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The Final Countdown: Gears of War: Judgment

Gears of War: Judgment Screenshot - 1118511

Welcome to The Final Countdown, GameZone's newest series where we get hyped about games that are just around the corner! As the hours pass, we are counting down the reasons you should be excited (or worried) about upcoming major releases.

Gears of War: Judgment is just a few days from launch, and it’s fair to say that changes are inbound. EPIC is no longer led by industry gurus Cliff Bleszinski and Rod Fergusson, and the franchise itself is without its war-torn protagonist, Marcus Fenix. Nevertheless, Gears of War: Judgment aims to be the most “up in your face,” personal Gears story to date.

The game follows the Kilo Squad, led by fan-favorite Damon Baird, after the events of Emergence Day. In flashback form, your squad will venture out into the Locust-swarmed streets to save the city of Halvo Bay from a terrifying new enemy in a campaign that also features a tidbit from the Gears of War 3 campaign. As the campaign unravels, you’ll learn just why your squad is on trial and how the early events of the original Gears of War came to be.

Despite Judgment’s “mysterious” path to launch, there’s quite a bit to be excited for. Below, you’ll find our tidbits of anticipation, and if we think Gears of War: Judgment will be a proper closer for the Xbox 360 and one of its most vital series.

It’s quicker and more aggressive than ever before

Gears of War has always been a series set on sitting back and analyzing enemy attack, while planning a run to deliver a killer execution or chainsaw split. However, Gears of War: Judgment has already proven that it’s broken that mold and wants to keep you focused on constant confrontation.

Last week during the Judgment live event, Producer Chris Wynn explained that their focus was on keeping the gameplay fast through enemy AI and map design. Judging by early gameplay trailers, they’ve done just that.

By the end of Gears of War 3, we were beginning to grow tired of the formula EPIC used to carry the game’s combat. Our favorite moments were the “up in your face” encounters that kept us on the edge of bleeding out. Keeping this level of excitement throughout Judgment’s campaign may be exactly what the series needs for a revival.

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Storytelling is far from the norm

As we alluded to in our opening, Judgment is taking a path that’s not normal for a franchise that has been so vital in a console’s lifetime. Throwing your main character out the door and favoring a story told through flashbacks -- something completely anonymous to the past three installments -- seems entirely insane for those not enthused in the franchise, but this may be exactly what EPIC wants. Lets be honest, it would be easy to throw Marcus out there in a story on par with what has already been done, and it would sell, but EPIC is taking their own route.

Having Damon Baird at the reigns allows for a fresh perspective on this war against humanity -- a perspective that will certainly be used for character development. Getting to know a familiar character -- and how he reacts in certain situations as the captain -- will alter the opinions on Baird and make some sit and think, “Oh, that’s why he did this in Gears of War 2.”

If there’s one thing to be said, Gears of War: Judgment won’t be scrounging for a story that’s already been told. EPIC has filled a blank canvas with a path that will be foreign for fans. During the campaign, it will likely transition to a more recognizable Gears of War universe.  This brings endless possibilities that can be molded into the dark, eerie world overrun by the Locust.

It’s multiplayer focused -- and that’s okay!

This may turn some away, but there’s no denying that this is a multiplayer game at heart. However, this isn’t the standard Gears of War online experience. When we got our hands on Overrun at E3 last year, we were awestruck. As familiar as it all was, there was this remote feeling that made the experience fresh and exciting. Class-based multiplayer, vertical map design and beefed-up control layout elements aren’t just cheap gimmicks -- they impact and shape the online play.

Multiplayer is malicious and upbeat. No longer do you spot an opponent and spend a minute unloading a clip into their body. Deaths come much quicker, and surprisingly, that’s okay.

Map design seems smooth and on par with this new class system. Toss in the new weapons, modes, and unlocks and you have a component that’ll open itself up past the hardcore crowd, staying viable far beyond its launch.

Declassified Missions are actually interesting

When Treyarch revealed their “declassified missions” for Black Ops 2, we were excited because it was different. After that failed attempt and the announcement of a “similar” system in Judgment, we couldn’t help but roll our eyes. However, after examining just what it is, it’s actually worth playing.

Sure, you gain deeper story testimony and experience with each mission taken, but the missions' changes are actually quite exhilarating. Much like skulls in Halo, declassified missions toss up the norm and turn them against you. Whether it’s a room filled with smoke and dirt, making for less visibility, or facing a certain enemy using a specific weapon, it alters your game enough that it’s not annoying or silly, but enjoyable. If you’re looking for replayability, declassified missions have just what you need.

Did I mention they’re optional? Thanks, EPIC.

Judgment Declassified Missions

The clock's ticking

Yes, Gears of War: Judgment is different – backed by new faces, but the changes are molded into the series’ footprints, and it’s shaping up to be quite successful. The game less than a day away, and that means you should either brush up on some Gears lore by replaying the fantastic trilogy, or just jumping on some multiplayer in Gears 3 and prepare for the onslaught that will come with Judgment.

Bonus Perk: The Return of a fan-favorite

As we previously mentioned, Tai Kaliso, the “tough as Brumak” soldier from Gears of War 2, will be making a return. Though not everyone will recognize him by name alone, as Kaliso wasn't a major character in the series, his story is quite memorable. You may recall a certain scene in the Beast Barge...Yeah, that happens. Well, thanks to a special promotion with All Natural Oberto Jerky, he's back..sort of. You can unlock the exclusive Jungle Tai character skin and play as him in Judgment's addictive multiplayer. Just a nice little perk for fans of the series lore.

Are you excited? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

You can follow more of Tate Steinlage’s ramblings on Twitter at @SteinlageT.

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Tate Steinlage I write words about video games and sports. Hope you like them.
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