Gears of War: Judgment is a prequel to the popular third-person Microsoft Xbox 360 exclusive franchise, Gears of War, and it’s broken up into three essential elements; campaign, co-op, and full out multiplayer. What you think of Gears of War: Judgment will all depend on what you are looking for in the game.

Are you someone who enjoys playing the “story mode” then shelving the game and moving on to something else? Or are you the type who’s looking to play with friends online until the servers are shut down? Maybe you’re a gamer that wants both. Well, lets “dig in baby” and find out if Gears of War: Judgment is worth tapping into your Thrashball reserves.



The campaign mode revolves around the trial of Damon S. Baird and his Kilo Squad, consisting of the familiar, albeit younger looking, Augustus Cole, and two new members in Sofia Hendrik and Garron Paduk.

This is where long time Gears players are going to feel most at home, I know I did. A few interface changes and some minor controller scheme tweaks are more than likely going to take a little getting used to, but once you’re past the “oh shit, LB makes me toss a grenade” outbursts, the campaign feels very comfortable and familiar.

The chapters in Judgment were a little bland early on, but I felt that things picked up as I got deeper into the campaign. That said, the constant need to throw Mini-Horde Mode defense encounters my way grew old fast, and babysitting the sentinel automated turrets at my disposal quickly became more of a nuisance than a perk.

If I had to give one gold star to a single new component in this campaign, it would be the addition of “declassified” chapter variants. This option, initiated by interacting with what amounts to Gears of War red skull Death Omen graffiti just before each chapter start point, adds variety and difficulty to the campaign in the form of things like harsh wind, visibility impairments, larger enemy hoards, reduced ammo, weapon handicaps, and other surprises. I enjoyed the implementation of this element almost as much as I enjoyed the element itself. It’s the video game equivalent of embellishing the past, but instead of just listening to someone gloatingly recant their tale, declassified mode lets you relive it.

Collectors will be happy to know that Gears of War: Judgment has plenty of things to keep them busy in the form of ribbons, stars earned by achieving specific statistical benchmarks during the completion of each chapter, and goodie-filled lock boxes that range from normal to epic in quality. After each completed session you can access your character screen to sort through your earnings. Those looking to shed Microsoft Points won’t be left out in the cold, because as you might expect, some of the cooler character and weapon skins are still only available through purchase.

The biggest gripe I had with the campaign in Gears of War: Judgment is that, despite introducing a few new enemies, it was a little light on the “holy shit” boss encounters. In addition, the unlockable extra bit of campaign titled “Aftermath,” which takes place during the Gears of War 3 time frame, doesn’t make use of the declassified mechanic. The plus side for Aftermath is that it brings back some of the more elaborate sequences we’re used to seeing in Gears campaign mode. Finding a way to incorporate more of that along with the new elements unleashed in Judgment would be ideal.



As far as co-op goes, Gears of War: Judgment supports up to four players in campaign mode simultaneously, with the only downside being that the game now always features four players at all times, even when you’re playing alone. This makes for plot limitations that cause the pace to feel flat at times. You’re no longer able to experience a chapter from the perspective of two characters, complete it, then experience it from the perspective of two different characters. However, if you’ve been dying to play campaign with three other buddies, here’s your chance.

While playing the campaign on co-op mode with my colleague, Michael Futter, he noted that a chapter he’d completed earlier on his own with a three star rating was overwritten by the same chapter we completed together at a two star rating. If he wanted to get his three star rating back, he would have to go and do it again. If this is working as intended it would mean that jumping in to help your friend with a level they are stuck on would penalize you and potentially make you think twice about doing so.

Outside of campaign (which features enough Horde Mode elements of its own) fans of Horde Mode will now have something called Survival Mode to keep them busy. This is essentially the same as the old Horde Mode but with a class based approach. You and up to four other people must decide upon either engineer, soldier, medic, or scout before taking part. You are then tasked with surviving wave after wave of Horde onslaught. Sadly, the waves cap out at ten and that left me feeling a bit cheated.



This installment of Gears of War launches with the fewest multiplayer maps (four) in the history of the franchise and to make matter worse it also has the fewest multiplayer modes (four) in a Gears game since the launch of the original back in 2006.

The breakdown of modes included in Judgment at launch are as follows:

  • OverRun: A mix of Horde Mode and Beast Mode with the same class class based twist found in the co-op Survival Mode. Being that this is the only multiplayer mode option that actually features Horde versus COG, it’s no surprise that this is what I enjoyed the most, even though the class limitations were a bit quirky and not something I necessarily was a big fan of. Respawns galore.
  • Domination: This mode is very similar to Annex in that players are asked to secure a trio of locations spread across the map. The first team to 250 points wins. Respawns galore.
  • Free for All: Pretty much self explanatory, this mode features ten players fighting to survive in an every man for himself environment. This is the only mode that I would have supported the exclusion of the down but not out element, but even then, I could see this mode working with it in place as well. Respawns galore.
  • Team Deathmatch: A respawn lovers wet dream. Five on five action with almost no penalty for rushing in and getting yourself killed. The lack of this mode in the original Gears of War release is one of the reasons why I gravitated towards it in the first place, and the series’ willingness to keep their non-respawn modes around even after they started adding modes like this down the line was the reason I continued to support and enjoy it.

Suffice it to say, I’m not a big fan of the “every multiplayer mode now rewards stupidity in the form of instant respawns” selection Gears of War: Judgement has to offer. The game no longer has a mode that doesn’t support player respawn, and it most likely won’t until the free Maxim pack brings back Execution mode on April 2nd. This is truly upsetting when you consider the franchise was built on the back of non-respawning modes like Warzone, Execution, and Assassination.

Microsoft and Epic are promising two additional modes as a part of their DLC package, which will also add more maps to the game, but there’s no information on these game types. It’s unfortunate that, not only does Judgment come with a scant four multiplayer modes and maps to begin with, but the publisher is forcing us into an additional purchase at the same time.

Here’s one of the maps you can’t play until April 2nd unless you purchase the VIP Season Pass.

Publishers and developers have become a lot more savvy since the original Gears of War hit store shelves in 2006, actively recruiting “monetization experts” to help them find ways to squeeze every last dollar out of a consumer’s pocket without leaving them feeling too taken advantage of. If the trend in gaming is to give us as little as possible at release then hit us in the wallet a few months down the line with downloadable content offerings you could make an argument should have been included in the first place, we’re all going to end up on our hands and knees bleeding out.

Modes aside, I couldn’t have been more disappointed in the overall approach to multiplayer in this installment. The maps are so large that the addition of vertical gameplay, with five on five multiplayer, often left me feeling like I was running around by myself. An always present on-screen retical makes sniping, boomshotting, and shotgunning from the hip so easy that our grandparents could do it while watching The Price is Right.

In a move that seemingly erases years of feedback from frustrated Gears players who were tired of getting tagged by grenades from an extended melee range, Gears of War: Judgment now allows you to tag your enemy with a grenade by throwing it in their direction. That should go over well.


Wall planting grenades has been shelved in place of a Tripwire Crossbow that feels like an unnecessary change, but maybe that’s the theme behind this latest multiplayer iteration. Gone is the damage bonus for active reload too, and if you enjoy downing your enemy instead of flat out killing them you’ll be cursing this game in no time.

The series’ trademark “down but not out” is non existent in Gears of War: Judgment multiplayer, and without it you can’t bait the teammate of your opponent, pull of a gory execution, or use your enemy as a meat shield. However, when it comes to shields, the Boomshield is more overpowered than ever as you can now use it with almost any weapon (including the Boomshot and sniper rifle).

The most puzzling aspect of Judgment multiplayer is the omission of Locust outside of OverRun. The “red COG team versus blue COG team” approach is so generic that it made me want to toss my game out the window while screaming “you let the humans defeat you!”



Giving the Gears of War IP to a new studio resulted in some interesting campaign advancements, but the stale and thin multiplayer offering that seems to borrow from other franchises more than it builds upon the legacy of its own taints this release. People Can Fly have turned Gears of War multiplayer into a cover-based-clone, difficult to distinguish from pretty much every other shooter on the market.

My judgement of Judgment is in. I hereby find this installment guilty of premeditated mass appeal modifications and sentence it to a lifetime of mediocrity with a slim possibility of bail in the form of DLC. In light of this verdict I shall refer to this game from this day forward as Gears of War: Combat Devolved.

Here’s The Rundown:
+ Declassified Mode is a welcome addition
+ The campaign’s mini Horde Modes are a nice (but frequent) touch
+ Four player co-op will please the friend list heavy
– Pretty thin in the boss battle department
– Survival Mode is a watered down replacement for Horde Mode
– Too few multiplayer modes and maps for the money

– Multiplayer changes have taken the game away from its roots
– More like Red vs Booo!! Bring back the Locust!


6 and 6.5 represent a game that doesn’t do anything spectacular or drastically fails to meet the high expectations people had for it. These scores are for games that you would only recommend to diehard fans of the series or genre, something that the average gamer wouldn’t miss very much if he/she skipped it. A game in this range has rental written all over it.

Gears of War: Judgment was published by Microsoft Game Studioes and developed by Epic Games in tandem with People Can Fly. It was released on March 19, 2013, at the MSRP of $59.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review. The game was played to completion on campaign mode and roughly ten hours were spent playing the multiplayer mode before I threw my hands up in disgust and went back to Gears of War 3.


    • Thanks Johnny. This review was a tough one to write because I’ve been such a big fan of the franchise for so long. Campaign has some new elements worth checking out like declassified missions and mini horde-mode but the multiplayer feels so generic and rushed that I’d recommend gamers looking for online play rent this release for the campaign and stick with Gears 3 for the multiplayer.

  1. Sorry but are we playing the same game? THis is a pretty bad review that doesnt even touch upon Overrun, which from the start has been the focus for Judgement. Name one other person shooter that has a mode like Overrun, and that is as fun and crazy.It cant be done.

    The campaign story is what you would expect, but what other Campaign in he last 5 years has been something truly special? I would say the campaign is entirely mediocre, but the aspect that you can access the declassfied missions changes the campaign entirely. Which you barely even mentioned.The campaign is by no means bad, but it is better than Gears 1 and 2.

    Oh and you left out the Smart Spawn System which once again, changes the campaign entirely.

    How about survival? Which you don’t even go into detail about, and fail to properly explain how it truly is better than horde.

    It seems like the author reviewed the game based off of what he wanted to see, and not what is on the disc. I get that you wanted certain modes to make a return, and that infinite respawns upset you, but that by no means makes it a bad game. Try reviewing a game based off what it is, and not what you want it to be.

    • Hey there,

      I did talk about OverRun and I also said that I enjoyed that mode the most out of all the multiplayer offerings. I also talked about campaign and survival mode. The reason I don’t explain why it’s better than Horde mode is simple — I don’t think that it is. No need to get hostile.The review starts off by saying this:

      “What you think of Gears of War: Judgment will all depend on what you are looking for in the game.”

      I stand by that.

      While you may like what the game is on disc, I did not. A review is merely the opinion of one individual.

      Thanks for the comment Cory:

    • He was pretty accurate about what the game is, a mediocre campaign with gears multiplayer watered down by what I recognize as elements of halo multiplayer. Also if youre a fan of gears 3 multiplayer the absence of DBNO and executions should really bother you. Overrun isn’t as good as you’re saying either. I played it for a few hours trying to give it a chance but it got dull fast.

    • I agree with Chad, though you are entitled to your counterpoint. Smart Spawn isn’t that smart as it is just a randomizing of spawned enemies (instead of an expected pattern..I died, came back to level and instead of tickers, there were boomers).

    • Battlefield: Bad Company’s Gold Rush mode is almost exactly what Overrun is except for one team isn’t monsters. Another example would be most of Left 4 Dead’s multiplayer modes.

  2. I don’t have an x360 but enjoyed reading the article.
    Right now, I’m playing god of war ascension. I’m a huge fan of Santa Monica work, and love kratos world. For the first time, I’m able to stop the game, and only play next day, when before, I couldn’t stop playing. Its sad to play this prequel knowing it will lead to nowhere, since we already know what happens after, all the gods get killed, etc. It just doesn’t gather 100% of my interest. I would have loved a gow4, with a kratos ghost, killing god ghosts. I’ve played like 60%, since last Friday.normally, a how game ,I finish it in 2 days. I must say I’m disappointed. About the story and about what they did with the game. Also, I was proud to have my gow games totally standalone, without needing internet, so I can play them in 20 years, if I want. Now, they just added the online pass, for multiplayer. It means, in 5 years, if I want to play locally with some friends, if no online, no psn, no online pass, I won’t be able to play. Damn, how I hate these online passes.

    I see gears follows the same path.even worse, they restrain content, giving the fewest they can, so people get bored fast, and in 2 or 3 weeks, they will pay like a second time, for new content, like they were buying a 2nd copy of the game. Of course, they will make great weapons packs, that you will have to pay for getting them.
    Damn, online passes, blocked content that can be unblocked via a 100kb file, micro transactions, content that should have been included in the full paid game but instead will be sold, etc, all that disgusts me, really. In a few years we will miss the old good times when the game was finished and couldn’t be upgraded. Today, they can release a game with 1000 bugs and have a day-one patch. But in 5 years, how will we do, if we want to play an old game, and the servers are down, and we can’t download that patch, so we have to stick with the unplayable 1000 bug version ?


    Nice to see honest reviews, even when the publisher ‘gives’ you the game. Most websites and reviews/fans will simply don’t care about the issues you’ve mentioned, and will give it perfect scores, since they love the series. And then, many guys will be disgusted when playing the game and discovering by themselves what you’ve said, and will realize the game isn’t worth those 10/10’s

    They should split the game in 2 parts, single and multi, and sell it separately. Why should a guy that doesn’t play online pay the full price for a weak campaign and a multiplayer he won’t be touching? Why should a online gamer pay full price, when he doesn’t care about the single player mode?

    Damn, even uncharted 3 have an online pass. God of war too. Tomb raider too. The worst, are the 100% single player games, with blocked content, so you have to buy online passes. Batman arkham city, for playing with Catwoman… online pass. It should be available without passes. When will a bunch of guys start moving, so we gamers can have some laws protecting us from practices like these? What’s next? You have the right to finish your game 4 times, after that, they remotely wipe your game from the disk or block it, if you try to launch it, you get a popup saying ‘you’ve reached the maximum number of playthroughts, you need to buy a new license on x store.thank you’

    Future gaming looks awesome, with insane graphics… but with insane techniques to empty our wallets.

    • Well said Mike. Remember though, if you don’t agree with a company’s tactics you don’t have to support their product. I know it’s a tough call to make sometimes but if you really feel strongly about something you have to take a stand and say no thanks.

      • sure, i already say no thanks to many games, for example, call of duty, after MW 1, i didnt buy a single game. i just can’t stand how they can’t take a few millions from the billions they get, and make a new game and graphic engine. all they care is releasing a new game every year, with a few new maps, and that’s all folks.

        i may miss some great action on all those cod games, but i prefer spending my cash on other games/publishers.

        right now, we can still have a choice, and choose a game over another. but in a couple of years, when microtransactions, online passes, etc, will be included in every game, and unless changing our hobby and stop gaming, it will hard to choose the right game.

        by that time, maybe people will start choosing a game, not based on its graphics, but based on how less intrusive it is: a game with lots of content available on the disc, without an online pass could be choosen over a game that has better graphics. who knows.

        when think about all the dlcs and weapon packs i bought for the mass effect series, and imagine, in 5-7 years, i feel like replaying the games, but i will not get the same experience, the same dlcs, and all those great new weapons. it won’t be the same anymore. right now, we don’t react and don’t think about that, all we want is the next big AAA title. but in a few years, the sad truth is going to hurt. we will ask ourselves where are those thousand $ of content gone. and we will realize that all these years, we’ve been buying “air”, or a slice of the moon. or some clouds. actually, nothing :)

  3. You really have to be careful where you get your reviews. The first review that appeared for this game gave it a 9.2. The group that reviewed it was also given exclusive access to the game long before it was developed. They were given exclusive rights to host videos about in-game weapons and modes. They were given exclusive access to the game once it neared release, and they were allowed to face-off against a team of developers in the Overrun mode. I think it’s fair to say that the 9.2 may have been heavily influenced by factors besides the quality of the game. Reading this review, it certainly does not seem like there is any bias, only honesty.

  4. OMG. You couldn’t be more spot on. Playing the new Gears lastnight, I feel like I was waiting in an expensive hotel for an escort, only to meet, wine, dine and get stuck with a bill and genital herpes. What did they do to the Dpad? The nades! No bonus for reloading? And yeah, it says when you start in Hardcore, that if you revert to normal, you lose stars and dumb down to silver. I miss separate horde mode. I would like to have seen horde where we play as Grubs vs Cog (AI) … not beast mode with timer. I HATE TIMERS> Timers were so 80’s.

    Do you think CliffyB’s departure was related to this mess? (I mean it in a good way, that he saw how they “monetized the franchise” rather than making it enjoyable, so left to maybe start something else? Listen up small studios, when a big fish comes along and starts telling you how to run your show, your IP just cried out and was silenced.

    • I shared your pain in terms of the controller changes, the grenades, and the loss of active reload damage boost. My friend and I just got off the phone and the entire time I had to listen to him say “WHY? WHY DID THEY DO THIS!?”

      One of the things that bothered me the most though was the lack of horde in multiplayer and the fact that down but not out (DBNO) is now something only available in campaign.

      As for Cliff Bleszinski, there are plenty of rumors floating around but I doubt that anyone knows for sure. That said I’m sure there are plenty of talented people who still work for Epic and People Can Fly, so this release to me, is less about who did what and more about “why on earth did they think that would be a good idea?”

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. This might be the only review in the history of reviews that I’ve agreed with 100%.

    I’m a huge fan of the Gears of War franchise, but after playing online for a good 4 hours yesterday, I was very underwhelmed… and frustrated. Frustrated at the choices PCF made to undo what the fans loved about the series. Overlooking the fact that there are only 4 maps to start with (SERIOUSLY?! FOUR MAPS!!?!?!) they’ve taken a lot of liberties changing the game mechanics that made the Gears series unique.

    It truly feels like they reversed engineered the Call of Duty/Battlefield games and tried to implement what people like about those games into Judgment. They’ve made a quick grenade button, easy grenade tags, ammo galore, quicker and stronger melees, and even added a complete rip-off of Halo’s Battle Rifle to entice more new players. No longer is the combat a test of skill and knowledge of the game’s mechanics; now it has been reduced to a game of peek-a-boo in which the player who spots another player first usually gets the kill.The biggest issue, and it was barely mentioned in this review, is the lack of down-but-not-out. Without it, this no longer feels like a Gears of War game at all… it’s just a generic 3rd person shooter akin to Red Faction or War Hawk.

    I never thought camping would ever become a problem in the Gears series, but they’ve somehow managed to make it an issue. The maps are large enough that it will take you a minute to get from on side to another (which is especially tedious in Domination). The multi-tier level design is a nice new touch, except when you realize that the higher places only have about two points of entry and can be easily defended by two players. To top it off, the most powerful weapon spawns seem to be at the top, so if you can’t clear the roof of campers, be ready to die from the Hammer of Dawn quite frequently. (Side note: I got into a minute long shotty battle with a teammate because I couldn’t tell what color his uniform was since he was using a different colored skin. Good idea making both teams COGs with different colors and then letting people change their skins, PCF.)

    All sense of strategy has been eliminated and replaced with ease of play for new players of the series. It panders to the non-fans who did not enjoy the previous games because of the difficulty of playing against veterans. So instead of forcing them or weening them to become better players, they’ve simplified many of the game mechanics. But the veterans are the ones that will continue to play your games long after the new Halo 5 or Modern Warfare 4 is released. So to slap them in the face after over 6 years of support is to doom your game in the long-run.

    I had preordered this through the Microsoft Store in order to get the 1600 MS points to spend on the DLC, but they will no longer be getting any more money from me. I’m going back to Gears of War 3, which is the definitive Gears of War.

    • Hey there,

      First off thanks for the insightful comment. As for DBNO, I felt that this portion of my review summed it up fairly well:

      “The series’ trademark “down but not out” is non existent in Gears of War: Judgment multiplayer, and without it you can’t bait the teammate of your opponent, pull of a gory execution, or use your enemy as a meat shield.”

      I was hoping that got across my point. The lack of this feature in the game outside of campaign was a huge deal breaker for me. Outside of it being something unique to the series, it also ties into other gameplay mechanics that are not possible without it.

      Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the game.

  6. Your article is the first honest review of the game I’ve seen. Very well written.

    I have been with this franchise since Gears of War 1. It was my favorite franchise over halo and call of duty. I loved the cover system, the DBNO, and the overall skill it took to play this game. Us veterans of the first game can remember how painful it initially was to get used to it, but once you put the time in, you were greatly rewarded. Using team tactics, cover, DBNO strategies, this game never felt old.

    Gears 2 and 3 built upon what worked. Adding the ability to crawl from DBNO was excellent as it would sometimes save your butt from an untimely kill, or even save a teammate from a trap when they are racing to save you from death.

    Judgement FRUSTRATES ME BEYOND BELIEF. There are way too many issues with this game such as but not limited to:

    1) Why the hell can I only carry two weapons? If you want to say “only having two weapons lets you move faster” then fine. But why do I have to constantly choose between a standard weapon (lancer/gnasher) and the second is always a pistol? I’ve been with this franchise since day one, there has never been a problem with players carrying both the lancer and gnasher AT THE SAME TIME. Now if I want to accomplish that, I have to by default select to use the lancer and hope to the heavens that I don’t run into a gnasher while I’m on the field, which brings me to my second rant. (Don’t even get me started on how you ignore the D-pad in favor of pressing Y to switch weapons.)

    2) Why did you make the melee soo overpowered? If you look at epic’s forum right now, you will find that the number one kill in the game is by gnasher (expected). Number 2? Melee. Really? Melee?? That’s a problem. It takes zero, and I mean ZERO SKILL to run up to a player and mash the B button. This is a shooter last time I checked, not a fighting game.

    3) No DBNO? This was the whole basis of the franchise. Not having this is like playing Halo without Cortana. Something that has been with you since day one, should idk, stay with you until the end of your franchise. Removing DBNO ignores every single cool execution that was added to the franchise, not to mention removes the reward (and frustration) of saving a teammate from certain death. You basically remove the team effort of this game.

    4) I 100% agree with you on the weapon thing. This game is all about who controls power weapon spawns/who has the most frag grenades to throw in 2 seconds. Its irritating and stupid.

    As I write this, Epic plans to release a new game mode called “master at arms” which is an exact rip off of “gun game” from Call of Duty: Black Ops. It’s like they aren’t even trying anymore.

    Spot on review. Keep up the good work!