Six Critics Consider Gears Of War: Judgment Fresh, Frantic And Fun

Six Critics Consider Gears Of War: Judgment Fresh, Frantic And Fun

Gears of War has been around for a while now — seven years, with Judgment being the fourth game in the series — and it seems the franchise is not ready to slow down just yet. Most reviewers agree that the gameplay is exhilarating, the story is tight, and the war-torn world is prettier than ever.

So what was it that critics loved best about this adrenaline-fueled Locust-maiming rampage of epic proportions? Here’s what they had to say.


Giant Bomb

Despite my feelings that Baird is the most extraneous character in the Gears universe and a general feeling after Gears 3 that I was probably done with this franchise, Judgment is still a good time. It doesn’t let its story get in the way of its action, and the declassified modifiers had me playing Gears in ways that I normally wouldn’t, making for a more interesting challenge than the typical difficulty settings offer. But the lack of maps just sucks every last bit of life out of the multiplayer, regardless of its new modes.



Gears games always look good, but even by the series’ own standards Judgment is an especially good-looking bit of work, although the ‘destroyed beauty’ aesthetic feels somewhat overdone now. The characters look more human too. They’re still hulking colossi (it wouldn’t be Gears if the characters weren’t on the juice), but they don’t look quite so much like they were fashioned in clay by a drunk that’s watched too much WWE this time around.


Official Xbox Magazine

Judgment’s campaign offers a dutiful tour through the formerly beautiful, now ruined city: you take cover to fend off waves of the Horde, defend escorts (like a robot drone), pick off snipers wielding OneShot rifles, and essentially go through the paces of what you expect from a Gears of War game — without that extra burst of creativity, surprises, and multiple routes that made Gears of War 3’s campaign stand out. Judgment offers a linear, largely boss-less, by-the-numbers journey that, while fun, is surprising in how unsurprising it is.



Speaking of difficulty, this game is a heck-of-a lot harder, faster, and more intense than previous Gears games, even on Normal and Hardcore difficulties. The amount of enemies may incite small panic attacks, especially in co-op on hardcore or above, where every death resets you to a checkpoint. It’s gratifying when surpassed, but teasingly brutal otherwise. The fact that enemy types and layouts change every time a checkpoint is restarted means you can’t simply learn the patterns to get a jump on the locations after a couple of restarts. The game’s AI will catch you off-guard in a heartbeat, but the satisfaction that comes from conquering this dynamic is all the more elating.



This focus on levelling and winning things leads to Judgment’s campaign having a lot more of an “arcade” feel than prior installments. Missions are very short, lasting a few minutes at most, which leads to the already basic story feeling segmented. However, the trade-off is a faster, more chaotic, more varied solo and cooperative experience which, coupled with the declassified extras, leads to an altogether different type of Gears that players are used to. Whether fighting in a room covered in thick dust and full of sword-wielding Therons, or defending a position with sentry bots and turrets, Judgment constantly switches things up on the player, and the bite-sized nature of individual missions leads to a feeling of greater replayability.



The success of Judgment’s story comes down to the clever use of familiar storytelling techniques. It begins at the end, with Kilo Squad under arrest and facing a military tribunal for an unspecified crime. Discovering the how and why they arrived here is exciting because you’re involved in every moment leading up to the arrest. Cutscenes are mercifully few and far between, leaving us to dig into the details during playable flashback sequences. This is where Gears of War bottles lightning again.



Ultimately, the guns are still meaty, the roadie run still feels exhilarating, the speed and force with which your body hits cover is still satisfying, the locales are still great ruin porn. It’s an evocative game, a remarkably carnal experience for a video game in which nothing sexual actually happens. Thought of in that context though, Judgment reminds me that the worst thing a lover can do is become too familiar.


  • Bar the movement and aesthetics this game no longer feels like a gears game. Everything from weapon loadouts, to the map designs, even the control scheme: it all feels to me like I’m playing a 3rd person COD.

    • Oh wow. That really is becoming a meme isn’t it? The general response to Halo 4 is, “It plays just like CoD”.

      • I believe it was Rod Fergusson (though I may be wrong) who said “We’re changing the control scheme in Judgment in order to bring it more into line with regular FPS conventions.” We all know that by FPS, he meant COD. Drawing this similarity is more than fair and it is not the only part of the game that has been brought into line with “regular FPS conventions” despite this being a 3rd person game.

      • Exactly! I think everyone is more excited for something a lil’ more new like Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, etc.

        • I think it’s more that we’re getting tired of having to add another 30 hours to a game each year. After several years of yearly CoD or Assassins Creed games, we don’t really want to start all over again. especially if we’ve still playing the previous game.

          If this game came out at like, 40 bucks and as expensive DLC for Gears 3 and was treated more as an expansion, I would have no problem with the game.

  • Does IGN ever give a score of less than 90%?? I’ve played many less-than-stellar games over the years and they seemed to get glowing reviews by IGN…

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