Last night, I had a chance to play OverRun mode, the great-looking new versus multiplayer in Gears of War: Judgment. Today, I sat down with Epic's Cliff Bleszinski and People Can Fly's Adrian Chmielarz to hear the first details about its singleplayer campaign.
There are a number of substantial-sounding tweaks to gameplay, all of which will result in a harder-core (and just plain harder) singleplayer game.
For starters, there's something that Chmielarz called "S3", or the smart spawn system. It sounds more or less like Left 4 Dead's AI director -- based on how you're doing in the campaign, the game will change the flow of the game, sometimes dramatically.
If you're doing well, more and more difficult enemies will spawn in different locations, pushing you harder; if you're doing poorly, the game will ease up. This all happens relative to the difficulty that you've chosen at the outset -- if you're playing on casual, it won't get too hard.
The idea is to promote replayability, since as Bleszinski pointed out, many people thought that Gears 3 was a short game even though it was technically their longest. That's because it was a bit too easy, in his opinion. The goal with Gears of War: Judgment is to give players something much more difficult.
The other big change is something called the "Declassification System", which is a smart bit of shiftiness built into the game's story. Which, as we already knew, is a prequel that will star the series' up-till-now second bananas Baird and Cole Train over a decade before the events of the first three Gears game. Bleszinski described Judgment as taking place slightly after Emergence Day -- to put it in game terms, he called it "Emergence Day's launch window."
(Of course, I asked if Emergence Day had day-one DLC. Bleszinski declined to comment. Heh.)
See, Gears of War: Judgment is a "frame narrative" -- the entire story is testimony given at Baird, Cole, and the rest of Kilo Squad's trial for treason. We're not sure what events led to them being disgraced as they have been, and we'll find out over the course of the game.
The flashbacks won't be reliable, however -- at least, not 100 per cent. Sometimes, Baird and company will remember things "wrong", and eventually you'll get a "declassified" version of each mission to play. Sometimes that'll mean that you have weapon restrictions, or that the setting or number of enemies are different. Other times it sounds like the implications could be more dramatic, though we didn't get into the details of what that might mean, exactly.
This is all laying the groundwork for a nifty bit of storytelling, though I must say I was a bit bummed to hear about another feature that allows players to "unlock" power-ups and weapons that are fuzzy because they "can't be remembered". But if you spend points, you'll remember them!
I don't quite know why this idea turns me off -- after all, having different power-ups will make the levels feel different. But something about it seems silly? We'll see how it looks in the final game.
Most of what I heard about Gears of War: Judgment sounds as though the game will be much faster-paced, brutal, dynamic and difficult than its predecessors.
"There's more game in this game than previously," said Chmielarz.
With the game slated for a 2013 release, we will doubtless see more of the singleplayer game in the not-too-distant future. Regardless, what Chmielarz and Bleszinski are talking about aren't merely cosmetic changes -- these will likely substantially change the feel of Gears.