On the positive side, the "declassified" missions help to make the whole experience more interesting from a gameplay perspective. In each section of the game, you'll find huge, red Gears markings on the wall. By selecting them, you'll be able to go through the next section with a handicap. These range from the rather simple "you can only use a certain weapon" to the rather difficult "you have almost no visibility".
You're also scored in each of the different sections based on your performance, and selection the "declassified" version helps to amplify your score somewhat. Again, this can be seen as a positive as it gives the game considerable replay value. However, something was implemented that does make this seem a bit redundant.
Every time you play the game, you will receive an experience that differs from the last. This is thanks to the new "smart spawn system" which alters the enemies you'll face, when they appear and where they appear. Why does this make the score system redundant? Well, because it makes the playing field rather uneven. Someone might set a very high score because they were facing a much easier scenario - that doesn't make them a better gamer, it just makes them a fortunate one.
When looking at the graphics and presentation, the voice work is top notch. It always has been in the Gears of War franchise and that remains the same, with a strong performance from Fred Tatasciore. The same can't be said for the music, takes a back seat in Judgment.
The graphics also don't seem to have changed a great deal and the same can be said about the enemies. Don't come into Judgment expecting to fight hordes of new Locust - there is only one new enemy, the Rager. Still, at least the campaign makes the encounters interesting enough.
You might also be disappointed to hear that Horde Mode has been ditched for Gears of War: Judgment. Instead, a multiplayer mode called OverRun has been introduced. In each match, you'll be able to play as a COG Defender, or a Locust Attacker, as they fight over a generator. There are numerous roles in each team, making it a very strategic game mode.
On the COG side, there are four roles: Engineer, Soldier, Medic and Scout. However, when you get to the Locust side, things seem a lot more interesting. Using systems implemented in other multiplayer games, you will be able to play as more dangerous Locust as a reward for doing well. There's a huge list of Locust here too, some of which are very dangerous. It's a whole bunch of fun and it glosses over the removal of Horde Mode rather well.
When looking at replay value, OverRun will provide plenty. There is also the Free-For-All multiplayer mode, which has removed the "Down, but Not Out" state and Aftermath, an additional story chapter that ties into Gears of War 3.
It seems that for all the good Gears of War: Judgment brings to the series, there's something that counteracts it and brings it back down to earth. The addition of "declassified" missions and score-based sections is a big plus, but some gameplay elements identified as issues in Gears of War 3 still haven't been fixed. There's also almost no attempt to try and drive the gameplay on again and it means Judgment will always been seen as a good game, rather than a great one.
|» Fred Tatasciore's performance as Baird.|
|» Declassified missions.|
|» The campaign structure is a lot better now.|
|» While good in theory, the "smart spawn system" seems to invalidate the leaderboards.|
|» Issues from Gears of War 3 haven't been addressed.|
|» Does almost nothing to further the gameplay expperience.|