My very first Xbox 360 game was Gears of War. I got it the same day I got my Xbox 360, and ever since then the franchise has had a special place in my heart. Much like Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil have. I even got the comic series that was produced by DC comics, breaking my self imposed rule about not buying comic tie ins as they are generally not very good. I say all this because I want to talk about how Gears of War Judgement changed the series, and not always for the better.
Gears of War, for those of you who don’t know is set on the planet Sera, and has the last scrap of humanity fighting off an underground race called the Locust as they struggle to survive themselves. It’s dark, gritty and introduced the world to the joy of cover based shooting. Everyone is impossibly big, the size of walking fridges basically, and the weapons are kickarse. The main weapon has a chainsaw bayonet for instance. The best part in my mind was the improvements made throughout the games, and how each one had a decent story to play through. Gears 2 for instance has the best campaign in my mind, mostly that it breaks up the monotony of run cover shoot with each section having a different theme.
As I said, the changes between the games were good, or at the very least understandable. The main problem with number 4 is that it changed too much. The developers were “People can fly” who made the kickarse Bulletstorm game, and instead of delivering more of the same, they changed the basic premise of the game into a more of an arcade shooter. Change isn’t always bad, but as the old saying goes if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Gone were the tactical options of your weapons, you could only carry two now instead of 2 mains and a sidearm. The campaign did have a great story admittedly, Damon Baird is on trial and the game is told via flashback and the levels difficulty changed depending on how truthful you were during the trial. It’s a neat little narrative trick.
In my mind Gears has the best multi-player, and while I don’t play online as most people, I’ll explain why I enjoy it. The playing field is level, everyone starts off with the same weapons, a rifle and a shotgun and what makes the most difference is getting to the weapons on the map and being able to use them the best. The levels are big enough to run away from enemies without needing to send out a search party to find them, unlike other multiplayer games, I’m looking at you Call of Duty Ghosts. Yes comparing 1st and 3rd shooters isn’t really fair because they’re both different beasts but my comments still stand.
Gears Judgement’s multi-player suffers in that it tries to copy Call of Duty too much, the levels are rather bland, and instead of fighting against Locust you’re fighting against other humans. That said, they did introduce a game mode “Overrun” which is basically the gears version of Assault from the Unreal Tournament days with the Locust attacking and the Gears defending, and it is the best. Considering Gears gave us Horde mode and then other people started copying them, I’m surprised the “overrun” hasn’t come full circle and we’ve gotten another Unreal Tournament game, but I digress.
Change isn’t always bad with video games, Resident Evil 4 change the format to give us a game with great game play and a hokey story, which continued the fine tred of having action horror games that Resident Evil 5 improved on before 6 ruined it for everyone. Much like Call of Duty 4 brought the games out of the WW2 market and gave us a brilliant tactical shooter before it drowned itself in patriotism. The problem is when you take a beloved franchise and try to mold it after another. Gears of War Judgement is molded after parts of Call of Duty and it failed because of this. It’s still a great game, the story line is decent and the overrun mode is great but it doesn’t feel like a Gears of War game. It’s like taking Mario Kart and removing the weapons and zany levels. It’s still a racing game, but it’s lost what made it special. Gears of War will always have a special place in my heart, yes all four of them. But just because it’s not broken doesn’t mean it needs to be fixed. That said they did try some thing new and it didn’t work out, which is a lot better then that Mario has been doing lately.