Enjoyable but not essential prequel to Microsoft’s classic shooter trilogy, writes John Walshe.

A prequel to the original Gears Of War trilogy, Judgement features some familiar characters, action sequences and enemies, but it feels a little too disjointed to stand quite as tall as its predecessors.

That said, Judgement does feature some ferocious fire-fights, with the same easy-to-master combat mechanic that made previous titles so iconic. Indeed, some of its set-piece fights are on a par with classic shoot-outs from the original games. The problem isn’t in the game-play, which follows the ‘if it ain’t broke...’ maxim, but with the plot, which isn’t near as immersive as other games in the series, when Marcus Fenix’s Delta Squad were humanity’s last hope against the Locust Horde.

Instead of Fenix, you step into the jackboots of the equally beefy Lieutenant Damon Baird (who ends up part of Delta) and his fellow members of Kilo Squad - the equally familiar Augustus Cole, former enemy Garron Paduk and Onyx Guard recruit Sophia Hendrick.

Set one month after Emergence Day, when the insect-like Locusts first appeared, the action takes place in the city of Halvo Bay, where Baird’s team face some seriously tough choices as they bid to turn the conflict in humanity’s favour.

The story is told through a series of flash-backs, as Kilo stand trial for treason, and each chapter is revealed through a different squad member, which brings some variety to the narrative. Compared to previous games in the series, however, it’s all a bit stop-start in terms of story arc, particularly with the tally screens at the end of each chapter.

The GOW games never earned their reputation for plot, however, and the action is as relentless as you’d expect, particularly on the higher difficulty levels. There are new weapons and new enemies, but the duck-and-cover battle mechanic remains pretty much intact. The big difference to the shortish campaign is the addition of ‘Declassified Missions’, whereby you earn extra kudos by ramping up the difficulty. In order to complete these declassified missions, you essentially place extra conditions on your victory, whether it be facing special enemies, operating in limited visibility or with only certain weapons, such as handguns, at your disposal.

There’s also an unlockable ‘Aftermath’ campaign, which is more traditional Gears Of War-craft, but it’s pretty small, and the real longevity here is to be found in the wealth of multiplayer options, both co-op and versus, at your disposal.

GOW was one of the first franchises to really treat multiplayer as more than a poor relation of the single player campaign and the variety of game types, from team deathmatch to survival, will keep most players busy for hours on end.

Like some other recent sequels, Judgement suffers a little in comparison to its illustrious predecessors. It’s a decent shooter in its own right, without ever hitting the heights of the original trilogy.

Platform: X360
Publisher: Microsoft
Cert: 18
Score: 3.5/5

John Walshe