With the recent release of Team EPIC / People Can fly entitled Gears of War: Judgement, we get a look at what it was to be a COG before everybody knew what the Locust were, as this game takes place as a Prequel, 15 years before the events of the first game.
You and a Team of friends take control of Kilo squad, featuring Fan favorite Damon Baird as the Officer who leads the team, with him are close friend Augustus “Cole-Train” Cole and two new members to the Gears Franchise, an Onyx Guard Cadet by the name of Sophia Hendrick and an Ex-UIR Solider Garron Paduk and together, you must untangle the twisted tale of events filled with blood, gore and witty one liners.
As Kilo Squad progresses through the destroyed remnants of Sera, you run into the first new feature to the Gears Franchise – Chapter rankings and Declassify missions, these extra tid-bits of special requirements increase your overall chapter score for a successful completion bringing you closer to a perfect 3 star ending, but be warned that you must work as a team! Each time you go “Down but not out” in the Campaign, your overall score slowly decreases, dropping more and more for the time that you spend out of the action.
Upon accepting the declassify mission, the COG will explain how they ended up in situations that the missions described, for example in one mission you’ll be forced to use a specific weapon, as Kilo found them on the ground while there primary weaponry was out of Ammo, or you had to rush through a portion of the game due to an automated missle system being activated as you pass by. These ranking systems are a signature of People Can Fly, as they did something similar in Bulletstorm. In the end, whether you want to do them is up to you, you get an achievement for getting (X) Amount of stores on each difficulty, and if you get all 126 of them, you unlock the Classic Tai Kaliso Multiplayer Skin. So the decision is yours.
Despite chainsawing baddies and laughing manically as their hopes, dreams and intestines hit the ground the Campaign uses what EPIC likes to call a “Smart Spawn System” or Triple S for short. This system promises that if you start a new game or reload a checkpoint that you’ll never encounter the same enemy twice, however I was a little disappointed by the fact that for the most part, though the Drones were different, the Game chapters only alternated between 1 or 2 heavy locust, depending on how far you’ve progressed in the game, will determine what 2 heavies you’re more likely to see. In the end, the Campaign feels like any Gears Campaign, it’s dark, gritty, tactical, powerful perfect reloads but it did feel slightly shorter than it’s predecessors.
Now than, lets move on to Multiplayer.
Judgement comes shipped with a brand new Game Mode known as Overrun, which pits Player Locust attackers against a defending player team consisting of COG Soldiers, as the COG fight desperately to defend a Generator which powers the Hammer of Dawn. Each side comes with pre-determined classes, lets start with the Locust Team. The Locust team is separated into 2 “Tiers” The first tier being standard drones, tickers and Kantus’ while the second tier contains heavy duty locusts such as the Mauler, the Rager, the Serepede and the Corpser, this classes can be obtained by gaining points through playing the objective, which can than be traded for heavy hitters which are harder to kill and do more damage.
The COG Team consists of 4 pre-determined classes, The Engineer, The Soldier, The Scout and The Medic, all of which have a special weapon loadout and a set of skills. Baird takes the role as The Engineer, who uses his Turret Skill to throw down some defense while he repairs fortifications with his repair tool, his Gnasher Shotgun ensures that he stay at a close range for combat while depending on his Turret for medium ranged offence.
The Solider as played by Cole, uses the Booshka Grenade Launcher and the MkII Lancer Assault rifle, his special ability allows him to throw down an Armor crate for his allies, ensuring that you never run out of ammo while defending your generator and pushing those pesky Locust back into the whole from which they came. Cole is an awesome support Character who can also jump on Offence at anytime to keep his Team mates in the game.
The Scout, who of course is played by Paduk, uses his Markza Sniper rifle to take down foes from a long range, he moves faster than the other COG and his special skill uses the Beacon Grenade which shows locusts locations while also debuffing any Locust in the field of vision. These locusts do less damage and are easier to take down, so if you’re playing as a Grenadier, get out of there! Paduk also has a perch skill, which allows him to climb up into certain parts of the environment that no other COG can get to. Take care however, as the Locust Wretch can also climb up those ledges to try and eat the Scout for lunch
Finally, we have the Medic, starring the beautiful Sophia Hendrick. The Medic uses a Stim Gas grenade to revive and heal fallen team mates, comes loaded with a MkII Lancer and Sawed-Off Shotgun, making her effect at short and Medium Range. Sophia is not a very heavy hitter, which means you should probably stick to the sidelines and provide cover and health for your team mates.
The Multiplayer for Gears of War Judgement packs some serious changes from what Gears heads are used too, which has brought up a little controversy between the fans and the EPIC developers, Just as with Single player, the Multiplayer controls have been completely re-done. The Directional pad is no longer used for weapon selection, Grenades have been assigned to the LB button allowing for a quick “Blind toss” or a tact precision through. Weapon quick select has been assigned to the Y button, and you no longer get all 4 starting weapons, in the Character selection screen you may chose your Primary weapon, which can be anything such as a MkII Lancer, complete with Chainsaw, Retro Lancer with a shiny pike, Classic 3 Burst Hammerburst by pre-order, New Age Hammerburst, The Markza Sniper Rifle or the Sawed off Shotgun(Now with 2 shots!) Your secondary however, is the standard COG Snub pistol, which you can exchange for map weapons, or steal weaponry from your fallen foes.
The most shocking part of the new Multiplayer is the fact that Locust are completely Absent from most traditional Game Modes, such as Team Deathmatch, the newly added Domination and another first for Gears, Free For all. Instead, the game puts you in the middle of Red Vs. Blue Action as you play COG vs. COG which makes for a very limited character selection. The opposite side of the coin to this issue however, is that EPIC gives you complete customization control over your Character with the release of Armor Skins, though some of these skins are unlocked from Prize Boxes, obtained by earning ribbons, killing enemies and leveling up most of the skins can be bought from the Xbox Marketplace, the issue is that they aren’t cheap, some of them going up as high as $5 per skin. Along with COG Vs. COG, the famous “Down But not Out” mode has been taken out, which means if you’re shot, you die and no one on your team can come and save you. In addition, Super Active reload, which allowed for more stopping power and ammo bonuses has also been taken out of the multiplayer experience, though you can still Actively Reload, the only benefit is reloading faster and getting back into the action.
All of these Major changes means a lot of people are going to be unhappy, I guess you could say it’s really “Grinding their Gears” however this game does follow some of the Major guidelines which made the previous Gears so Successful, The Story is compelling, the acting is excellent and you never get tired of those crafty one-liners and though the new Multiplayer isn’t the traditional gameplay we’re all used too, It’s still pretty damn entertaining.
Be sure to stick around for April 2nd when EPIC releases the free Booster pack sponsored by Maxim, which adds two new Multiplayer maps and re-introduces the famous Execution Game mode.