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Inside Gears of War: Judgment's gory courtroom drama

Gears of War's latest outing pieces together the judgement of Baird and Kilo Team. VG247's Sam Clay checks in to see how their case is holding up.

Lets put the record straight: this isn’t Gears of War 4, and it isn’t even 3.5. It’s more Gears 3.1. Essentially, this is an excuse to have a little more Gears of War without a full-blown follow-up.

Even with the locust raising hell across Sera, it seems the COG's judicial system continues to dispense swift justice. Gears of War: Judgement's story is told through a series of flashbacks, as Baird stands trial in a darkened courtroom watching the planet crumble around him.

The game's set entirely in flashbacks, with you playing through 'the evidence' as characters from Kilo Squad giving insight into the moments leading up to their trial. With the Gears of War trilogy finished off, the franchise-makers want you to have another reason to go back to the universe and shoot bugs.

Cole and Baird are characters we've met before, and this is the only real thread Judgment has to tie everything back into the core trilogy. This is a prequel, so we're getting to know what happened between Emergence Day and the first Gears of War. Heck, I love Baird as a character, so I'm happy to find out what makes the sarcastic sod tick. However, having a favourite COG member is like having a favourite wurzel. They're all the same really. They just have different tones of voice.

Lets put the record straight: this isn’t Gears of War 4, and it isn’t even 3.5. It’s more Gears 3.1. Essentially, this is an excuse to have a little more Gears of War without a full-blown follow-up.

Playing through the game's Old Town mission, we get to see Baird giving evidence in the courtroom before the action kicks off. Before that we've also learned that Baird has gone from "Lieutenant to war criminal," gaining him notoriety among the ranks. The game drops many teasers before the first bullet has been fired, and it's clear People Can Fly wants you to be asking questions from the start.

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Campaign trailer.

It becomes clear quickly that this game functions through a copy and paste template. Missions are built in blocks that typically go: kill the locust, defend against the locust horde for while and then fall back to another location.

Some players may be a little let down by this. If you're a Gears fan you may not give two COGs, however, because it still plays great and it works.

Declassified options are a nice touch, giving you the option of raising the difficulty of each gameplay segment and opening up additional narrative. As war is war, sometimes the characters' actions are frowned upon, so once you've enabled Declassified options in an area the game reveals what naughty activity or hard-pressed objective that Kilo Squad had to deal with.

Each mission is scored with a star rating. Earning stars will unlock skins, characters and weapons across single-player and multiplayer. If you've enabled Declassified or taken on a mission at a harder difficulty, you'll gain extra points towards your stars. It's a bit like Angry Birds, oddly.

Getting OverRun

Gears of War: Judgment multiplayer does things a little differently. You've been able to choose different locust troop types in previous titles, but now it's time to adapt yourselves to four different COG variants.

One of the new modes that supports classes is OverRun. This was originally revealed at E3 last year, and it's a way of making Horde competitive. Your goal is to defend a set territory against your opponents for as long as possible, then take it in turns to attack. Whichever team has the fastest victory time wins.

As with Horde mode, the locust in OverRun start with grunt troops and then slowly gain enough credits to spend on the most dangerous critters. Working together as a team you'll be able to gain enough points to get a squad of corpsers, which are easily the scariest thing on the battlefield.

But variety is always the key, so it's best to communicate with your squad to make sure you have all the COG or Locust classes covered. Holding back your enemy in a stalemate thanks to perfect base defence, and a varied group of troop types working together, is satisfying.

It's clear that Gears of War: Judgment uses all of the game's features across both the single-player and mutliplayer. It's like People Can Fly enabled some kind of recycle mode, where the studio was unable to waste anything. It's all here. It's complete. But, from what we've seen so far, it really is more of the same.

We'll have more of Gears of War: Judgment in early March. The game's set for release on March 19 in the US March 22 in Europe.

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