5: Gears of War: Judgment
Gears of War Judgment is…a game. It’s a game that exists, certainly. It’s not that it’s a particularly bad game in this series, or even a bad game in general, but what it is is just sort of there. The good and the bad mix together to create something that’s only really called a Gears game simply by having some of the characters from the previous entries. Marcus and Dom are absent for the campaign portion, instead switching over to Baird and Cole and set before the original Gears of War as they and their two squadmates, Sofia Hendrik and Garron Paduk, are put on trial for stealing experimental COG technology.
It sounds like a nice idea and helps give some more characterization to the two characters in Delta Squad who are lacking in that more than usual. But the Gears of War franchise has never really been lauded for its incredibly amazing writing and characterization, and while there are some sort of interesting threads, it ultimately is just a lackluster story. The dynamic between the four leads is just about as solid as it is with the classic four, but the COG head questioning them is just a bit of a dick, and it makes no sense why they’d have a tribunal literally a couple miles away from a warzone. Our main villain is probably the weakest the series has ever had, which is a shame considering how threatening previous baddies like Raam, Skorge, and Myrrah were. This really is the one where you scratch your head and wonder who the hell the big boss was they had to fight at the end. (His name’s Karn, FYI.)
Epic handed the reigns of Judgement over to the folks of People Can Fly for the most part, which may explain why this one doesn’t feel so Epic. The same mechanics are all there, but PCF’s added some new wrinkles in the name of replayability. The Declassified system adds modifiers to the level like constant smoke caused by an explosion, cutting your ammo in half, or an increase in enemy numbers. The scoring system increases the amount of stars you get at the end of each level. None of this is particularly bad, in fact the modifiers made the Gears 3 campaign pretty fun. But here, it feels like it came from Bulletstorm instead of Gears’ dodge rolling machofest. The important changes came to the multiplayer, where the four-weapon system was slimmed down to two and removed key features like Down But Not Out and Locusts in multiplayer. The changes to both modes all come together to create a Gears title that isn’t as stellar as it should be, or as bad as it could be.