Leading up to PAX there were a few things I had set in stone that I needed to accomplish; Play Halo 4, meet Cliff Bleszinski, and play Gears of War Judgment. By noon on Sunday I had yet to accomplish the final of those three. I set out to the giant Gears of War Judgment stand and made my way through the line, sitting down at the final booth on the right. We were playing the newly unveiled Free-for-All game mode on an all new map set high atop a mountain centered around a library – oddly enough named Library.
I picked my character (Dizzy, as my personal favorites, Adam Fenix and Hoffman were unavailable) and began to play. The first thing I noticed that drastically changed my play-style was that the D-pad no longer controlled weapon selection. You switch between your primary weapon and pistol with Y. You may pick up a new gun in replace of your Lancer, Hammerburst, or Pistol. RB is now the dedicated grenade button, while holding it down will go into your normal bolo-grenade style aiming, with a tap throwing it immediately – a great change for free for all play, albeit one that will take a few rounds to get used to.
There were also quite a few engine changes I noticed, and while I’m unsure If this was simply due to the game being in an earlier build of the game or if this is a coming change, but there were no long invisible edges on open walk ways, which means that your character can and will fall to there death as soon as you take a step to many. This was a bit shocking as someone who normally never worries about fall damage in Gears of War, I’ll now have to watch my step moving around the map.
I also got to go hands on with Gears of Wars new rifle, the new Longshot, it’s a quicker version of the traditional Longshot sniper rifle, but semi-automatic and not as much of a one-shot kill, more like a straight up rifle and less like a sniper – it also is missing zoom, making it more like a rifle – a niche that Gears of War previously never filled.
Other then the new weapons and the change of controls, the gameplay in Judgment feels familiar and usual just like it’s predecessor Gears of War 3. This isn’t a terribly bad thing, as it is just running the same Unreal Engine 3 as Gears of War 3, but it does make the multiplayer feel like more of a new game mode for Gears 3 then a whole new game, but I must point out that I only played a short seven-minute round and no more.
Ultimately, Gears of War Judgement is sure to be a good game – but I can’t help but notice how much it feels like a few small steps ahead, ala Call of Duty, then a huge leap forward such as going from Gears 2 to Gears 3, or Halo 3 to Halo: Reach.