Gears of War will always have a special place in my heart.  It’s great co-op, which I’m always looking for, and the epitome of the word bro.  As such, I’ve played through every game in the series with my roommate.  The fourth installment follows gaming tradition by not simply adding a four to the series title (GTA: Vice City, Halo Reach, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare).  The short of it — if you’ve liked other Gears games, you’ll like this one.  If you haven’t, you probably won’t.

“You know what this Lancer assault rifle needs? A chainsaw” – a great man

  • TL;DR: Interesting view on the leadup to Gears 1.
  • Platform: Xbox 360
  • Score: 7.5
  • Hours Played: 10-15
  • What I Played: Main campaign, bonus campaign, some multiplayer
  • Recommended: If you’ve liked other Gears games yes, otherwise no

If you’ve played other Gears games, you know the main gist of the story.  The enemy Locusts are trying to kill all the linebackers people on Sera, where the resistance known as the COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments).  GOW:J takes place prior to the first game.  Rather than play as Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago (single man tear), you play as Damon Baird and Augustus Cole right before meeting up with Marcus and Dom.  The game is told through a series of flashbacks – Baird and Co. are on trial for unauthorized use of the giant Lightmass Missile and recount the story as you play through it.  Each of the four members of the party – Baird, Cole, Paduk, and Sofia – rotate telling the story, which eventually leads up to the trial and “real time”.

The missions are broken up into small, arcade-style chapters and are graded from zero to three stars.  Each mission also has a “Declassified Mission” in it, which act as modifiers to the normal mission — certain weapons only, low/hazy vision, timers, etc.  The missions are mostly linear “kill everything and move forward” with some spots of “dig in and defend this area”.  There are even appearances by Marcus/Dom (through radio) and Jack.  For the completionists out there, there are COG tags in every mission, just like in other Gears games.  Completing the game will unlock Aftermath, which lets you play as Baird and Cole during Gears of War 3 when they leave to get reinforcements for the final assault.

The crew may be down Marcus’ do-rag and Dom’s depression beard, but Paduk and Sofia are no slouches.

Brown is still the favorite color of the Gears’ developers, but I’m not sure how vibrant one would expect a war-torn world to be.  There are a few new guns thrown into the tried-and-true GOW formula, the Markza and Breechshot, which act as pseudo-snipers.  The stim-gas grenade can heal and even pick up downed teammates.  Tearing through an enemy with the trusty Lancer is just as visceral and fun as ever and the cover system works incredibly well, as expected.  You can really feel the impact of your giant character hitting walls for cover.  If you’re looking for innovation in the increasingly-muddy waters of FPS games, you’ve come to the wrong place.  This is the same old Gears you’ve seen three times before, which isn’t a problem for me.

Standard PVP-style multiplayer has never intrigued me in Gears games.  The biggest blow has to be the absence of fan- and personal-favorite Horde mode.  A new mode, Survival, has come in to take it’s place.  You are tasked with defending three increasingly-foritified points from 10 waves of Locust using class-based loadouts.  Baird has a deployable turret and repair gun for barriers, Cole can call in extra ammo, Paduk has grenades that mark enemy locations, and Sofia has stim-gas grenades.  Beast mode is missing as a separate playlist but is baked into the all-new OverRun mode.  Two teams of five play against each other, one team of COG and one team of Locust, in a game of Survival.  Similar to Beast mode in GOW3, the Locust have two tiers to choose from, the higher tier requiring you to play well on the first tier before unlocking them.  No class on either side of Survival or OverRun seems too over/under powered, leaving plenty of room for good ole fashioned blood and guts.

Well, almost.  I don’t know if it’s just me, but 90% of Survival deaths seem to come from these assholes’ frags.

All in all, Gears of War: Judgment is a good time.  I can’t speak for playing the game solo, but with a friend it’s just plain fun.  It won’t win any awards for pushing the genre forward or eye-popping vistas, but it’s well worth the money if you’ve enjoyed Gears games before.  The phrase “DID YOU SEE THAT?!” doesn’t get old with the dozens of ways it comes up.  Grab a bud and start exploring how many ways you can separate limbs from torsos.


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