Following last year’s release of Gears of War 3, many players thought that Epic Games’ trilogy was wrapped up altogether, with nothing new set to come out for years.  Ha, silly gamers.  A week before the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Game Informer revealed a new Gears of War game, co-titled Judgment, coming from Epic Games and its Bulletstorm developers at People Can Fly.  The game appears to be a prequel of sorts, following the misadventures of a younger Baird and “Cole Train” as they fight through the Locust Horde.

Though the single player portion of the game is still heavily under wraps, Microsoft was kind enough to let us check out a new multiplayer mode that will be included in Judgment when it ships next year.  Say hello to Overrun.

In this new mode, you compete against players, but not quite in the way that you think.  In the first round, one player controls a team of humans, while the other controls a team of Locust Horde soldiers.  As the Locust members, your job is to destroy a generator that’s being guarded by the humans.  Once the round is over and a time is achieved, the players switch teams, with the defenders becoming the oppressors and vice versa.  The goal of the mode, while killing everything in sight, is to get the best time possible when it comes to shutting down the generator.  Again, not your typical Gears of War mode.

On the human side of the playing field, you get to choose from four different classes.  You have Baird, the engineer, who is able to fortify defensive turrets and other goods to keep enemies from getting in, including barbed wire strewn across the floor.  Cole is the full-on soldier, able to throw ammo crates to his teammates and deliver a vicious assault on anyone that gets in his way.  Paduk is the scout, able to climb up top and take out enemies from a distance.  And wrapping up the team is Sofia, a medic who uses her abilities to heal players should they be running low on health.

Meanwhile, on the Locust side, you can control a number of soldiers, though you’ll need to unlock them as you get later into the round.  The Ticker once again makes a return, along with various other soldiers, our personal favorite being the Mauler.  This vicious warrior takes a pounding when it comes to bullets, and can also charge at enemies with a spinning shield, able to bring them down to size within an instant once they come into contact.  It’s a beautiful (and somewhat grisly) sight watching a soldier turn from active gunner to a pile of pulp.

Though there was only one map present in the demo – taking place in what appears to be a center of a town square – the game was quite faithful to the Gears of War series.  Most of the traditional gameplay is intact, including holding down the left trigger for refined aim, using your Lancer to carve an enemy in half if they get too close, and sprinting by holding down the A button.  People Can Fly have done a serviceable job making sure that the experience still “feels” like Gears of War, but that shouldn’t be a surprise since Epic Games is serving consultation duties.

The team efforts seem rightfully balanced, as you’ll work closely with your squad in the confined quarters to eliminate the Horde threats (or, on the other end, wiping out humans with efficiency) and use your abilities however necessary to guarantee survival.  Out of all the classes available, we obviously prefer the Cole Train, since he focuses more on aggressiveness rather than needing to heal anyone or climb a ladder to take out enemies from afar.  His up-close-and-personal standard remains a huge staple to the series, and we could easily see him becoming a favorite once again in multiplayer.  We just hope we get to hear more taunts from him.

As far as looks, it’s still too early to tell if Judgment will hold up as well as the previous Gears of War games, especially with most of the project still under wraps.  (Likely a choice by Microsoft, who are trying to focus on as much Halo 4 hype as possible.)  However, from what we played in the demo, People Can Fly’s visuals looked quite good, with a great frame rate, excellent animation on each of the characters (the mauler is a sight to behold) and plenty of carnage – the Gears of War standard.

Though Judgment is still a ways off before hitting store shelves, it should be considered another huge hit for Microsoft, judging by what we’ve seen so far.  Hopefully we’ll see even more innovative multiplayer modes make the cut.  We can only imagine wiping out a whole team of soldiers with a group of maulers.  Talk about a major offense.

Look for more information on this game in the months ahead!