So it’s been a little while since the last instalment in the Gears of War series. Epic have passed the helm unto Bulletstorm devs, People Can Fly. People Can Fly are most notable for Painkiller, Bulletstorm, and the PC port of Gears of War. So they are no stranger to making a popular game. But the question is, can they take this well loved, legendary multiplayer game and be equally as good?
Yes, they can also be a bit better if you ask me.
The game mode that you will get to play in this early access demo is known as OverRun. OverRun is something of a mixture of Annex and Beast Mode from the older Gears games. It’s like Annex in that you have to take a point, only now you have to destroy the point or protect it. It’s like Beast Mode in that the Locust must destroy fortified barriers while taking on the Cog forces to make it to their attack points. So let’s get to the nitty gritty. It’s the Locust versus the Cog in an all-out 5 vs. 5 war. As the Locust, you must attempt to break through barriers to make it to a number of emergence hole plugs, once you destroy one, a new area of the map opens and you then go on to the next E-hole. After freeing two emergence holes, you can then attack a generator, destroy this and you win. You can upgrade to more powerful Locust by earning points through smashing fortifications and killing enemies, you then spend these points on the upgrades. The Cog must stop the Locust at all costs. The only way to do this is to stop the Locust breaking through the fortifications and getting to the emergence holes and the generator. If you successfully hold the Locust off for ten minutes, the Hammer of Dawn goes online, and the Cog win the battle. After a go of one team, you move on to the other for the next round. The team with the quickest win-time, are the victors for the entire match.
Moving onto the classes, this is the most prevalent update to the Gears series as it completely changes the way that you play. Let’s start off with the defender, The Cog forces.
The role of the Engineer is played by the self-professed, extremely handsome, Damon Baird. The smooth mechanic starts each round off armed to the teeth with a very familiar Gnasher Shotgun, and a very unfamiliar Blowtorch. The Engineer is an extremely vital part of the team as he uses the Blowtorch to repair fortifications that have been damaged by the Locust. His special ability is the use of a turret gun that he can initially throw much like a grenade. He needs to be used as a battery character. Getting in the attackers’ faces from the get-go so that you can stop them from getting through the initial fortifications by holding your position with turrets and repairs. Unfortunately you cannot repair the emergence holes or the generators, but it would be way to easy that way.
The Soldier is played by the insanely popular fan-favourite, Augustus Cole (THE COLE-TRAIN BABY!). The ex-thrashball star starts off each round with the Mark II Lancer Assault Rifle, and the Booshka. Don’t worry; I wasn’t going to ignore that. The Booshka is a new (or old) weapon to the series. It is a single shot grenade launcher that seems to fire some kind of emulsion. It doesn’t explode on impact but is still extremely useful. The soldier’s special ability is an ammo-box. Does exactly what it says on the tin, supplies team-mates and yourself with some much needed ammo. The soldier is a medium-ranged character whose role is simply to back up his squad and supply them with their much needed ammunition. It runs out quickly in OverRun, it’s extremely necessary.
The Scout is a new character named Garron Paduk. His loadout is the Snub Pistol, and the new answer to the sniper rifle, the Markza. As I said the Markza is most comparable to the old Longshot. However, the differences are that the Markza is a semi-automatic rifle and has a lot less stopping power than the Longshot. There is a blade on the front of the weapon that makes for a stronger melee attack. The scout’s special ability the Beacon Grenade. It is a grenade that emits a pulse that tracks targets and highlights them your team, even through walls. The scout’s job is hanging back, picking off team-mates and revealing enemies. The scout moves a lot quicker than any of the other classes and can reach higher ground that no-one else can. The scout appears to be very useful, but is also the one member of the squad that I feel you could do without. However, get a great scout, and you can completely negate that statement.
The medic is the new female character, Sofia Hendrik. I believe that the medic will be the character that most people will flock to. The fact that she rolls out with the extremely familiar setup of a Lancer and a Sawed Off Shotgun will make sure that veteran players will take to her like a hand to a glove. The fact that her special ability is a new Stim-Grenade that not only heals her team-mates, but also heals herself is one of the most advantageous aspect of the mode. Oh, she can also revive herself. She will most definitely be a brand new favourite amongst the Gears faithful. She will be the only character that will be effective at both medium and short-range. Being able to heal herself in the blink of an eye with the new hip-throw grenade option is extremely enticing, and extremely annoying if you’re on the Locust’s side.
Now the Locusts go up in tiers, we’ve been through this before in Beast Mode, and your operations will happen exactly as they did before. You start with the tier 1 Locust that cost no points until you earn enough points to procure the more powerful Locust by smashing and killing. Let’s run through tier 1 from weakest to strongest.
The Ticker is by far the weakest Locust. It dies in one hit which means that if there is a turret anywhere, you may as well have not played. However, the Ticker can also be the most useful. It’s melee attack is one of the most damaging on enemy barriers out of all the tier 1 Locust. The self-destruct feature is also one of the easiest ways to kill enemies. The Ticker’s special ability is the dash. It makes it near impossible for enemies to hit it, and if you time it right, you can even dodge turrets with it. Sure the Ticker is bullet fodder, but it is one of the best ways of earning points so that you can use the better Locust.
Next up is the Wretch. There’s not much to say about the Wretch. There are only two ways the Wretch can be useful. If the enemy team has a good scout up on a high ledge, the Wretch is the only Locust that can reach that height. The other use is distraction, use the scream to stun your enemies so that a better Locust can come and claim the kill. Just to clarify, the Wretch can melee, jump, and scream.
The Grenadier is an all-round type Locust. It starts off with a Gnasher and a Lancer. So again, anyone familiar with the Gears franchise may flock to this big ugly fella. His special ability is the frag grenade, which now sticks to enemies on the impact of a throw. So, up close, far away, he’s got it covered. A definite keeper in your arsenal. One big change in the Grenadier is that he now has a much slower sprint, moving from cover to cover will be key as his speed is a huge problem. This problem can be counteracted by riding the super-fast Bloodmount, however. The Grenadier is a much recommended character for OverRun mode.
The Kantus is unique in that it only starts with one weapon, The Hammerburst. The fact that it only has a Hammerburst is a compromise to the fact that the Kantus is basically the Locust’s resident medic. It may seem unfair that the Cog medic is fully kitted out with everything that she might need and the Kantus isn’t, but bear in mind that the Kantus is tier 1, and is meant to be a downgrade from the truly useful Locust.
Now to the really important Locust, tier 2.
The first in the tier 2 Locust upgrades at the cost of $1500, is the brand new addition to Judgment, the Rager. The Rager is merely a Locust drone, with a dark side. He starts the match with a brand new weapon known as the Breechshot. The Breechshot is a bolt-action rifle, it’s essentially a Longshot without the zoomed scope. When I tell you that this weapon was created to combat the Markza, you know it means business. Oh, right, it was also made to hunt Brumak. Think about that for a moment. Remember I said the Rager has a dark side? Well, the Rager has the ability to…well, rage. Its special ability is to transform into an unstoppable beast. Kind of a smaller version of a Beserker. Once you’ve done this, you can charge at people and beat them to death with your nasty claws.
Next up at $2400 is the Serapede. We all know the Serapede from Gears of War 3, and there is only one change. The Serapede can now rear itself up and spit acid at your foes. This means that you can reach scouts up in high places. Other than that, it still has the electric pincers and is still killed by being shot in the buttocks.
For $3500 is the Mauler. The Mauler is one of the toughest Locust to kill and truly takes some teamwork to take down. The explosive mace that he swings does some of the highest damage in the game, and the shield protects from any oncoming bullets. The Mauler can now spin the shield which reflects the bullets back to the enemy. Spinning the shield will also rip your foes to shreds like fruit in a blender if they dare come near you.
At $5000, you may think that the Corpser is a bit too much. But the price matches the product I’m afraid. The Corpser has a lot of health and is only prone to taking damage on one part of its body. It can burrow underground and regain health. The burrowing means that you can pass right under barriers. When you emerge from your burrowing technique, anyone in the vicinity immediately explodes from the force. The Corpser also has the highest damage along with the Mauler. It’s basically a living tank, and well worth earning all those points for.
Aside from the influential aesthetic changes, the gameplay itself is very familiar, but very different at the same time. Slight changes like a new control scheme are definitely more suited to players of Call of Duty and Battlefield. You now press Y to change weapons rather than the D-Pad. It makes sense as each character class is gifted only two weapons and one special skill. Grenades are now thrown as you press the button rather than the old method of swinging the grenade and getting the perfect aim. This makes for a much quicker reaction than it has before and is a lot more useful now that grenades stick on the impact of a throw. Movement is a lot smoother in the animation and you have a lot more control over the 360 degree rolling mechanism. The smoother animations are never more evident in the way you can jump off of a ledge now. It seems silly to mention something as trivial as this, but getting off of a ledge isn’t something you interact with anymore, you just jump off with ease and without interruption. As I said, there aren’t many changes from the core gameplay of the Gears of old, but the subtle changes have made a massive improvement to the gameplay.
I have to let you know, this game is different, real different. Gears of War Judgment has taken the balls to wall “best gun wins” style of multiplayer, and switched it up to a class-based, strategic, team shooter. I started off playing horribly, but then once I plugged the headset in and was able to coordinate with my teammates, I was engaged in a plethora of “army talk” and team induced victory. Each class compliments the other if you can just plan it out. Soldiers and medics attack while scouts and engineers hold. This genius addition has made an already excellent game series, fantastic.
Sceptics beware, I had an absolute blast playing OverRun, and this is just a snippet of what the game has to offer. I for one and chomping at the bit to get my hands on the full game.
I implore you, download the demo on March 19th, fall in love with Gears of War all over again.