Review by GamerGuy2014
Fun Times with The Lancer 0: The Adventures of Baird and Company
In the world of entertainment, prequels have the opportunity to go back before the events of a main storyline and offer some more insights on how certain characters got their start as well as show the events that led up to the main storyline in a given series. The results can be good, but sometimes the tale that is told isn't as interesting as it should have been. Gears of War: Judgment is one of those latter examples. It's set before the events of the first game and it focuses on one of the other members of Delta Squad, Damon Baird, as the main character, but as we find out, his tale isn't that interesting.
Set before the events of the first Gears of War, Judgment follows Damon Baird, who was originally a lieutenant and in charge of his own squad known as Kilo Squad. The other members of the squad include Augustus Cole, who would later be part of Delta Squad, Garron Paduk, and Sofia Hendricks. They are standing trial before Colonel Loomis after performing an unauthorized launch of a Lightmass missile in an effort to try and kill a Locust general named Karn. From there, the events that led up to the launching of the missile are shown in flashback and it's where the majority of the game is set. Besides the main story, there's also a bonus section called Aftermath that can be unlocked and it shows how Baird and Cole got their hands on a ship during the events of Gears of War 3.
Despite having an interesting narrative setup, Judgment's story never really takes full advantage of the potential offered with the setup offered. Not a single moment in the main campaign was memorable or interesting, and the main bad guy of the story, General Karn, is one of the most forgettable villains I have encountered in a video game to date. The Aftermath section is also forgettable as well, unless you're familiar with the story of Gears of War 3, you may find yourself not that interested in the events that are happening, even though Aftermath does have some connections with the main game. During this section Baird and Cole join up with a former Kilo squad member as they try to find the ship, and we also learn what happened to certain other characters from Judgment.
The third person shooting is largely unchanged from previous installments but some changes, both minor and major, have been made to the controls and overall gameplay. Swapping weapons is now done by pressing the Y button and grenades are thrown by pressing the left bumper. These controller changes aren't significant, but it does make the controls much more smoother. The major changes are in the gameplay with the introduction of a ranking system and special modifiers called Declassified Testimonies. At the beginning of a level there will be a glowing Gears symbol presenting an optional modifier that has varying conditions. Choosing to accept it will result in one of many different modifications to the current level, such as additional special enemies, being only allowed to use certain weapons, or having to beat the level before a time limit expires.
Accepting the Declassified Testimony will also increase the rate at which you can earn stars, of which there three to earn, and the star meter can also be filled up by killing enemies or for performing special kills. At the end of a level, everything gets tallied up and you earn stars, but you will get penalized if you went down and needed during the level. This concept works and it provides a good incentive to replay levels and see if you can get a higher amount of stars.
The enemy and weapon types of Judgment are mostly pulled from other games in the series. The only new enemy type introduced is a Locust soldier that can transform into violent, rampaging beast once it's been shot up enough, and the only new weapons introduced are a sniper rifle with a large magazine and a grenade launcher that fires bouncing projectiles.
The gameplay is enjoyable but where it falters is the lack of variety during the main campaign. Almost every level in the game is one shoot out after another, and outside of one level where you take control of a suit of armor and lay waste to enemies, there are no other vehicle sections or other moments to help give the campaign variety. In contrast to some of the changes mentioned to the gameplay, the Aftermath section does not feature a ranking system or Declassified Testimonies, but it is still decently enjoyable; despite the lackluster narrative.
As expected from the series, the visuals of Gears of War: Judgment look really good, with no real issues whatsoever. A nice tough is that since the game is set only a few weeks into the war with the Locust, the world of Sera doesn't look entirely decimated, and some areas have noticeable bright colors to them. The voice acting is also good and you can expect some funny one-liners to be spouted off by the members of Kilo Squad.
Gears of War: Judgment is an enjoyable game, but some of the aspects of the game; like the wasted potential of the story and lack of variety during the campaign make this title not as good as other entries in the series.
Product Release: Gears of War: Judgment (US, 03/19/13)
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