Cliff Bleszinski once told us that he loathed seeing colons in game titles and when it came to Gears Of War, we’d only ever see numbered sequels in the traditional fashion.
Gears Of War, Gears Of War 2, Gears Of War 3… and with that in mind, and without a hint of irony, allow us to introduce you to Gears Of War: Judgment, Epic’s newest entry into its incredibly popular series.
On a serious note, and putting the colon aside for now, Judgment marks the biggest departure from Gears’ core series and with Markus hanging up his bandanna (revealing his ridiculous hair), his fight already over, Epic has decided to return to a more explosive time period in order to deliver another action-packed shooter.
It’s a move that will hopefully establish Judgment as a worthy follow-up in its own right. Epic’s decision to tell Baird’s back-story is a set-up that’s proving to have far-reaching consequences, but is a change of lead character and a return to the early days of the war with the Locust different enough from what we’ve seen before?
That’s hard to say right now, but even if Judgment isn’t a total reworking of the visuals and gameplay established in Gears Of War 3, is that really a bad thing? It’s a formula that’s evolved over the years to offer one of the tightest experiences of the generation; why change what’s already proven to work perfectly?
Well, we’d probably all end up grumbling about Epic churning out an unworthy lacklustre sequel to its most popular series, but it’s never been the sort of studio to chuck out a game if it can’t at least present something that we haven’t seen before. Stylistically, Judgment is going to be a very different shooter to what we’ve come to associate with Gears Of War.
Of course, it won’t be a complete reworking. There’ll be waist-high cover, you’ll press the A button to jump over it and at some point you’ll chop a Locust soldier in half with your Lancer. It’s how Epic ultimately tinkers with the series’ makeup that will help distinguish Judgment from the crowd. Gears’ staple cinematic (read: linear) level design offered focused thrills and some incredible set-pieces and now it’s time for something a little bit different.
Judgment, fuelled by the need to give the series a new focus, is pushing ‘open gameplay’. Battlefields, no doubt inspired by the good work done on the now industry standard Horde Mode, will ensure Baird’s combat is markedly different from what we’ve spent three games mastering. How big a difference this will make, though, is up in the air.
Epic’s never failed to up the action stakes, or shy away from pushing its enemies and gameplay design to breaking point, but this is an entirely new direction for the studio. Other than establishing that Judgment is attempting all of these ambitious new elements and combining them into a fresh experience, it’s the multiplayer that’s been thrust into the spotlight.
Overrun will be Judgment’s lasting legacy and like Gears Of War 3’s Horde Mode 2.0, it’s taking an already familiar concept and spinning it into something new and incredibly addictive. Epic’s been quite candid about the inspiration for Overrun and has cited the many questioning fans for its creation. The question they asked? ‘In Horde Mode, why can’t I play as the Locust?’ And that’s Overrun in a nutshell, the first multiplayer mode in Gears’ history to allow players to choose a class of character and operate within a defined role on the battlefield.
The COG are always on defence and the Locust are on attack. On the human side you’ll have the choice of playing as an engineer, scout, medic or soldier, with each role providing the ability for extra special abilities. There the sort of additions you’d expect of the roles, such as the engineer blocking off lines of attack with a turret, but it’s the Locust side that already sounds like the more fun of the two. With far more classes, each defined by the many creatures of the Locust army, you’ll have your pick of the bunch. If all this sounds like Left 4 Dead 2’s multiplayer you’d be right, but that has never stopped Epic realising what is fundamentally a brilliant idea.
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