Sunday, March 24, 2013
2011 - present...
A while back, another Gears of War game was said be in development. I knew right then after my completion of Gears of War 3, what that statement meant, one or more prequels. It seems that prequels are all the rage lately in the seventh generation of gaming. So now, here we have Gears of War Judgment; that is a suspicious title to say the least. It is interesting to note that Cliff Bleszinski did not even touch this game, period. Well, he might have played it, but he still had no hand in the actual development. Now I know what you're thinking, don't jump too far ahead now, the rest of the developers at 'People Can Fly' got a year and half to create this game. I can now take it off the shelf (from the video rental store) and examine this compact duel layer DVD newly born in the Gears of War family. Here I will let you know if this game is just another COG in the Gears of Microsoft's money machine or if it can stand in with a bloody good game series.
...And Justice For All
Gears of War Judgment is a prequel to the original game and surrounds the characters Baird, Cole, and two new character's: Sofia Hendrik and Garron Paduk. The main levels of the game are the squad member's flashbacks that serve as testimonies during a military tribunal. Each member tells a different part of the story, when they traveled to a COG base and launched a lightmass missile without authorization and now face execution. That's our Baird! I find the storytelling and narrative in this flashback format to be quite unseasoned for a game like Gears, and it's a nice tweak. I believe that most fans will still enjoy it just as much as the other titles. Once the story is completed, it's time to hit it up right before Gears 3, with a story extension called Aftermath. It takes place just moments before the Imulsion cure is released. Basically, before heading to Azura, Baird, Cole, and Clayton Carmine attempt to find a transport and reinforcements. I don't want to give it away, too much, but Aftermath follows a more traditional narrative path of a Gears game. The standard story almost felt more akin to a sci-fi noir game like Halo 3: ODST, and I will come back to that game. Each character has a different chapter to tell and investigate.
The characters the player jumps into correspond with each individual testimony and different area of the game. It was neat to witness the different character's perspective and ongoing, changing attitudes towards the other members, their mission, and the war as a whole. At first, I only appreciated Baird and Cole because we've had the three games to get to know them. Most would like Paduk just because of Russian-like voice and stereotypical attitude. With time, just a little time, I figured out his background and could sympathize with his motives, but still could argue with a few things he says. Unfortunately, Sofia didn't really hit it off with me at all. She seemed like a detached character, that annoyingly does it all "by the books". By the end of Aftermath though, I finally felt for her, but it took a while. Gears of War Judgment follows our two favorite characters into battle and does a favorable job of developing some new ones to tag along.
The visual style and graphics of the Gears games hasn't really open eyes very wide, but it did progressively get better and better. One look at the title screen and you'll know if the game's graphics and style will do justice for a current generation. The graphics in this game are of the best and even slightly better than Gears 3. Every location looks so freshly abandoned and demolished, it looks great. As you can see, fire is pretty much everywhere in this game, and it looks really bright and awesome. The reflective and shine effects look quite gorgeous and I did find myself looking at the scenery quite a lot. It is, by far, the best in the series. The cut scene graphics however look exactly the same as the third game, but to improve that takes some more time and money. I have seen the skeleton and the basics of the UDK 3 engine and I have to say, this engine is about as good as it's going to get and looks great for being almost 9 years old. As you can also tell, I based the title of the paragraphs off of a Metallica's ...And Justice For All tracks. The Judicial statue in this game reminds me of that album cover. I know that figure was designed much earlier, but the dark tone of both works fit considerably well with each other. Speaking of music, the soundtrack of this game sounds like a rehashed version of the Gears 3 music. Music in these games is just for background noise, nothing great. The graphics and art style of Judgment are improved a tad bit and still looks great for an aging game engine.
The Shortest Straw
The gameplay of Judgment is not any different or fresh in any way: It's Gears 3 in a different environment basically. It has its ups and downs, I feel like each battle encounter is just a, "Here we go again...". Compared to the other games, it's the same old tired thing. I will give some credit though for the implementation of the star ratings, Horde-like battles and Declassified missions. The star rating system really adds to the replay-ability and challenge of the game, much like in the recently released Metal Gear Revegeance, but not as fun and intense to go for. The Declassified Missions just alter the current mission to a certain criteria for a change of pace, and eh I did them because of Achievements. I did like the Horde sequences, but soon after, they get tiring and aggravating to go through. I will say, this was just what it needed to get this game off the ground, for a little while at least. The campaign has a decent length to it, but when it's done, there isn't much of a motivation to play it again. The gameplay of Gears of War Judgment is the same thing with just a few interesting things joined in.
Well, maybe a bit more than just one or it's not multiplayer. Many games rushed out this past month have had their share of tacked-on multiplayer. Gears of War games have always been created with multiplayer in mind and it has never felt tacked-on. Judgment tries to take its word up on that, but falls just short of the fun the previous games contained. Some players are just going to be so much better than most and it gets annoying, but that's dedication and that gives it some good. Gears fans will enjoy it more than casual players such as myself will. In Team Deathmatch, it is a who is better contest and same with Free For All. I will say, that Domination is quite enjoyable for a while and it actually keeps the team doing something unlike many others multiplayer now. The game has also gotten rid of active, reloading, DBNO, and executions. Why? I do not understand this decision at all, that was fun to do. They also got rid of the Locust team and now the sawed-off is two shot and weaker now. I really cannot comprehend this and it seemed like a lazy attempt to change the game. Not a good thing.
In addition, there are only four maps and despite how well designed each are, we could have had at least a couple old ones chucked in for some more content. The controls have also been more streamlined with the left bumper being the grenade button and Y being the weapon swap. A good modification, but this takes away the ability to plant grenades and support and third side arm weapon. Okay, it's not all bad. The game type Overrun is a whole lot of fun to be had. You can play as the Locust and kill the COG or be the COG fending off the Locust. It's a entertaining mix of Horde and Beast with a Battlefield-like objective and progression. It needs to be played to be understood and appreciated, it's very good to say the least. Go and try the demo to see my point. Survival is the last mode and it's just Overrun with AI, so... that's it. Still not happy? In due time, the game will get the addition of the Execution mode and couple maps for free. That's great news, I feel this game is lacking a bit of content, but at least the game works properly.
Harvester of Sorrow
RANT TIME: That gun... This really got to me. You had to pre-order this game to obtain the Classic Hammerburst from the first Gears game. Oh and it's not the same gun, it's a burst fire. I know what some may think, "Oh it won't affect the balance". Do some forum surfing, you'll find that people really think this gun is really good. They make you pre-order or soon possibly purchase the weapon from the Xbox live Marketplace, to get the advantage. I feel the blame of this falls squarely on Microsoft Game Studio, and potential feeling that this game would be terrible. Then they make you get stuck with the game not knowing if it is good or not if you want the gun. Buying optional things that are for aesthetic purposes is alright, but they went way too far this time. This is worse than the micro transactions the EA has now. There is even less items to unlock in this game, but they do give you prize boxes from completing certain goals, but most of those are just XP awards. So much more content could have put into this game. Microsoft, wake up and give everyone that gun! Don't be like EA!
Eye Of The Beholder
Gears of War wasn't done yet, and I knew its next direction. I bet many others predicted something along those lines too, and it's not disappointing, to some. The narrative was very intriguing and neat to follow as a first approach in a Gears game. The characters we knew where great, and other characters where what they could be, nothing more. The graphics don't change a whole lot, but still appear as well they can on and old engine. The visual style is unchanged, but is alluring enough to take a second glance at the scenery. Neither aspect is grand or even memorable for any of these games. The gameplay is identical to the other games, but adds infrequent changes in play. These, more so additions, give a little more, but get tiresome after some time. The multiplayer shallowly deletes some fun features and has only two fun game modes: Domination and Overrun. In all, the game feels less, in terms of content while comparing it to Gears 3. I think of this game like Halo 3: ODST. It should have been called Gears 3: Judgment and priced at around 45-50 dollars. It's for the huge Gears fans, not anyone else. For a causal player like me, if you want it enough, wait for the price to go down for your own good and bite through being murdered by the Classic Hammerburst. It is not worth 60 bucks. Gears of War Judgment is just another polished COG in the wheel, it stands in the corner of the series at 4 lukewarm eggs out 6.