The action ticks along

by Shane Dillon

WITH the XBox 360 nearing the end of its life cycle, several games have been rolling out to show that there’s plenty of life in the old gal yet.

And they certainly don’t come much livelier than entries in the XBox 360-exclusive Gears of War series, that’s for sure; a series that has graced this page before.

Still, with the Gears series seemingly well and truly wrapped up at the end of the recent-ish third title, where next for the franchise?

Well, step forward

Gears of War: Judgment, the prequel! (Oh, Epic Games, whatever next? Gears of War: The College Years?)

Okay, so prequels are generally poorly-received by most people – after all, it’s hard to build up any kind of narrative drama when you know that so-and-so will be okay and go on to other adventures.

Still, kudos to GoW:J, wonky name spelling and all, for working out an interesting new angle.

This time round – or, err, before – a previously ancillary character gets top billing as lead protaganist, as sarcastic, highly intelligent Damon Baird begins the game in trouble with the higher-ups.

He’s on trial with a number of other COG soldiers (including perenially popular Cole Train) of being disobedient soldiers in the chaos following Emergence Day – the day when a hostile species, the Locust Horde, suddenly began pouring into the world from below.

Now, Baird, Cole and the others are forced to explain what really happened to lead them to this point (which is all set several years or so before the first Gears of War game, don’t forget). Cue the explanatory flashbacks …

From the get-go, Gears fans will be in instantly familiar territory, as nobody does “destroyed beauty” as well as Epic Games, with one ravaged cityscape or landscape after another to plough through, Lancer (chainsaw-gun) a revvin’.

Reavers, Wretches, Tickers, Lambent and more – all the usual Locust horde are here, and some more, and all looking to cause tears before bedtime for Baird and his buddies, whether in the single player or in the (highly entertaining) online multiplayer modes.

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the ways gamers can undertake optional challenges throughout, all of which help to, firstly, add greater challenge (as though the game was easy to begin with), and, secondly, to flesh out Baird and co as characters.

It’s hard not to feel that GoW:J isn’t more of the same, but that’s not always a bad thing, as the Gears universe, characters and, well, vision have always been singularly entertaining to begin with.

While the big-scale spectacle of previous titles has been stripped back a little here to focus on tighter encounters, the action certainly hasn’t been short-changed, making it quite a blast. (Sorry, Baird – pun intended.)

Gears of War: Judgment is available for 18+ gamers now from a variety of retailers.

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