Gears of War: Judgment has been suffering since its release with nowhere near the same initial sales at the past games in the Trilogy had and frankly the game is losing players everyday to other games. It was last seen at number 12 on the currently most played games on Xbox Live with even Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 beating out. Judgment needs a game changing update that will bring original fans of the franchise back to it. So the community and loyal fans of Epic pushed hard for DLC or at least the news of it to be announced as soon as possible. It was with the help of them that this new content announcement was made possible.
Before I get into the new DLC that is on its way and will be free to all VIP Season Pass owners, I just want to let everyone know that this weekend they are testing out a new Special Event type (which will only last a couple of days rather than the usual week), in which you start off with a Gnasher Shotgun replacing your pistol while you can also wield your rifle of choice right from the start of the match/round or spawn. Epic will see how many people play this special event and take those numbers into consideration for making this a permanent change, a mode in itself or something else. Of course this is in Team Deathmatch so once again you cannot get downed (DBNO mode) which is something that Judgment has taken away from players which has not only been in all the game previously but defined Gears of War as a franchise. No matter what way you killed you enemy, you always were given the opportunity to get up close an execute them, especially with all the added weapon specific executions… so this testing is all relative. Now you can only have this DBNO (Downed But Not Out) feature in the recently added Execution mode. They are also testing their new server types out. That is right, dedicated servers in Gears of War: Judgment, which is a first and that is partly why this Special Event will only last a couple of days (over the weekend), because you will be playing on a new type of server.
More on this below but first, let me finally announce the new DLC that is on its way. The new DLC for Gears of War: Judgment coming is entitled the ‘Call to Arms pack’ which will introduce 3 new maps (1 for OverRun/Survival & 2 for other versus modes) along with a brand new game mode called ‘Master at Arms’ which is much like the Call of Duty Gun Game mode and the Battlefield 3 Gun Master mode. So it will indeed be a Free for All mode. That is not all you will get as their will be 6 armor skins and 6 weapon skins, plus ten Achievements worth a total of 250G. So we can assume that Judgment will at least add more Achievements giving us a total of 1500 possible gamerscore to achieve with at least one more DLC pack included in the Season pass. VIP Season Pass holders will be able to download this content free of charge on April 23rd while gamers who do not have the pass will need to shell out 1000 Microsoft Points ($12.50/£8.57/€12.00) being available to them on April 30th at the earliest. In case you are wondering, purchasing the Season Pass will give you a 25% discount on the content as oppose to purchasing it alone.
The new DLC is set against the backdrop of the Locust invasion of Halvo Bay, all three new maps provide a mix of close quarters and vertical combat, keeping players immersed in the action. The new maps have been described to be more like the recently released map Haven (which is a little more balanced for team modes) rather then the other 4 maps Gears of War: Judgment shipped with. The Gears of War 1 map Mausoleum that was leaked is actually inside/a part of the new Bonyard map, so it is making its return in its own way. Official details:
- Terminal: The speed and ferocity of the Locust invasion took Halvo Bay completely by surprise. Residents scrambled to evacuate by every means possible, and COG forces were called in to maintain order as martial law was enforced. However, the Locust showed no mercy, and gave no quarter; they swept through train terminals like this one to take advantage of the close quarters and sheer number of defenseless humans trapped within its walls. Sometimes, COG forces could hold the line long enough for a final evacuation, but too many lost their lives in defense of the people and the land they loved.
- Blood Drive: As casualties started to mount, the staff at Halvo Memorial quickly began what would become the largest triage effort in the history of Sera. Their “Give Blood Today” campaign inspired a global blood drive in support of COG forces and wounded civilians. Sadly, Halvo fell quickly, and the hospital became a battlefront instead of a sanctuary. The seed of hope was planted, however, and government-run Memorial hospitals across the country mobilised to keep the effort alive until Jacinto Memorial was the last standing bastion of hope for the people of Sera.
- Boneyard: The concept of traditional memorial services had to be suspended due to the constant stream and alarming volume of casualties as Sera fell victim to the Locust Horde. Memorial grounds quickly became boneyards. Unmarked holes became grave sites and mausoleums were filled with the nameless remains of the fallen, their skeletons piled into heaps. Tread lightly, you never know what, or who, you’re walking on, and one day you’re bound to join them.
- Master At Arms: This new free-for-all game mode exclusive to “Gears of War: Judgment” will test the true range of your soldiering skills. The goal is to get a kill with each of the 20 different available weapons, without resorting to melee or grenade tactics. Every successful kill will automatically advance you to the next available weapon until you have used them all and proven your skill as a true Master at Arms.
Now whatever happened to the map “Capitol” which was supposed to be released with the free Maxim Sponsored pack which gave us the ‘Haven’ map for versus modes (non OverRun/Survival) along with the Execution mode which has been such a huge part of the franchise, it was an amazement not to see it shipped with the game. Then again Judgment was shipped with only 4 maps (4 for OverRun/Survival and 4 for all other versus modes) which was an all time low not just for a standard multiplayer game on the Xbox 360 but for the franchise itself. ‘Capitol’ has been said that it will be released eventually and it will still be free of charge according to Epic staff. If you want to see some of the other DLC that will be coming to Gears of War: Judgment as well as some of the armor/weapon skins that may be coming with the ‘Call to Arms’ pack, you can view the leaked DLC from the disc here which includes Maps, Weapons Skins and Armor skins, some of which are rather impressive. ‘Mausoleum‘ will be making a return from the first Gears of War while a unique Locust Armor Skin will be coming to the game for those who miss playing as the locust, however it seems HIGHLY unlikely that we will see a return to the Locust in multiplayer according to the Epic Team. They have not said it will never happen but at the rate the game is going now and with it being explained like they would have to rework a portion of the game from ground up, it is safe to say no Locust will be returning to online versus but the fact they did not completely deny it is most likely not to disappoint a ton of people playing their game. This is a common tactic used by Developers and Publishers alike.
The only thing that can really bring this franchise back to its glory is the community that gets less populated every day. Unfortunately much of the community that has loved the franchise from the beginning to newcomers do now give their feedback on the official forums or Tweet to the developers as they has no interest in doing so. They feel they can trust the developers as well as the community that is constantly on the forums, following their weekly streams, podcasts, giving feedback. Frankly the franchise may have gone in an entirely different direction if those gamers did give their feedback, and the general community that is active in giving feedback is frankly more active on the forums then they are playing the Gears of War games, is some cases. However that is the truth when it comes to many game and not just the Gears of War franchise. The developers and QA testers need to get in there and play the game on the servers, while not being connected with each other locally; they need to look at the numbers of specific things (which they did well later on in the franchise) however a perfect example is the fact that Gears of War 1 let you host your own Player or Ranked match choosing your own settings and whether Execution was the most popular mode back then could be debated although 99% of the time when you joined an Execution match (player or ranked) it was always a 5 second bleed out. Gears of War 2 was released with no hosting options and an Execution mode where the bleed out last somewhere between 20-30 seconds. How much were the developers playing the actual game to not know that this was way off from what GOW 1 gamers had as their preference. Gears of War 2 was released with a lot of issues that need fixing, though that is just a small example of how developers need to know what the ENTIRE community is playing and what their preferences are as well as what they would like changed and what they would like to stay.
Personally I think that Epic is trying to introduce a new style of gameplay in Judgment with the class based system in OverRun/Survival and also keep the fans happy who were content with the way the franchise was. This is most likely the main reason that Judgment is suffering on Xbox Live. It used to always be Halo, Call of Duty and a Gears of War game in the top 3 Xbox Live played games at all times until the release of Judgment which for the first time has put a Gears of War title in 12th place near its release date. Free for All matches were something that changed the game as the mode was the thing that truly initialized maps that were not symmetrical which was new to the franchise, but this made all of the team based modes very unbalanced giving teams power weapons on one side as they spawned while the other team suffered with nothing to counter with. For example in Gears of War 1 there was a map called Fuel Depot that looked different enough being that one side was indoors and the other spawn side was outdoors, but was completely symmetrical and each team had the same weapons on each side (Frags, Hammerburst, Longshot) with the Hammer of Dawn in the middle if the map inside the central warehouse. Taking this away in Judgment made the gameplay completely different along with the mechanics of the new game changed as well did not really offer ‘fair play’ when it came to the game.
If you take a look at the image of the action happening on the ‘Blood Drive’ Map, you will see Marcus (not an OverRun character) with a Magnum which has been take out of multiplayer all together. It would be nice to see its return to the online mode and not just in the new game mode available this April 23rd (April 30th for non season pass holders).