Gears of War: Judgment Review - IGN (2023)

Gears of War: Judgment Review - IGN (1)

Gears of War: Judgment Review - IGN (2)

ByMitch Dyer


Mar 18, 2013 3:58 am

Youth, of all things, is the greatest influence on Gears of War: Judgment. The story hinges on disrespecting authority. Angst dictates character behavior. Aggression and agility uproot the fundamentals of combat design. Most significantly, Gears of War: Judgment is rebellious. Both the campaign and multiplayer reject what previously worked for the series in favor of bold new ideas. The numerous risks pay dividends. Gears of War 3 appeared to exhaust what third-person, cover-based shooters do best. Judgment makes Gears of War feel young again.
Appropriately, these qualities come from two cocky young men: Gears of War secondary characters Damon Baird and Augustus Cole. Their brotherly banter made them the Gears trilogy’s fan favorites, but Judgment’s prequel arc explores them as genuine people, 15 years prior.

(Video) IGN Reviews - Gears of War: Judgment Video Review
These aren’t battle-hardened heroes yet – they’re confused, angry boys who want to protect their home from an overwhelming alien force. As the Locust horde lays waste to the planet Sera, Judgment is surprisingly effective at exposing the deeper, more vulnerable qualities of these goofy meatheads. Because he’s taking the initiative to do what's right instead of what he’s told, Baird is destroying his terrific military record. Meanwhile, Cole isn't having much fun with war, having left a life of luxury. It’s tough not to sympathize with them.

Judgment’s character examination applies to Baird and Cole’s Kilo Squad teammates as well. Garron Paduk, who lost during mankind’s last civil war, aligns with his former enemies to take on a greater threat. Sofia Hendrick struggles between her disobedient nature and desperation for military success. These people aren't necessarily friends, and their clashing egos create a volatile relationship. When paired with Gears of War’s delightful levity, the snark, sarcasm, and sharp insults create an entertaining chemistry for Kilo.

The success of Judgment’s story comes down to the clever use of familiar storytelling techniques. It begins at the end, with Kilo Squad under arrest and facing a military tribunal for an unspecified crime. Discovering the how and why they arrived here is exciting because you’re involved in every moment leading up to the arrest. Cutscenes are mercifully few and far between, leaving us to dig into the details during playable flashback sequences. This is where Gears of War bottles lightning again.

Kilo’s testimonies do a terrific job of involving us in a story that unfolds simultaneously with gameplay. Characters observe and comment on their environment in the moment, while sporadic narration explains the motivation for their inevitable crime. The Gears of War fiction desperately needed clarity to compensate for its depth, and Judgment gives thoughtful consideration to its audience. The constant context kept me interested, aware, and engaged every step of the way. For the first time, a Gears of War story is as important as its third-person action.Gears of War: Judgment Review - IGN (3)Both story and gameplay really come together in the brilliant Declassify system. These optional objectives, which you can activate before most enemy encounters, trigger a challenging variable that handicaps Kilo Squad. If a Declassify variable impairs your vision, adds stronger or more enemies, cuts your ammunition in half, or forces you to use specific weaponry, the way you play the encounter changes dramatically. Each of these awesome combat mods comes with a reasonable narrative conceit, too. An explosion, for instance, may cause a cloudy layer of dust to sweep through the battlefield and reduce your visibility.

The unpredictability of Gears of War: Judgment defines its incendiary combat.

Declassified sections also modify another of Judgment’s new wrinkles: the scoring system. Melee executions, explosions, and turning Locust into gibs increases your star rating during each encounter, and activating a Declassify option multiplies the rate at which you earn stars. Leaderboards and arcade scoring are one thing, but this is another of Judgment’s clever ploys to tinker with the way we play Gears. Knowing what scores big points can drive you in a specific direction – if you want to score big, maybe risking an explosive Torque Bow’s limited ammo instead of the Markza sniper rifle’s full clip is worth your while. Judgment’s evaluation of skill is rewarding in its own right, especially when you know you’ve conquered a tough Declassify mission. That it unlocks additional content, like the Aftermath campaign (more on this later), is just peachy.

In Judgment, the impeccable science of Gears’ cover-based combat becomes constant a test of your team’s ability to adapt, improvise, and cooperate in new ways. Characters move faster than in other Gears games, swap weapons regularly as they chew through precious ammo, and set up sentries to help slaughter Locust in more complex level designs. These large arenas often feature a detailed network of cover points leading to lengthy hallways, sniper perches, mounted turrets, choke-points, and defensible control points.

Judgment constantly tests your team’s ability to adapt, improvise, and cooperate.

(Video) GameSpot Reviews - Gears of War: Judgment
Intelligent level layouts have an intrinsic connection to Judgment’s new semi-random enemy spawn system, which keeps battles feeling fresh. The world reacts to your tactics, sending different enemies at your squad each time you retry an encounter.

These foes appear in such humongous groups that you can't fall back on hiding in cover. Staying still behind a barrier is the quickest way to get flanked, eat a sniper round, or find yourself surrounded. The rapid mobility of Judgment once again goes against Gears tradition, but it feels right. The unpredictability of Gears of War: Judgment defines its incendiary combat. You can’t prepare for which enemies will appear from where and how you’ll get out alive -- once again defying the linear logic of the series’ history.

The campaign’s only real missteps are its strongest links to the past. Judgment is the fourth Gears of War game in a row to personify its villain poorly. General Karn is called out early on as the impossibly scary leader of the Locust, yet his screen time is limited, his impact is barely felt, and his exit is unceremonious. He exists purely for the sake of a predictable and anticlimactic final boss fight which forgets about the 10 hours of speed, mobility, and power leading up to it. Also, the A.I. allies, while fine combatants, tend to forget about human-controlled characters. Teammates are as likely to revive your down-but-not-out self as they are to watch you bleed out. It's nothing new to Gears, certainly, and that makes their occasional incompetence even more irritating.

When the campaign well runs dry, whether that’s in score-hunting Declassify retries or a tough run through on a higher difficulty, Judgment’s multiplayer offers enough to lengthen its legs. The attack-and-defend OverRun mode feels like an extension of what these characters would do once Karn’s reign ended: try to survive. Think of it as Beast vs. Horde. Five COG soldiers do their best to keep incoming Locust from destroying their defenses and opening a new spawn point. If the Locust succeed, the COG fall back and try again until the timer runs out or their third and final base is destroyed. The setup here is simple, even familiar (if you’re a fan of Battlefield’s Rush mode) but the number of Locust classes and campaign-influenced skills for each COG character give it a distinctly Gears of War feel. OverRun feels much like a competitive Horde mode would, but teams alternate sides each round to balance it out.

Each side has its benefits, and are equally fun to play. Locust have the goal of trying to ruin the other team’s day, and the glee of griefing is just as good when put into this more acceptable context. Plus, because you’re rotating from one team to the next each round, you revel in the stress your opponents feel when the Locust team is winning. On the COG side, meanwhile, the each character has an important role: engineers repair busted defenses and deploy sentries; medics revive fallen teammates; snipers climb into high-up perches. It’s a truly cooperative mode, and if you’re not resupplying your team with ammo you’d better have a good excuse when they run dry.

Survival mode scales Horde back even further, drawing heavily from OverRun for its wave-based defensive battles. Essentially, it’s OverRun against 10 AI waves rather than another player-controlled team trying to beat the clock. Survival strips away the joy of playing as the Locust, so it’s something you’ll likely settle for when friends aren’t around for OverRun. Essentially, Survival aims to make up for the absence of Horde -- OverRun and Survival both bring elements of the now-standard wave-based mode, but take it in different directions. It’s a shame to see such a reliable series staple vanish, but OverRun, and Survival to a lesser extent. substitute just fine.Gears of War: Judgment Review - IGN (4)Beyond that, Gears of War: Judgment adds a few extra bells and whistles to its typical multiplayer. By virtue of the combat’s adjusted pacing, matches are faster and more violent, which lends well to free-for-all matches. The odd moving piece of a map, like a gondola or chopper, benefit the level design and add to your mobility. Judgment’s multiplayer isn’t the revelatory wonder Gears of War 3 became, but it’s certainly smart and substantial enough to carry it for a good while.

Kilo's clashing egos create a volatile relationship.

If the deliberate contrast between the pacing of this campaign and that of Gears 3 weren't clear enough, it's even more evident in the Aftermath campaign epilogue. Set during the events of Gears 3, running parallel with its story, Aftermath offers closure on characters and relationships we recently watched develop, while clarifying what Baird and Cole were up to while off-screen during that story. However, after Judgment, Aftermath feels weird. It functions and looks like Gears of War 3, which is comparably sluggish and less visually spectacular, and the tighter level design is downright claustrophobic.

The greatest divide Aftermath makes evident between previous Gears games and Judgment is in the art direction. Gorgeous colors, radiant lighting, and detailed particle effects give the planet Sera a vibrant sense of life amid its ongoing apocalypse. Developer People Can Fly’s exceptional visual palette is a makeover Aftermath (and certainly Gears of War 3) barely attempts to match.


People Can Fly is exactly what Gears of War needed. The Bulletstorm developer brings a bold new energy to Epic Games’ excellent (but overly familiar) action series. It presents such refreshing and disruptive ideas to Gears of War: Judgment's campaign that it has an effect comparable to the original’s in 2006. During the introduction, the sights are almost impossibly beautiful. Halfway through, I realized this is the best third-person shooter around. By the end, it's clear that it’s paving a path other developers could (and hopefully will) follow.

(Video) Gears of War Judgment, God of War: Ascension, & More! - Mix'd Reviews

In This Article

Gears of War: Judgment Review - IGN (5)

Gears of War: Judgment

Epic Games


ESRB: Mature
(Video) The Art and Writing of Gears of War: Judgment


Xbox 360

Gears of War: Judgment Review


Gears of War: Judgment is a fantastic prequel with superb combat, fun multiplayer, and a meaningful story.

Mitch Dyer

Gears of War: Judgment Review - IGN (7)

(Video) IGN Reviews - Gears of War 3: Game Review


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4. Gears of War: Judgement - Review
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6. IGN Plays: Gears of War: Judgment Multiplayer
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