Wednesday, October 17, 2012

5 reasons why Gears of War: Judgment will disappoint (and 5 reasons it won't)

Being one of the most storied franchises of this generation, Gears of War is the very definition of ambition. Having several books, their own toy-line, a devoted fan-base and three solid games with a fourth on the way, Epic Games' blockbuster series has achieved every bit of success it's deserved. However, as important as Gears is, it's not without its glaring faults. Being fanatical Gears junkies ourselves, we're not so sure about Gears of War: Judgment. To play our point in as fair of a way as possible, we've compiled a comprehensive list of five solid reasons why Judgment is a bad idea, but with five more reasons why it's helping the series. So what are you waiting for? Let's do this!

Ever since the release of the first game, I've been a fan of Gears, but over the course of time I've become increasingly apprehensive of its future. Between shotgun plagues, controversial stories and erratic multiplayer, it's hard to imagine what kind of game Judgment will become. Will it represent the seminal gameplay the first title crafted or will it follow in the footsteps of the multiplayer-abyss that was Gears of War 2? First up - cynicism!

1) The Story

Baird and Cole? In trouble? No way.

The Bad: Judgment will focus on Damon Baird and Augustus Cole, two of Gears' most likeable characters. The thing is, who cares? You can argue about gaining additional back-story for each, but since Judgment will take place before the first Gears game, we can't hope to gain any additional knowledge on the Locust.

Get angry all you want, in the past three games we hardly know what's really going on with the Locust. By the end of the third, a shoe-horned plot fills in the gaps with eye-roll worthy scenarios abound. Baird and Cole both never knew anything about the Locust or what was going on, they just theorized like the rest of us. With that knowledge, Judgment can't put any new information on the Locust in the game because it'll interfere with what Delta squad knows in the first trilogy. So unless your favorite form of storytelling is blasting Locust in the face with your trusty Gnasher, you're bound for disappointment.

The Good: While the story hopefully doesn't fall on its face, contemporary Gears is all about gameplay and less about story. Sure, the premise is there but that's all true fans really care about. With a single reason to continue the fight, players are more concerned with tight gameplay and focused on taking it to multiplayer modes anyway. If you're playing Gears for the story at this point, well, you're certainly in the minority.

2) Multiplayer Modes

Guys, I found the Locust weakness! They hate barbed-wire!

The Bad: Two of the biggest features of Judgment are the new Free-For-All and OverRun multiplayer modes. FFA marks the first time in Gears history that a lone wolf component makes its way into the famed multiplayer. OverRun also marks the first time that class-based gameplay factors into the competition. Should we be excited? Maybe?

Gears has always been about teamwork and as the series has stretched on, it's become less of a focus. In the glory days of the first game, it was a rarity to see successful teams one-man it everywhere. You needed people to cover your back to grab the power-weapons and as ridiculous as the Longshot was, having your team there still made all the difference. There was no respawns for screwing up and that made the intensity of each match unparalleled. I'm not against FFA modes in multiplayer games, but I don't think it has much of a place in the Gears universe. Then again, with the way Gears 2 spun things and the implementation of Team Deathmatch in Gears 3, I guess this was the inevitable evolution.

OverRun is essentially what I wanted from Beast in Gears 3 since you can play against other people. However, this class-based, tower-defense style is something that also feels extremely out of place in the world of Gears. Do you really want to play the Medic? Really? Set me up with the good ole' forgotten modes like Warzone or Execution. That's how I like my Gears.

The Good: It might not be the classic competitive modes you're used to in a Gears game, but it's the next step to making it addictive again. Instead of praying to the gaming gods to spawn first so you can get the Torque Bow, you can just choose the class and be done with it. Also, since they probably won't get Horde right in this version either, OverRun will prove to be the better of the two. Oh and FFA? Now you don't need to deal with the idiots who steal all your weapons, use up all your lives and talk to their mom in your party.

3) Combat Mechanics

Even the ladies aren't safe from a good ole' chainsawing.

The Bad: What are they changing in Judgment? Quite a lot actually and if you haven't been in the thick of it, a lot of these changes will be lost on you. Regardless, some of them have me a little baffled. For instance, apparently there's no more active reload bonus in multiplayer. There's still a ton of time to make changes, but why would this stick? Active reloading was one of the seminal mechanics that everyone remembers from the first game and if you got it, you'd get a short damage bonus. Ditching that mechanic to try and balance things more gives the game less personality. In the heat of battle, nailing that extra boost can be tough to do and for those who could do it, the reward was satisfying.

Stopping power is also apparently being removed. Again, why? This mechanic was buggy during the launch of Gears 2, but over the years has been refined and works extremely well in Gears 3. Not only does it give a reason to stay in cover instead of recklessly charging your enemies, but it also provides a great defensive mechanic. Remember shotgun rolling in the first game? Also, grenades can now stick to a target if they're directly hit. Does every competitive online shooter have to force this mechanic in their game?

The Good: Despite some of the strange changes, others are very well placed. No longer can you turtle your way to victory by grabbing grenades and booby-trapping your glorious shelter. That garbage is outta there! You can also dive off of platforms now when, in previous games, you could only sit and dream. You'll take a little fall damage for this maneuver, but it's better than being cornered when an obvious escape route would be a simple five-foot drop behind you.

4) 4-player Co-op

Yeah, because, you know, your little gun is going to stop that huge Corpser.

The Bad: Co-op has been a mainstay of this series and is practically a requirement for games of all kinds nowadays. The first two games allowed for a buddy to drop-in and the third game allowed for up to four people to play simultaneously. Great as that sounds, the addition of two more people diluted the experience greatly. With bigger environments and enemies with more health, at times it felt like a grind to get through an area.

Compared to the first games and their tighter experience in the campaign, I can't imagine Judgment will present a much greater experience. That goes especially for people who maybe only want to play it with one other person instead of the four player maximum. Unfortunately once you increase the player count in a game, the bar is set and that's that.

The Good:If you can get four of your close buddies to jump into a game, the experience can be extremely satisfying. Gears 3 did a good job at making the game feel full at a four player capacity and Judgment should be no different.

5) The Writers

Expect some kind of comment about how the ladies can handle a weapon. It's basically guaranteed.

The Bad: Alright, so this sort of goes with the story I talked about earlier, but I feel the writing in Gears as a whole needs to be addressed. In an interview with Eurogamer, Tom Bissell, writer from the New Yorker and newly added to the Judgment team said:
"The nice thing about having the locusts as the enemy is that we never really hear about their motivations. They're monsters. And that gives you a lot of time to work on the character to character stuff. Because when the moral rightness of their characters is established you don't have to argue over the ramifications of marching through these endless waves of enemies like you do in something like Spec Ops. They're monsters that you're plowing through because they will f***ing kill you if you don't."
This down-right frightens me.

Let me explain while we go back to the original game. Epic had something amazing lying dormant here and over the course of three games they destroyed it. Were the Locust really the bad guys? Coming out from the core of the planet, it seemed Imulsion and Sera's war over the precious resource was the catalyst for Emergence Day. For a while, it looked as though to help keep the planet alive, the Locust had to do something against the greedy humans. Think about it. How amazing would that have been over what we eventually got? I'm not the only one to think so.

Dude, they're right there! PUT THAT DAMNED SNIPER DOWN.

Bissell's statement only confirms my fear that the story will devolve further into the 'kill everyone, get the flag back' mentality that does nothing for characterization. Sure, Dom's moment in Gears 2 was incredibly emotional and well done, but the scene becomes lost when you hear how he'll shoot fleeing Locust in their asses or scream out "Mmm, juicy" from time to time. It's too bad really.

It's also painfully apparent that the reason why the Gears story is so up and down is because every single game has had a different writer, Judgment will be no exception. Karen Traviss, who penned the story of the third game did what she could to meld everything together and, I think, it turned out as good as it could. I can't help but think how much better the whole series would have been if she was in charge at the start.

The Good: Well, we need a reason to kill stuff. Right?

So what did you all think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know how much of an idiot or full of greatness I am in the comments below!

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  1. I'm not thrilled at all. It's too soon. And I'm not a great fan of Baird anyway.

    1. I personally don't think the character content is going to be all that interesting. Having Baird throw a wise-crack every now and then in the first trilogy was fine, but I certainly never required a full game playing as him and Cole.

      If they really wanted to make something different and interesting they should have gone back just before Emergence Day. I think having to deal with civil war and then all of a sudden the Locust would have been much more exciting to experience.

  2. I think they just failed developing the gears franchise in general. Instead of focusing on interesting things like the mysterious world, origins of the locust and the pendulum wars, we just got some shitty emotional sob stories. Instead of fully refining the mechanics and designing amazing maps and atmosphere, we just got a bunch of overpowered wepons which unbalenced the game horribly. They should have kept ideas they same from the first game, there was a reason that it was so popular. Instead they made a bunch of shitty additions till we were left with a pile of crap with a story which still has gaping holes.

  3. I'm already dissapointed with this game. They really did ruin it. Grenades that stick on to your target? Worst idea ever. Being able to use your assault rifle with holding a shield? Dumbest thing ever. Will you even be able to play as the locust in team death match? If not then that takes the whole purpose of Gears. COG vs. COG doesn't seem right, anyone else agree?

  4. EPIC/PCF really fucked up the gears franchise in my opinion.

    I'm fucking done with this franchise...time for something new, or go back to gears 1-3. Fucking Epic

  5. I still enjoy Judgement the way I do THe Dark Knight Rises. Its a popcorn game. You play for fun, don't take anything seriously, and just go. Honestly, I was bit excited for judgement. Not as much as 3, but still, I was. Baird had always been one of my favorites, and I've always wanted to know why he could never be promoted, as that fact was mentioned in every game. They had a good shot to flesh out why Baird is like he is, but the mostly blew it. While certain parts of the campaign were good, it seemed that most of was just filler content. And that was annoying. ANd they advertised a more 'open environment'. What we got was bullshit. I'm not asking for open world, people, I just want a semi - non linear storyline. That would have been exciting.

    Now the multiplayer. THe new TDM sucks. I preferred the Gears 3. And I love TDM from Gears 3. It was a limited amount of lives that you share as a team - that was fun. This new one just doesn't fit. And Overrun. I do enjoy Overrun. Its pretty fun - and my favorite class is the medic. I wish we could have had a Horde mode instead of just survival - that just took away a big feature for the game. Not that survival isn't fun, it is. Its just not a good replacement. And as for maps, well...I liked how in Gears 2 and 3 the maps doubled for multiplayer and Horde. I was not a fan of this new crap. I like how the maps aren't so symmetrical, and that they are huge, but it isn't fun playing the same 4 maps over and over again.

    SO yeah. ALl in all, Judgment felt more like an arcade game version of Gears than a full game. Its not bad, but I'm glad I bought my copy for only 40 bucks.