Since Gears of War 3, Epic Games has not been afraid to squeeze every last cent out of its customer base through premium maps and skins for characters and weapons. Don't get me wrong, I still consider the All Fronts DLC pack for Gears of War 2 to be one of the best available for any game. The amount of replay value that my friends and I got out of all of those maps was well worth the 800 Microsoft Points.
With Gears of War: Judgment's Call to Arms, however, Epic and People Can Fly are only giving us a sparse amount of new content -- for a game that already didn't have a lot of multiplayer variety to begin with.
While quantity does not always equal quality, in this case, it wouldn't have hurt to give the fans more.
Gears of War: Judgment Call to Arms DLC (Xbox 360) Developer: Epic Games, People Can Fly Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios Released: April 30, 2013 MSRP: $12.50 ($20 VIP Pass for two packs)
Call to Arms adds three new maps to Judgment’s initial six, the new multiplayer mode Master at Arms, as well as a handful of new skins and achievements. Right off the bat, you do have some restrictions that come along with this content. First off, of the three new multiplayer maps, only two are available for any standard multiplayer type, while the last, Terminal, is reserved only for matches of OverRun and Survival.
Clearly the extra character and weapons skins do nothing to enhance the multiplayer experience, but they do add a touch of color to the drab COG uniforms. The new weapon skins Cascade and Chlorophyll are a nice touch, with Cascade’s retro streaming block animation and Chlorophyll’s strange iridescent green glow.
Added to the Gears wardrobe are the Locust, Crazy Doctor, Ice Burn, and Taxi skins. The time and detail put into some of these skins, especially the Locust and Ice Burn skins, is really something to enjoy. Personally though, I just wish they took that extra time to make more map or mode content for Judgment. Does anyone else miss Horde Mode?
As a nice throwback to veteran Gears players, People Can Fly has brought Blood Drive to Judgment’s multiplayer. This unlucky Medical Facility, located in downtown Jacinto, has been used as a field of chaos for Locust and COG alike since Gears of War 2, but has returned in this installment with a few new side routes and the immensely useful ability to vault over nearly any cover.
Blood Drive inherits the central section of the map from its predecessors, but adds a fair bit of new tight corridors for those players who love to show off how shiny their Lancers and Shotguns are, up close and personal. Along with its many high-ground sections which are great for sniping, and the large and open middle ground area, Blood Drive is a great map that has something for every Gears player to enjoy.
Boneyard brings the decaying and haunting atmosphere of Gears of War 3's world to Judgment. The overall design of the map reminds me of the seating structure of any amphitheater, with the Mausoleum filling in for the stage. While not entirely far off, Boneyard likes to play more with the different levels of verticality to help keep the action moving along rather than funneling all of the chaos to the Mausoleum. The fallen grave markers and broken stonework provide excellent cover from the onslaught while giving you time to appreciate the irony of current situation.
While Boneyard does offer a welcome change of pace visually by injecting some warmer colors, I still thought that Boneyard was the weakest entry in Call to Arms. Where Blood Drive tries to offer a new take on a classic Gears map with many different approaches to take, Boneyard feels rather small and directionless in comparison to a map like Library.
I really enjoy the overall design and flow of Terminal. The middle of the battlefield features tons of cover strewn about that either side can utilize to cast down suppressing fire and turn the tide of battle. On another note, the smaller terraces offer non-Scout class COG the opportunity to get a better view of one side of the battle, along with easily and quickly transitioning from a long-range defender to a battlefield-level support.
The progression through this map feels very smooth. On OverRun/Survival, the transition between E-Hole Covers can make the level seem disjointed; like each section was designed by three competing people. Terminal's environment does a great job of invoking a sense of desperation and dread for the COG forces.
The meat of this DLC is the new gameplay mode, Master at Arms. Essentially, this mode is Judgment’s take on a Call of Duty: Black Ops’ multiplayer staple, Gun Game. Just like in the previously mentioned series, this new mode challenges players to rack up 20 kills by using some of the most iconic weapons in Gears' history; the first player to reach 20 wins the match. Each kill scored cycles your current weapon to the next predetermined weapon.
Simply put, the key to success in this mode is all reliant on your skills with the plethora of weapons throughout the Gears franchise. If you haven’t had a lot of practice with the Digger or the Torque Bow, than get ready to be taken to school in Master at Arms.
As most Gears players can attest, the unique weaponry found within the series can vary from solid and reliable to wildly inaccurate and frustrating. However, once you take some time to get accustomed to all of their quirks, you'll find yourself nailing heads hits with a Booshka just as easily as you would with a Longshot.
The one main issue that I have with this DLC is the fact that the only way to justify picking up this content is to purchase the VIP Pass for all of the current and upcoming content. This DLC alone is 1000 MS Points, which is a fair price for multiplayer content in the current console market. However, considering the lack of content offered and that Judgment's VIP Pass costs 1600 MS Points and nets you this DLC pack as well as the next content pack, the only option that makes sense is to go for the bundle.
Even with the VIP Pass, what you get is only total of six maps and two game modes, and the ability to play for double XP. For a game that is already light on multiplayer content, this really feels like a lazy, half-hearted effort to generate a quick buck from the fans of a dedicated franchise. While the Master at Arms game mode is fun and injects a certain level of enjoyable chaos to your standard free-for-all game type, and Blood Drive is a nice throwback to Gears of War 2, three maps and one new game type simply isn't enough for the price.
VIP Pass holders may get their money's worth in the long run, but if you're not looking to drop those 1600 MS Points right now, it's best to leave this call unanswered.
Gears of War: Judgment: Call to Arms - Reviewed by Jason Cabral
Average - Like a meal of lukewarm water with white bread. It filled my time and my belly, but lacks any discernible flavor or nutritional value. A game that left me no different than it found me. Just passing through.
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