Gears of War: Judgement, a Ten Year Reunion
It’s almost hard to believe it’s been ten years since the release of Gears of War: Judgement. This was by far the furthest from the original game that the Gears series had ever gone to this point, making a ton of changes to the original formula to increase replayability, and really create a games as a service style of Gears game. Progressing on from Gears 3, it’s easy to get lost in all the changes and decide you simply don’t like the game based on those, but that would be doing this title a massive disservice. Let’s check out what Judgement did for the series, and how the title ended up being dropped in the wake of the Xbox One’s release.
The first thing to mention is the timeline. I’ve been wanting to do a whole piece on the Gears timeline for some time now, but that involves finally reading all the books, and unfortunately the audible versions are horrible. Judgement takes place before the first game in the series, before you’re introduced to Marcus. This one instead focuses around Baird and Cole specifically, with a couple other characters like Paduk playing active roles in the story.
The way the story is told is actually one of my favourite in the entire series, as everything is told from the character’s perspective in a flashback up until the final chapter. One key change to Judgement is the inclusion of star challenges. These can change things like enemies throw more grenades, have more health, there are more boomers, or you can only use a snub pistol. One of the roughest ones is having a strict time limit to read the end of an area packed with enemies. Especially on “insane.”
There is also a second small story titled Aftermath. This one jumps forward in time and actually takes place after Gears 3. It’s entirely separate thankfully because if it was just tacked on to the end of the campaign it would be incredibly jarring. Aftermath doesn’t feature any star challenges, but can be quite rough itself with some of the checkpoints. It’s a great little extra story that maybe didn’t quite work as DLC for Gears 3 and a more than welcome inclusion to Judgement.
Surprisingly, Judgement opted not to have a horde mode, instead introducing Survival. Survival is a horde-style mode that involves not just surviving, but protecting a specific point from ten waves of enemies. It’s honestly significantly harder than horde ever was to this point. You are given different classes with abilities and weapons to use, like a medic who is required to be able to revive teammates. I always thought survival was a great twist for a game that, while being a part of the main story, is much like Gears Tactics in the sense that it’s sort of an off-shoot.
Last up is multiplayer, going back to Judgement multiplayer was a bit weird. I forgot you no longer used the d-pad to change guns, instead simply pressing Y and using the left bumper to throw grenades. This is probably the closest Gears has ever felt to a standard arcade shooter like Call of Duty. Much like previous entries to the series, the gnasher shotgun is absolutely absurd in how strong it is. This was probably the end of an era for it though, since going into Gears 4 it got minor tweaks that, while still insane, definitely made it a bit harder to use.
The maps in Judgement are mostly forgettable honestly, going back to play some multiplayer, I think the only one that really made me go “oh yeah, this map” was Gondola. Outside of that, the only maps with any recognition are remakes from previous games, like the iconic Blood Drive. On the other hand though, there were some great game modes that just didn’t get the recognition they deserved. Overrun allowed for two teams to play on either side, the COG and the Locust, as per usual, but with a twist. The locust you pick allows you to use its abilities it has in the campaign. A kantus can heal other locusts, while a ticker does what it does best, boom. You’ll also earn points to use a higher level locust, like a mauler who can deflect bullets with the shield spin, or a serapede which is quite good at taking out objectives.
Unfortunately, ten years after release, Judgement is mostly forgotten about. Very rarely will you find players online, that’s certainly not to say its impossible as I have managed to find a handful while revisiting the game. One achievement is impossible to get now, that being the one to play in thirty Gears events, as the events are no longer updated. Maybe if I beg and plea enough, The Coalition would be nice enough to update it every so often so I can get one of the only achievements I’m missing.
Revisiting Judgement is always a treat, especially now, ten years after its release. It received a lot of hate for its changes upon release, but it has aged like an average quality wine. It’s not perfect, but it’s more than worth a playthrough, which leads me to the last thought on the game, as little as I’m looking forward to it… it’s time to try for all the challenge stars in the campaign on Insane difficulty. Pray for me.