Everyone knows that the Gears of War series jas accomplished many feats despite two of its currently three games being exclusive to the XBox 360. Millions of copies sold, dozens of clones spawned, the Horde mode which has now become a permanent template in many first shooters today – it’s easy to overlook the achievements that Epic Games can proudly taut. Especially in light of their outside the limelight since Gears of War 3 was good and wrapped up. However, you’d expect the franchise to still keep running strong. When Gears of War: Judgment (co-developed by People Can Fly, the team behind Bulletstorm) was rumoured to be in development, no one knew the exact nature of the game. Many speculated it would be a wholly new franchise, others thought we’d get a prequel focusing on the Pendulum Wars leading up to the main story.
However, there was a fundamental lack of anticipation even when the rumours started, and given how this was right after Gears of War 3’s release, you’d think it’d have more intrigue. But the announcement came at E3, along with subsequent footage and gameplay walkthroughs. Remember how Cliff Bleszinski promoted Gears of War 3? No one had a clue what the final game was going to look like, and when it was finally showcased on the Jimmy Kimmel Show – albeit only a CG trailer – it single-handledly kickstarted the hype train. From there, we got a four player co-op reveal at E3, which showcased some of the more awesome new features and insane action taking place.
At present, Judgment is beginning to feel like the Halo 3: ODST of the franchise. Both shine focus away from the main protagonist of the saga, and show a different view of the action that’s happening. And while it’s there and getting attention, its relative success will depend on how many Gears fans are out there. Heck, ODST sold a million units in less than a day despite criticisms of not enough meat to justify a retail purchase. This isn’t to say Judgment won’t deliver the goods but simply an observation on the strength of the brand. Is Gears as strong as Halo that any game pushed forward can significantly generate sales?
Maybe it’s just the overall marketing of the game, or maybe Epic themselves are just going through the motions, but the overall campaign for Gears of War: Judgment feels lacking. Remember when the first Gears of War was revealed? The stories, blow-outs, coverage and then the game itself, which was revealed to be a carnival of carnage. Gears of War 2 built off that, promising a more direct confrontation in the war (and ending on a severe “WTF?” note with it’s Brumak sequence). Gears of War 3 on the other hand, was the trilogy’s end, a game meant to complete the franchise as a whole while redeeming the dull, monotonous ride that was it’s predecessor’s biggest fault. It also expanded upon it’s signature Horde mode by introducing tower defence mechanics and Beast Mode, upping the replay value that much more. As of now, Judgment doesn’t feel like it offers anything of it’s own that could solidly push the hype train forward.
Agin, this isn’t an indictment on the game itself, but merely an observation on the contrast of hype. This is a mega blockbuster franchise, and it’s being treated as a small fry. Whether it has enough substance or not is up to Epic and People Can Fly to show us, and so far, we’re still waiting.