It doesn’t seem that long ago that Gears of War WAS Xbox. Marcus and his chums were right at the forefront of what the console was all about. Big, glossy, single player campaigns tied together with a narrative which could easily be adapted into a TV series (or film as it turns out). No, it certainly doesn’t feel like ten years ago. No pressure Gears 6.
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, Gears of War: Judgment is actually my least favourite entry in the series. That’s not to say it was a bad game, but it felt very different and didn’t quite manage to pull everything off. It was in fact a prequel, despite being released after the original trilogy.
Immediately after Emergence Day (when all the monsters came out to play) Kilo squad took the fight to the Locust Horde in an attempt to prevent a total takeover of Sera. However, the team didn’t always play by the rules and as a result, they found themselves on trial for several crimes. The top charge? Unauthorised use of a lightmass missile.
Gears of War: Judgment featured series favourites Baird and Cole along with the rest of their buddies. Each took their turn to narrate memories of past events, thus telling the story. These recollections formed the levels in the game, and were self-contained as opposed to the longer, more open style from the previous entries in the franchise.
The game controlled in exactly the same way as the others, and so felt as familiar as those week old socks you’re wearing which should really have been put in the wash by now. The cover system also remained the same, so there were little-to-no barriers for fans of the series to jump in and get going.
What did differ is the fact that you were ranked depending on how you performed via a star system. I also remember there being a fair few “tower defence” scenarios where you had to fend off several waves of enemies. These were fun enough for a time, but wore a little thin after a while. It hampered the exploration and simplified the play style, which ever-so-slightly went against what made Gears of War so exciting to me.
What was really cool, especially for fans of the series, was getting to delve deeper into the past of well known characters. This was my favourite element to Gears of War: Judgment, as it further fleshed out each individual which meant I felt as if I knew them a lot better by the end. However, the game was pretty short overall, despite the attempt at injecting some replayability via a harder setting for each level. This usually imposed restrictions such as time limits, but it didn’t really work for me so once I played the level through I never really went back.
For me the big pull was the “Aftermath” campaign. This bonus chapter set during Gears of War 3 detailed what Baird, Cole, Carmine and Paduk were up to in the build up to the assault on Azura. Again, the focus is away from Marcus but it was a great little addition to Gears of War: Judgment. I can’t help but wonder if its inclusion was a little insurance policy to keep people invested in the main game. Still, no complaints here.
As ever, there was also multiplayer on offer. Two modes made their debut in Gears of War: Judgment, those being OverRun and Free-for-All. The first echoed back to that tower defence scenario I mentioned, where one team needed to attack and the other defend. The second, well, speaks for itself really doesn’t it? As enjoyable as the new additions were, the classic Team Deathmatch remained my favourite. And it probably always will.
Gears of War: Judgment should be applauded for trying something different. As I say, I did enjoy it but not nearly as much as the main games in the series. Looking back, especially with the inclusion of Aftermath, it feels like a little stopgap in the series or even a spin-off of sorts. The fragmented style of storytelling wasn’t quite as gripping, and the shorter, more restricted levels didn’t quite hit the same.
I’m pretty sure that I am not alone in craving a return to the height of Gears of War hysteria. With multiple projects rumoured to be in the works, Gears of War: Judgment proves that you can try something different, but to never lose sight of the fundamentals.
Gear of War: Judgment released on Xbox 360 back in 2013. You can play the game right now on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S and through Game Pass. The Xbox Store page will see you right.
Let us know what your memories of Gears of War: Judgment are. The comments are below.