So I didn’t really know what I was getting in for with this game beyond what I’d read of the series, its glowing praise in the press and the community and a vague understanding that it was a cover shooter.
This is what people like me talk about when we describe the rot that is infesting the game’s industry; the samey experiences that are high energy and generally enjoyable but achieve this at the expense of doing anything exciting or interesting. Gears of War Judgement might well be one of the finest shooters that we’ve seen this generation and I can hardly fault its fan base for, well, existing, but I really can’t understand why these are the only games that people seem capable of enjoying en masse any longer.
But in fairness to Gears of War Judgement, let’s look at this game on its own merits. Here’s what I did enjoy about it that puts it above average for the genre; it has energy and it has a modicum of smarts about it. The scale of the encounters in this game, right from the outset, is epic. Dozens of enemies appear from all angles and levels are intricately designed to allow for multiple vantage points and because the A.I of your teammates is so solid there are multiple possible paths through each encounter.
Though the maps are linear and small in scale (usually there’s only one or two encounters before a section of the chapter is completed and you’re taken to a “section complete” breakdown of your performance, the game does work to give you at least the impression of choice. As mentioned before players can generally tackle encounters in a multiple of different ways, and before each mission players also have the option to turn on an additional challenge if they’re feeling confident to earn greater rewards. Ultimately there’s not reason to avoid the extra challenge as the game isn’t really easy without it and this is a game that will only ever appeal to more experienced gamers, but the illusion of choice is a nice bonus.
It’s just as well that the game does such a great job of engaging with the primitive part of my brain that says to itself “aw pretty explosions” as I had no idea what was going on with the plot. On a very basic level I understood that I was killing monsters in a warzone, but the greater nuances of the characters, their relationship to one another, and a lot of context regarding the war itself were lost in me. I was surprised that I found it so difficult to get into the story given that the plots to these games seem reasonably thin but there’s some definite assumptions being made that people playing Judgement have played the previous Gears of Wars games. Given the success of that franchise it’s probably not unfair to make that assumption, but I would be remiss if I didn’t warn the newbies that if they’re looking for a story to follow this one might not sit well.
see: Tomb Raider), Gears of War essentially gets to be the first major multiplayer release for the year alongside Crysis 3, and I certainly enjoyed this one more. That said, it is equally good to see a shooter provide a single player game that offers more depth than a few hours. Gears of War is perfectly worth its purchase cost even if you can’t be bothered looking for online buddies. The addition of unlockable post-game content in Aftermath is a great bonus in fleshing out the game world for fans, I assume. Again, the value of that extra chapter is somewhat lost on a guy who hasn't played the previous games.
I don’t think that Gears of War does anything that we haven’t really seen in shooters in the past, but because it does do it so well and with such intensity, it still manages to be a rollarcoaster of a ride. As much as I found the story painfully generic (and the voice acting surprisingly weak for an AAA-game), as I said at the start of this review, while these kinds of games really don’t sit within my area of expertise, but I’m glad I played this one; it was fun.
- Matt S
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