on what I have seen so far and what others have said. Probably would be something fun to pick up when it gets near half price, but definitely not full price.

sahandx360
sahandx360

I don't know about it's online mode, but the campaign is little dull with nothing new to show 

smsmsmoosavi
smsmsmoosavi

Already played a few hours of campaign.

- It has some strategy missions (Like "Orcs Must Die!" if you have seen that!)

- Also it gives the player some stars at the end of every objective.

These two new mechanics are really annyoing and prevent us from enjoying the pure intense action of GeoW we've had before.

additionally story is not as good as GeoW 3 and characters are not so interesting.

It's hard to predict Gamespot's ratings (with MGR: 8.5 , Crysis 3: 7.5 !!!) but It would be an 8 or optimistically an 8.5.

cboyuno
cboyuno

getting it. I'm a gears head from day 1.

LukeWesty
LukeWesty

Enjoy the gears game but not a fan of Baird at all so can't imagine the campaign having the same feel as the previous one's but deffinitely going to rent.

GALBATRON-
GALBATRON-

I think the film and television franchise The Highlander is to blame.

Tremblay343
Tremblay343

My console is better than your console! If you own the one i don't then you;re just a stupid fanboy.  I have a completely rational and justified hard-on for my company of choice and they provide way better services than yours.

C0v3rtUnis0l
C0v3rtUnis0l

@pip3dream The first video in this post follows one of sophia's testimony so yes, you do play as her (and the others for that matter of fact)

huerito323
huerito323

@GLOBALv most of the things people already knew before release/ Why still bitch about it? Get over it and move on. It's not supposed to be like the past Gears games, it's a prequel and they felt they had a chance to explore and try new things. Just wait for Gears 4 if you want the same old shit.

firstclassgamer
firstclassgamer

@GLOBALv wish they would have kept going with Marcus Fenix story. When I saw they were doing a story with the main character being Baird I knew this was a disaster waiting to happen

CraZkid37
CraZkid37

@smsmsmoosavi Yea I think 7.5 - 8.5 is a good prediction. I'm afraid it will be TOO arcadey to really enjoy, myself.

Lockjaw2000
Lockjaw2000

@GasparNolasco Games shouldn't be reviewed on a school's grading system.  That means that when a game gets a 5, it fails.  That's not exactly the case with a review.  When you get a quiz score back, and get a 5 out of 10, you failed at 5 points and gained 5 points.  With a video game, it can be the same exact thing, but a game that fails points can be amazing.  Look at Skyrim, especially for PS3.  Failed on so many levels, but I'm not going to say that it failed as a game.  In fact, it was rather well thought out.  Except for the bugs....and some of the quest lines...but still a good game.  Call of Duty is a terrible game in my opinion, but I won't say it didn't find ways to bring people together in an online community...or set them apart, however you view it.  My point is, if a game gets a 5, it should mean average, or in the middle.  It should mean it did points well, but also needs improvement.  7 should be even better.  8 and above should be pretty hard to obtain.  It's sort of like currency lol

Chris_Watters
Chris_Watters moderator staff

 @queuing_for_PS4 Hey! I've never given a 10! But yeah, I did really love Gears of War 3. Judgment though, well, tune in tomorrow to find out.

GasparNolasco
GasparNolasco

@JabbaRancor @GasparNolasco It's the perfect score if you're not willing to piss off your advertisement and still pass as an unbiased reviewer. Saving a couple of exceptions, Gamespot has been giving 8 and 8.5 to pretty much every new release lately.

Lack of balls on the reviewing team it looks like.

pedrote
pedrote

@GLOBALv @Tribesmaster @firstclassgamer 

Gears of War.


wut

GasparNolasco
GasparNolasco

@Jonno621 @GasparNolasco @JabbaRancor Those are exceptions  Tomb Raider, God of War Acension, Fire Emblem, Lego City Undercover, Diablo III, Darkstalkers Resurrection, Assassins Creed III, Vrtues Last Reward, MLB Baseball, Black Ops II, Revengeance, Darksiders, DmC, etc all got 8s and 8.5s.