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  Gears of War: Judgment's Campaign Will Break You 

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PostSubject: Gears of War: Judgment's Campaign Will Break You   Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:31 pm




The heavy chord at the end of a Gears of War battle used to be
congratulatory. Your chainsaw roared, corpses crumpled, and a thundering
hum warned the world what you’d done. In Gears of War Judgment, the
sound that used to celebrate success is a comforting signal to unclench
your teeth and start breathing again. You probably won't make it out
next time.

Judgment starts 30 days after Emergence Day, just as humanity goes to
war with the Locust. The COG doesn’t know its enemy just yet, which
leaves them exposed to the grubs’ fearless aggression. Locust spawn by
the dozen, popping out of the ground, crawling out of emergence holes,
and knocking down doors in the largest, scariest groups you’ve seen in a
Gears game. They are lethal individually, seemingly unstoppable in
mixed groups of enemies new and old, and utterly terrifying for even the
most grizzled Gears vet. At first, this challenge defines Judgment.
Before long, that gives way to an impressive level of newfound
complexity.


The common thread between difficulty and depth is variety – each
enemy encounter is unique, both by design and thanks to the new
semi-random spawning system, which generates different opponents each
time you retry an encounter. If a group of Bloodmounts takes you down,
don’t expect to see them a second time – Maulers and Grenadiers may
replace them, perhaps with a half-dozen Wretches in tow.


Judgment doesn’t ever dial back because you’ll always have the tools
necessary to scrape by. This is Gears at its quickest and most
aggressive. I swapped between guns as opposed to relying on my Lancer,
typically because I’d thrown it to the ground after running out of ammo.
Early in the story, when Damon Baird’s Kilo Squad makes its way through
the Onyx Guard’s home city of Halvo Bay, you’ll hunker down to defend
the Museum of Military Glory using sentry turrets. The tower
defense-influence works as effectively in a campaign context as it did
in Gears of War 3’s Horde 2.0. It’s a stark change of pace from the
push-push-push mission structure preceding it.

Baird, Cole, Paduk and Hendrick – Kilo’s key members – previously
swapped Gnasher shotguns and close-quarters combat for the ranged
superiority of the new Markza semi-auto sniper-rifle. They chainsawed
grubs beneath the burning surface of Halvo Bay’s Old Town district,
where they’d later mount turrets to chew through the horde. With Mauler,
Boomer, Kantus, Cyclops, and Dark Wretch corpses behind them, Kilo
should have earned a leisurely rest while turrets took down Locust
inside the museum. Judgment never gives them that chance. I died three
times trying to hold off incoming forces. Later, I’d die nearly 10
during a futile stab at the punishing Hardcore difficulty.


Moment to moment, Judgment always has something new and interesting
for you to do, but it also presents the opportunity to add an
interesting variable to each and every enemy encounter. Activating
glowing crimson omens heralds not a hidden COG tag but instead unlocks
the “declassified” version of an upcoming fight. Typically, these opt-in
objectives limit your weapon usage to, say, Hammerbursts or a
Gnasher/Sawed-Off combo. Others give the enemy an advantage. You may
come up against Cyclopes with Lancers, grubs who attack from behind, or
One-Shots with high-ground positioning. But why on Sera would you
willingly make a tough shooter harder for yourself? What good could
possibly come from wandering into a claustrophobic cloud of dense,
blinding smoke when it’s unnecessary?


Two things.





First, declassifications present narrative conceits that fits Judgment
well. The story begins with Kilo Squad in a military court, and each
mission we play representing a testimony of the events leading up to
their trial. The testimony Kilo Squad delivers will change as you
activate omens, revealing information you may not have known about the
characters and world. Sometimes it relates to military rules,
characters’ origins, or simply the COG discovering the intelligence of
the Locust.


Secondly, declassified objectives tie into Judgment’s scoring system –
and before you run off, it’s not as awful as it sounds. Earning stars
for performing well adds substance to the combat without trivializing
it. Fighting is more tactical and engaging than ever when you’re
rewarded for speed, style, and efficiency. You’re always rewarded for
headshots, executions, gib-splosions and other decidedly Gears of War
kills, but playing with optional variables adds a multiplier to your
score tracker. Earning more stars for kill combos feels even better when
the pot’s sweetened. In turn, the way you think about Gears of War’s
combat changes – not only because the actual flow of battle is
different, but because you’re actively trying to do better than usual.
Suddenly Gears of War feels smarter, even if it has more video game-y
elements in the mix.

All of this plays hand-in-hand with multiplayer. Free-for-All remains
an aggressive departure from the norm, particularly on the
smaller-scale street map, while OverRun encourages a different kind of
cooperative experience than fans are used to. Epic told IGN that
completing challenges and goals across all modes contributes to
character unlocks; each character can be customized in a way that’s
comparable to past Gears’ weapon skins.


Really, the only way Gears of War Judgment is the same as previous
games – core mechanics aside – is in the way its cast interacts. There’s
some smart, funny writing behind the characters in Kilo Squad, and it
comes through in the way they tease, mock, or outright dislike each
other. The witty banter between these characters is exactly what you’d
expect out of Marcus and Dom, which speaks volumes about how well this
cast – whether they’re old friends or new – will carry its story.










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