The poor man’s Gears of War 3 has been unleashed unto the public, and no one is better for it. The premise is fantastic, and Baird is a cool character, but when a prequel is made with the sole intention of cashing in on a popular series… well, as an old cartoon character might say, that’s noooo good.
The campaign portion of GOW: Judgement is centered around Baird’s prequel story, taking place shortly after Emergence Day (when all of the Locust come out of the earth’s crust to slaughter humanity). He’s on trial with his fellow Kilo squad members, they all give their take on why they disobeyed orders, and so on and so forth. The story could’ve been cool, but it all feels like a missed opportunity when you point out the lack of substantial dialogue, story depth or major plot points. It all just feels like objectives and narrative pulled straight out of one of GOW 3’s lesser chapters.
The actual gameplay in the campaign is cut up into dozens of small pockets of action, with a lackluster cutscene thrown in for good measure. This leads to an experience that feels more like a party game and less like Gears of War. Now, the system works fine and it still feels like you’re playing a Gears title, but the actual fluidity and sense of accomplishment traditionally found in Gears when beating a chapter is gone. It just feels like you’re playing a bunch of ridiculously short demos in rapid succession. The inclusion of “declassified missions” (modifier handicaps that make sections harder) make these short chunks of gameplay feel more meaty and hardcore, but even they can’t save Judgement from such a fundamental flaw in level connectivity design. As many other reviewers have stated, the second campaign that takes place parallel to GOW3, Aftermath, is the best part of Judgement. That’s because it’s not Judgement. It has a strong narrative, diverse objectives and a sense of peril missing in most of Judgement. Needless to say, I’m sad that it’s the shortest part of Judgement, clocking in at around two hours on hardcore difficulty, solo.
Notice how I said solo? That’s Judgement’s most irritating flaw. Matchmaking sucks, to an unheard of degree in a supposedly blockbuster title. If you ever find a match, you most likely won’t be in the section of the campaign you want, as Judgement restricts you from searching for individual missions in a chapter. This left me having to invite friends of mine to play with me so I could choose where in the campaign we started, and since my friends weren’t much good on hardcore difficulty, I opted for the amazing AI teammates. Judgement is doing something wrong when you prefer the OP AI over four player co-op.
Multiplayer has always been the main attraction for newcomers and Gears enthusiasts alike, so why is it that multiplayer sucks Locust ass? Well, I can only assume it ties in to my thesis that this game was made as a cheap Gears 3 look-alike. Only one primary weapon instead of two? Seems like a quality decision. Only four multiplayer maps total? For a franchise that sells based on its multiplayer, that number is just dandy (if you ignore GOW 3’s dozen or so maps). No grenade to wall laching? Well, who cares about strategy in competitive online multiplayer anyway. COG verus COG? That’s cool, throw that continuity out the window. Five total multiplayer modes, two of which are carbon copies of each other? Such a good idea, that way if players are bored with one they’ll be bored with the other!
Really though, multiplayer in GOW: Judgement is weak as hell. That’s literally the worst remark one can make about this game, and I just made it. It’s the amount of content I can see being fun for about a day and nothing more. It lacks any kind of creativity, clever map construction, intriguing design choices or solid competitive action. The two new modes, Survivor and Overrun are fun for the first couple tries, and the premise of conquest over a dynamic level is cool, but with only four maps the novelty wears off FAST. Anyone who bought the VIP pass for this game is an asshole. Sorry… not sorry.
The entire package is enough to bring Gears of War down from its Triple A pedestal. It retains the production values, core gameplay and silly DLC of GOW, but lacks a gripping, lengthy plot and engrossing multiplayer aspect, bringing it down to just above average. Transformers: FOC is a perfect parallel to GOW: Judgement, as both f*cked with their series’ best campaign elements and provided a lackluster multiplayer experience. The only real difference? FOC had more than four piss-poor multiplayer maps.