Gears of War: Judgment is both a prequel to the first game and midquel to the third. That's because the game is broken into two parts: Judgement which follows Baird's Kilo company shortly after E-Day, and Aftermath which follows Baird and Cole's adventures during GoW3. Each part plays like two completely different games simply put together because of the similar characters.
The graphics are just as good as GoW3, though no better. The voice acting is still good. The basic game mechanics are still fun. The controls have changed from previous games, such as no longer having to switch from guns to grenades to use them. It's a little strange at first but they're quick to get used to. They also add some fun new guns.
Judgment is simply too different from other Gears. Normally you play long drawn out sections, but in this section you play very short parts. At the end they add up your score and give you stars. It feels very much like an Arcade game rather than regular campaign. It seems like just as you're getting into the groove you have to stop and see your score. The series has never had an outstanding story, but this really ruins what story the game has. If you are playing for points or difficulty, you can add an extra wrinkle to the game like tougher enemies, less ammo, or a time limit. They call it declassified missions, but it adds nothing to the story. It's okay, but only worth it for those looking for a challenge.
The story follows Baird leading Kilo squad just after E-Day. They've been put on trial for disobeying orders. Each of the four get their own section where you get to play as them. None of them play any different, it's just cosmetic. It's nothing too important to the series, just go after some general named Karn. Given the title, it would have been better to follow Marcus' trial since that actually impacts the overall story. Or maybe the actual E-Day rather than some random battle after. It doesn't feel like there's any real weight to the story here since we already know the ending. It's nice to see things before the Hammer Strikes left the world in grey ruins. Baird is there, but not his snarky self. I guess it's because he's supposed to be in charge, but it just feels off. Cole hardly says anything which is very weird considering how talkative he is in the other games. At the very least they could have brought in some story from the books and explained that he's so quiet because his family just died. Sofia is nice to look at, but mostly there for exposition. Paduk, a former enemy of the COG just trying to fight the greater enemy, is incredibly dynamic. He makes the section worth it. However, the whole thing just feels like a set-up for the story in Aftermath.
Aftermath is basically GoW3 DLC. Remember how you spent that one level playing as Cole trying to save Delta from events in the previous level? That's pretty much what this is. While in GoW3 you went after the submarine, this takes place at the same time as you find a reinforcements. Carmine shows up, with no introduction here, and you team up with Paduk, set up in Judgment. It plays like the classic Gears, with the new controls, but it's not particularly long. It felt like the deleted scene from GoW2, like it was something they just didn't have time for the GoW3 release.
Sadly, this hardly feels like the full-fledged game they charged. It's a little less than what we got with Halo: ODST. Instead of the Horde mode that the last two popularized you get Overrun, which you have to defend three points until they're all destroyed. It's okay but not as fun as Horde. There was so much potential that was wasted. If you enjoyed the Gears of War series you would enjoy it if you don't expect too much from it. But this won't make any new fans.
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