By Paul Hunter
At E3 this year, Epic Games and Microsoft announced an "early 2013" release window for Gears of War: Judgment, the next big entry in the Xbox 360 exclusive franchise. A couple months later and now we have a firm date set by the publisher: March 19, 2013. That feels soon, doesn't it?
Gears of War: Judgment is a prequel set 14 years before the events of the first Gears of War game, just a few months after the terrifying events of Emergence Day, or E-Day, the day the subterranean Locust army first emerged and launched their full-scale attack on the human population.
The game will center on the Kilo Squad, a team led by series protagonists Damon Baird and August Cole, who are joined by newcomers Sofia Hendricks, a media correspondent who became a Gear shortly after E-Day, and Garron Paduk, a former UIR Major that joined the Gears team after his homeland was devastated by the Locust. Take a look at the launch trailer from E3 below:
Gears of War: Judgment launch trailer:
The trailer shows Baird and Cole, handcuffed and on trial for supposedly not following orders during the early months after the emergence of the Locust. Members of the Kilo Squad, including Baird and Cole, have been charged with many wrong-doings including desertion, cowardice, trespassing, theft of experimental military technology, and treason. You have to wonder just how bad their screw-up must have been.
What's interesting about Judgment is that the campaign is really a series of flashbacks, which has you play out the story as Baird recounts it while on trial. During the trial, a number of key events and facts are considered "classified"; and the campaign will play out accordingly with certain aspects of the story missing. After you complete the campaign, a new "Declassified" mode will unlock, which will then add these elements back into the campaign and can dramatically alter how you play. As an example, Baird my initially believe he pushed through the Locust army with his Kilo Squad, but on the second play through he remembers there was a Mech suit present, which he can then use to unleash punishing damage.
Epic Games director of development, Rod Fergusson, says that Judgment is less scripted and cinematic than previous entries in the series, and the game will feel more dynamic and open. Instead of static enemy encounters that trigger once your player reached a specific area location, Judgment will use what the developers call a "smart spawning system" that reacts to a number of factors about your current status, such as your health, accuracy, current location, and so on. This could mean more enemies could spawn, or different type of enemies, or they could spawn in more strategic locations.
Also new in Judgment is a new multiplayer mode called OverRun. This mode lets two teams of five, one controlling the Locust who are on the attack, and the other controlling COG who must be on the defense. The objective for the Locust is to seek out and destroy the COG's power generator in the fastest time possible, while the COG army tries to defend their home base. Once the Locust secure victory, or time expires, the teams then switch roles to see which team can complete the goal in the fastest time. OverRun introduces class-based multiplayer for the first time ever in the Gears series, allowing COG players to play as an Engineer, Scout, Soldier, or Medic. Here's a video on YouTube, narrated by Baird himself, giving an overview of OverRun:
OverRun Walkthrough video
As you can see, OverRun is an asymmetric multiplayer mode with the Locust units totally designed for offensive abilities, while the COG are designed for defense. Each COG character class has their own loadout and unique abilities, which are:
Mechanic -- can repair fortifications with his blowtorch and deploy automated turrets
Soldier -- provides ammo boxes for the team and carries a Boomshot weapon by default
Medic -- can deploy Stim-gas grenades to heal teammates, and can revive players who are down
Sniper -- can climb sniper perches and throw tag beacons to spot enemies for the team
On the Locust side, you can play as the Ticker, Wretch, Grenadier, Kantus, Bloodmount, Corpser, Mauler, and Serapede. Each Locust creature has their own special abilities, such as the Kantus' healing, the Corpser's burrowing, and the Ticker's speed dash. Having put in countless hours into Gears of War 3's Beast Mode and Horde Mode, OverRun does sound like a pretty enticing hybrid combination.
The Gears of War series has sold over 18.5 million units worldwide, and so it's no surprise that here we are looking at a new entry coming early next year. Judgment is already looking quite promising, and with the addition of OverRun there should be lots of exciting multiplayer modes to explore. Now we just have to sit patiently for game to release, which shouldn't be too hard considering we're rapidly approaching the busy, and exciting gaming holiday season.
Gears of War: Judgment is releasing exclusively for Xbox 360 on March 19, 2013. The game is being co-developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly, and will be published by Microsoft Game Studios.
[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]