Gears of War Judgment multiplayer impressions

After posting a rather lengthy write-up about my hopes and fears for the Gears: Judgment release yesterday, I got a good amount of time in with the game’s multiplayer. Such a good amount of time, in fact, that I put off doing this post until now – probably a good sign, eh?

Well, yes and no. After playing a solid 3-4 hours worth of Judgment yesterday, one thing is for sure – this isn’t the Gears I know and love. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all bad.

Judgment ships with two very strong alterations to the core gameplay and game types. For one thing, there is not a single game type offered yet in which respawns are disabled on a round-to-round basis. Initially, I thought that I wouldn’t miss that much – but the change means that Judgment plays faster and more aggressively than ever, and I almost missed modes like execution right off the bat. With respawns, there’s a sort of “anything goes” gameplay attitude – dying because you did something stupid or reckless isn’t that bad, since you’ll be freshly respawned and back on your feet mere seconds later. This fundamentally discourages more tactically-oriented play, since players aren’t punished for making poor decisions, and they aren’t rewarded by having their in-game lifespans extended for making good ones, either.

oh baby.
oh baby.

Here’s the thing. Gears doesn’t work well as a respawn-based twitch-shooter, and that’s pretty much what it is in this latest incarnation. Loadouts start you off with with any primary you’d like (aside from power weapons), and a pistol, as well as a grenade of your choice. There are several problems here. The first is that by limiting the player to one primary, their fighting style immediately becomes severely less versatile. For example, if I choose a shotgun for my loadout, I’m immediately restricted to a mid to long range play style in order to remain effective. Previous Gears titles worked beyond well with the four-weapon system – all players spawned with a primary rifle, a secondary shotgun, a relatively useless – but still appreciated – pistol, and a smoke grenade. From there on, power weapons had to be found in-game – even things like grenades were considered power weapons. They represented a chance to slip up the other team, to even the odds. But now, grenades are given and thrown straight out of spawn, and with little directional input due to the “quick throw” mechanic. The tactical nature of these items and what they represented seems to be long gone, instead they are entitled to the player right off the bat, and therefore thoroughly disposable. I loved Gears previously for discouraging nade spam and encouraging patient, accurate throws – but that attitude is long-gone in Judgment. Expect to see nade-spam aplenty now – CoD players will be right at home.

Something else very concerning to me was the changes made to the Gnasher shotgun. I can’t exactly explain it in-depth here because I have no patch notes or change logs to work off of, but the Gnasher is definitely not what it used to be. It’s taking me 3-4 shots up-close to kill enemies, and up-close insta-gibs are a lot less commonplace. Of course, this might just be because I generally suck at Gears, but I’m certainly not the only one who’s noticed.

Judgment does bring some new weapons to the table, and those are nice. Currently up for a play is a breechshot only domination playlist, which I was having a blast with. Lining up those headshots takes perfect timing and patience, but I’ll be damned if it’s not the most satisfying thing in the game right now. No scope, no zoom, no problem.

Breechshot
This thing is awesome.

The other sniper offered in Judgment is the Markza comparable to the DMR from the Halo series, but it’s nowhere near as much fun to use. The generous magazine size and low-damage make it seem much less like a sniper and more like an all-purpose battle rifle. Then there’s the booshka, which is the human equivalent of the Locust boomshot – lock, load, and shoot grenades like crazy. The actual grenade shots have a tendency to bounce everywhere, and I have yet to actually get a kill with it – but yes, the booshka brings more explosions to the table.

Funnily enough, it seems my criticisms that I outlined in my previous post were things that don’t actually bother me much, while the problems created directly as a result of the changes I didn’t like do bother me. Having both teams as COG is still an aesthetic disaster and removes the tactical dependancy of auditory cues from the game entirely, since everyone sounds like gruff military personell now and distinguishing voices is therefore impossible. But really, having played a whole bunch of rounds yesterday – it didn’t really bother me much.

Just shoot everyone now, is what Judgment seems to suggest. It’s a statement that all of its changes, both good and bad, seem to support. Judgment is fast, furious, and more aggressive than ever, but this doesn’t necessarily make it a better game than Gears 3 was. Already I can feel myself yearning for the tactical-based nature of the previous Gears titles, where patience was rewarded and stupidity was punished. Maybe I’ll learn to love it, but right now, Judgment is the short attention-spanned, CoD inspired teenage brother of the more matured, actualized, and confident Gears 3.

-rav4ge

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