The Gears of War: Judgment launch is less than a week off, and it’s time to get ready. Here’s a checklist for your convenience:

[ ] Get your pre-order sorted out.

[ ] Take the day off work. For our younger readers, I recommend looking up a rare disease on the Internet, and start complaining about the symptoms to your mom now so you can convincingly pull a sicky off school next Friday.

[ ] Read this article, because it’s everything you need to know about the game before you get it. Forewarned, as they say, is forearmed, although a Boomshot is probably a good idea too.

Previously, on Gears of War…

It’s a prequel! The game is set just after Emergence Day – that’s when the Locust Horde squatting in the caves underneath Sera decided they wanted a day at the beach, and then decided to stay because it was so nice (or something) – and features the no-neck grunts of Kilo Squad (including returning Gears veterans Damon Baird and Augustus Cole, but technically before they were veterans) who stand accused of treason for allegedly stealing some sort of top secret experimental COG tech during the battle of Halvo Bay.

Expect lots of shooting and shouting, and we can safely assume Baird and Cole make it out alive because, you know, they’re in the other games (spoilers).

It’s also been confirmed that Gears of War: Judgment includes an unlockable bonus campaign, set during the events of Gears of War 3. Remember when Baird and Cole disappeared to fetch reinforcements just before the invasion of Azura, only to turn up again at the end in helicopters with no explanation how any of that happened? Now we’ll find out.

Change of command

Unlike the three games preceding it, Gears of War: Judgment is in development by both Epic Games and People Can Fly, the studio who brought us Painkiller and Bulletstorm, and worked on the PC port of the original Gears of War as well as some unspecified “additional development” on the sequel. The studio was acquired by Epic Games in August last year.

New places to go, new guns to shoot, new things to kill

Gears of War: Judgment introduces loads of new stuff, including the all-new, all-spiky Locust Rager. It’s a regular grub unit that turns into a mini-Berserker if you piss it off. How do you piss it off? Just by being you.

You lookin' at me? Huh? You lookin' at me?

You over there with the face. I don’t like your face.

There’s also the Booshka grenade launcher, Tripwire Crossbow, and Markza semi-automatic marksman rifle in the COG arsenal, and the bolt-action sniper rifle-with-built-in-axe (yes!) Breechshot over on the other side.

Help, we’re being OverRun!

You loved Horde mode. You loved Beast mode. Now you’ll love the new OverRun mode, which takes the best and bloodiest bits of Horde mode and Beast mode, and puts them together into one 5-vs-5 megabrawl. Much like the Locust in Beast mode, the COG team now features classes for maximum tactics and complaints on the official forums about who is totally overpowered and doesn’t belong in the game, it’s like nobody even tests games these days (etc.).

In a series first, Gears of War: Judgment will also add a free-for-all deathmatch mode to the roster, putting everybody up against everybody else just to see what happens.

Fear the Reaper

Epic has recently announced that, every week, one player will be chosen “based on their contributions to the community” and/or Twitter popularity to play as the Epic Reaper, a multiplayer Locust unit with unique abilities specially designed to be “not very easy to kill”.

Gears of War: Judgment is due out next week Friday, the 22nd of March.

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