Review: Gears of War: Judgment


Photo: Xbox

There’s no denying that the Gears of War trilogy was epic. The satisfaction of taking down a Berserker with a perfectly-placed shot to the head and overcoming General Raam are moments that will stay with gamers for years to come. Riding on the success of the series, a prequel was announced during Microsoft’s conference at E3 2012 entitled Gears of War: Judgment.

Developed by Epic Games and People Can’t Fly, the events of Gears of War: Judgment takes place prior to the original Gears of War, as Lt. Damon Baird and his team recall the events leading up to the hearing at a COG military tribunal for the unauthorised use of a lightmass missile. Each recollection comes from a different member of the team, which consists of Baird, Augustus Cole, Sofia Hendirk and Garron Paduk.

The campaign is brilliantly written and will keep viewers engaged throughout its entirety. However, the single player storyline can easily be finished within a number of hours, especially on the easier difficulties.

To add an additional challenge to each section of the game, players can choose whether or not to take on declassified missions. Such missions include being restricted to certain weapons, completing the mission in a time limit and additional or stronger enemies. The reward for successfully declassified missions is additional stars, which unlock rewards comprising of weapon skins and new characters.

Collectibles during the campaign come in the form of COG tags, which are scattered throughout the game’s levels. While there’s no in-game reward for successfully gathering all forty-eight, there are three achievements on offer, worth a total of forty GamerScore.

In purchasing Gears of War: Judgment, players receive two campaigns for the price of one. Titled Aftermath, the game’s second campaign gives players an extra dimension to the Gears of War 3 storyline. Its longer missions and increased pace demonstrate the clear differences between the two titles, and the additional campaign is a great addition to the title.

Both campaigns can also be played with additional players, with support for two players locally and up to four players over Xbox Live. While there are no real benefits to the co-operative campaign, it makes a welcome change to playing with the sometimes unreliable AI.

Multiplayer extends to Survival – a brand new game mode which works similarly to Horde, evident in Gears of War 2 and Gears of War 3. The game mode sees COG soldiers defending a series of objectives from waves of enemies, which get increasingly stronger and more difficult to overcome as player’s progress.

Prior to spawning and respawning, players are able to choose one of four classes: Engineers (who are able to deploy sentries and repair fortifications); Medics (who can heal and revive themselves and allies by deploying Strim-Gas Grenades); Scouts (who can access elevated sniping positions and reveal enemy locations by deploying Spot Grenades) and Soldiers (who can deploy ammo for themselves and their allies). Each class has its advantages and disadvantages on the battlefield.

Whereas the game mode can be played solely, it really comes to life with multiple players, as gamers can use the classes in each other’s favour. Survival can also produce some tense and thrilling moments that come with either a rewarding feeling of satisfaction or a sense of despair.

The same game mode can also be played in competitive multiplayer as part of OverRun – another new addition to the series. The only difference between the two game modes is that gamers also play as the Locust, as they take it in turn to attack and defend the objectives. Like Survival, the game mode is a fantastic addition to Gears of War Judgment, and will be extremely popular among players new and old.

In addition to OverRun, Domination, Execution, Free-for-All and Team Deathmatch all make a welcome return, with very little in the way of changes.

Gears of War: Judgment contains nine maps in total, four which are exclusive to OverRun and Survival, with the remaining five assigned to the other game modes. Each map has been brilliantly designed to incorporate a mix of close combat battles and long range attacks. However, the lack of maps on offer will come as a disappointment to some players, something that is more than likely to be rectified through downloadable content.

The gameplay in Gears of War: Judgment remains almost identical to its predecessors; with players ducking and diving into cover by pressing the A button, although returning players will have to adjust to the new controls. Y is now used to switch between weapons (previously the D-pad), with grenades now controlled using the left bumper. At first, it’ll take veterans some getting used to and it can be the crucial mistake on the battlefield, though it’s something they will adjust to in time.

As the Xbox 360 approaches the end of its life cycle, it doesn’t come as much as a surprise to say that Gears of War: Judgment looks remarkable. Whereas previous Gears of War titles have graphically looked grey and slightly dull, the colour palette for the latest instalment really brings the game to life. Likewise, the game’s soundtrack, composed by Steve Jablonsky, makes for fantastic listening, and the dialogue and sound effects are to a similar standard.

Overall, Gears of War: Judgment is a brilliant addition to the Gear of War series. While some gamers may question whether the short campaign and the few changes to the multiplayer is worth the hefty price tag, there’s hours of enjoyment to be had, just like its predecessors also offered. With the inevitable summer drought approaching, this is most definitely a game to consider purchasing.

[Originally posted on Console Monster]

Review: Terraria


Photo: Xbox

When it was originally released for PC in May 2011, no-one could have predicted how successful Terraria would go on to be. Within a week, the indie game sold 200,000 copies, topping the Steam chart ahead of The Witcher 2 and Portal 2. Fast forward to March 2013 and the title has arrived on the Xbox Live Arcade.

Created by independent game studio Re-Logic, Terraria is an action-adventure and role-playing game, in which players explore, craft, construct and combat enemies in a randomly-generated 2D world.

In traditional role-playing game style, players begin by customising their character. While this simply consists of choosing the gender and hairstyle, as well as eye and clothes colour of the protagonist, it’s a nice, welcoming touch to the title.

Depending on the size of the world, as selected by players at the beginning of their adventure, exploration is a key aspect in Terraria. In a similar fashion to Minecraft, discovering new items, as well as harvesting and mining materials from the environments, allows players to increase their attack and defence against enemies, and therefore progress through the game.

Players use three main tools: a pickaxe, axe and hammer. Each one serves a different purpose and, like weapons, which include spears, bow and guns, can be upgraded through crafting – another important aspect of Terraria. Gathered resources can be crafted into different items with further options available with the help of a work bench.

The game contains a day and night cycle, with different enemies appearing during the different time of the day. Slime, the game’s weakest enemy, roams the world during light periods, while the likes of Zombies, Skeletons and Demon Eyes come alive at night. There’s a great range and diversity of enemies, which have been well implemented into the game. In addition, a number of bosses are scattered throughout, each one providing players with a different challenge.

However, Terraria isn’t a direct port of the PC version as a new control system has been implemented. To make up for the lack of keyboard and mouse, players can use the auto-cursor, which allows players to freely dig or build with precision.

In addition, there’s a range of new items available and Terraria offers support for up to eight players over Xbox Live, with options for local split-screen also available. Multiplayer is where the game really comes to life, as gamers are able to work together to gather materials and defeat enemies – co-operative play at its best.

Graphically, this isn’t a title that will bring out the best of your swanky high-definition television, though the 2D pixel style is easy on the eye. Similarly, the audio in the game isn’t going to win any awards, but players will be singing the game’s soundtrack in their sleep.

Initially, Terraria is tedious and many players will be put off by the slow-pace and the constant dying at the beginning of the game. However, with a little persistence, this is an enjoyable title with depth.

While the 1,200 Microsoft Points price tag may be off-putting to some gamers, its unlimited replayability factor is something that should not be ignored. You’ll still be discovering something new in Terrari, even after 40 hours of playing.

[Originally posted on Console Monster]