America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between. - Oscar Wilde
THE GEARS OF WAR SERIES began in the early days of the Xbox 360 and the first game was one of its best and most innovative action titles.
It introduced gamers to a lush Sci-Fi world where humanity is on the brink of destruction at the hands of the indomitable Locust horde.
In this dark universe the first three games followed the exploits of rugged COG soldier Marcus Fenix as he and his ragtag squad attempted to beat their subterranean enemies.
Backing up this dark setting, the original Gears of War added several interesting gameplay dynamics.
These included fully integrated cooperative campaign play that encouraged you to play through the story with a buddy and an at the time revolutionary cover system that ensured combat was always an intense, nail-bitingly fun experience.
These innovations carried on through the entire series, with Gears of War: Epic refining and tweaking the game's mechanics until they finally reached near perfection in Gears of War 3.
Because of the game's popularity, while Gears of War 3 rounded off the series' main plot we're not too surprised that Microsoft Studios wasn't ready to retire the franchise.
Following the same pattern it had with Halo and its ODST and Reach titles, Microsoft's decided to keep the series alive by releasing a prequel game. Gears of War: Judgement replaces former protagonist Marcus with wise-cracking series veteran Damon Baird.
Gears of War: Judgement's single player offering is split into two distinct chapters. The first is set several years before the first Gears of Wars and tells the story of Kilo squad during Emergence Day, while the second Aftermath campaign fills in what Damon and Cole Train were doing while absent in Gears of War 3.
Of the two the earlier section of the game is far more interesting both story and gameplay-wise.
In the game's prequel section Damon Baird acts as squad leader, ably backed up by his constant companion Augustus "The Cole Train" Cole and series newcomers Sofia Hendricks and Garron Paduk.
For those that don't know, Emergence Day is one of the Gears' universe's defining moments, being the opening day of the Locust invasion. Visually this means that despite running on the same Unreal engine used in previous titles the game's artistic direction is slightly different.
Gears of War: Judgement's world shows the humans of Sera at their peak, replacing the decayed and derelict cityscapes and deserted military bases with beautifully rendered multilevel cityscapes and heavily fortified military complexes.
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