It would be fair to say that the announcement of Gears Of War: Judgment earlier this month was a little bit of a surprise to most. As a big fan of the Gears of War franchise, I, like many, was not expecting another Gears of War game on the current generation of consoles. Interviews with Epic Games developers before E3 (where Judgement was officially confirmed) certainly seemed to suggest that we’d have to wait until the next Xbox before we’d see Gears of War again.
Clearly they were having us on.
Gears of War: Judgment, however, isn’t going to be Gears as we know it. There will be no Marcus Fenix, the protagonist from the original trilogy, for example. Delta Squad will not return either, at least not in the way we are used to them. Judgment won’t be about lightmass bombs, or sinking cities or the rise of that troublesome Lambent. Gears of War Judgment is a prequel to all of these events, and we cannot wait to play it.
So what do we know about Gears of War Judgment? Well we are glad you asked because it just so happens we’ve created some very useful subheadings…
One of the biggest changes from the original Gears of War trilogy is that Epic Games will not be the lead developers on Judgment. That role has been taken up by People Can Fly (who are in turn owned by Epic), who you might remember were the creative minds behind the imaginative based shooter Bulletstorm. Epic will still have some influence behind the scenes of course; this is still Gears after all, but the introduction of PCF will hopefully freshen up and revitalize the franchise with their ideas.
One of the most important aspects of PCF being in charge is the new story and campaign to Judgment. Former Epic and Gears of War man Rod Fergusson had already hinted at how Judgment will be less scripted and cinematic than previous Gears games, but what else should we expect from PCF’s incarnation?
The Campaign/What’s The Plot?
As we said earlier, Marcus Fenix is no longer our leading man. Our gruff, no nonsense, killing machine sergeant has been replaced by Damon Baird, the super intelligent but highly irritating member of Delta Squad. This might be a bit of gamble; although popular (the second highest in the Gears franchise after Anya), Baird is hardly main man material. But we feel he deserves it. After all Baird is the only character in Delta Squad who’s background has been relatively untouched. Judgment looks to change this, and with the support of his best friend Augustus Cole (ah yeah, the Cole Train returns!) we might see Baird in a new light.
The plot to Judgment involves us going back 14 years before the events of the first Gears of War to Emergence Day. E-Day, as it is known in Gears lore, is the day that the Locust begun their attack on humanity, springing up all over Sera bringing death, destruction and uh, more death.
You take control of Kilo Squad, led by Baird and Cole, as they defy orders in an attempt to rescue the city of Halvo Bay from the Locust onslaught. This decision results in the arrest of Kilo for treason, dissertation and the theft of military technology. Uh oh.
The campaign plays through this sequence of events in the form of testimonies given by the disgraced Kilo Squad, with further opportunities to explore the story coming in the form of “Classifications”: unlockable challenge missions that allow the player to learn more by changing how the story is told.
These classification missions introduce a new feature to Gears: Judgment, as the narration changes when some of these missions are completed. Although the overall campaign remains the same, this adds a different element to the linear style that we’ve come to expect in Gears of War. By simply altering how the story is told, each playthrough could potentially offer a different perspective on the events in Halvo Bay. The difference this makes is something we can only speculate on for now. We’re still excited though.
The team at People Can Fly have also changed how the campaign will play with the introduction of the Smart Spawn System, otherwise known as S3. This system will change the game every time you play it, as it switches what type of enemy spawns, as well as their spawning location. If you died because a Theron Guard flanked you from the left, you can’t then watch out for him doing it again because there is a good chance you’ll have to deal with a new threat. You can’t expect the same attack to happen, so Judgment is all about thinking on your feet.
If this wasn’t hard enough, People Can Fly have focused on making the campaign difficulties even more challenging too. Casual, as you’d expect, is mostly unchanged, but there is a significant difference between casual and normal, as the difficulty scales dramatically. According to Rod Fergusson, even they were struggling; “A lot of our testing is in co-op and we have sweaty palms with four people who made the game”. In other words, don’t expect to blitz through everything the first time.
Multiplayer is receiving something of an overhaul too. The introduction of “OverRun” is the most exciting, as fans dreams of a combination of “Horde” and “Beast” have been answered. OverRun pits C.O.G. against the Locust, facing off in a way never seen before in Gears. Players take turns as Locust attacking the C.O.G. fortification, with the sole aim of wiping out the defending soldiers to claim victory. The class based system of the COG team ensures that team work is the focal point to survival, as each class offers a vital skill. We have:
- Engineer Class – Equipped with the Gnasher and a Blowtorch, the Engineer is the only one capable of repairing damaged fortifications. He can also deploy sentry turrets
- Soldier – Deploys ammo crates for the rest of the squad. Lancer and Boomshot means the Soldier is the one you want covering your back.
- Medic – Can revive downed players with Stim gas grenades. No more risking your life running in to save a downed team mate. Now you can just lob a grenade over instead.
- Scout – Equipped with the Longshot and Beacon Grenade, the Scout can climb perches for better sniping positions.
Additionally, the Locust have the following species available for OverRun:
Role: Leap over hazards, clim perches.
Special Ability: Stunning scream.
Role: Eat fortifications, eat grenades, detonate.
Special Ability: Speed boost.
Role: Hammerburst rifle, heal friendly units, ride bloodmounts.
Special Ability: Chain heal.
Role: Lancer rifle, Gnasher, ride Bloodmounts.
Special Ability: Frag Grenade.
Role: Melee enemies/fortifications, be ridden by Grenadier and Kantus.
Special Ability: Halves the cooldown time on rider’s special ability (passive)
Role: Devastate fortifications and COG soldiers with flail and shield.
Special Ability: Spinning spike shield.
Role: Eat through barriers, destory COGs, ranged support.
Special Ability: Spit poison.
Role: Demolish fortifications and COGs with heavy melee.
Special Ability: Burrow and move underground.
Tip: Armored legs reduce damage from the front.
You can ride on a Bloodmount when you’re a Kantus?! We have got to see that! Oh…there it is.
The other new mode is “Free For All”, which is a first for the Gears of War Universe. The name is self explanatory, but in case you needed any further clarification, it essentially involves you fighting anybody and everybody who stands in your way. Whoever has the most points at the end wins.
We’re slightly reserved about how good FFA will be on Judgment, as the main focus in Gears has always been team play. It still should be a lot of fun though. You just need to remember that COG soldiers aren’t always your friends. Forget that and you’ll soon regret it.
New Control System
This will probably be one of the biggest changes for hardcore Gears fans, as the system they’ve come to know and possibly love has been been replaced by something considerably more dynamic. With the increased difficulty level and a necessity for quick reactions, you’d imagine the old system would find itself outdated in Judgment. You can’t afford to get stuck on a wall, or lose a few seconds changing between your weapons, when playing Insane on Judgment, for example. Mistakes like that could be fatal.
As a result, People Can Fly have made a few alterations to make the control system a more streamlined affair. No longer will the D-Pad be your weapon switch. Instead you’ll just press Y. LB is used now to throw offhand grenades.
It’s fair to say that this should vastly improve how Gears: Judgment will play in comparison to the other games in the Gears of War franchise. It might be difficult to get adjusted to (at least in the beginning), but we could be looking at a system that revolutionizes how this cover based shooter plays. It could be one of the best changes made in Gears of War: Judgment. For now though, we’ll just have to wait and see.
All in all it’s hard not to be excited about Gears of War Judgment. We are looking at a new story, with new game modes and a few new features that should make Gears Judgment a more polished product than it’s predecessors. We just can’t wait to hear more about it. Come on Epic/People Can Fly, give us more!
But that’s just our opinion. What do you think? Here’s a video of OverRun in action (narrated by Baird no less) to help you out.
So what are your thoughts? Will this be the best Gears of War? What other features do you want to see? Let us know with a comment below.
Don’t forget that Gears of War: Judgment will be released March 19th 2013 and you can preorder it now. Keep checking Solidus for all the latest on the continuation of this great series.