Despite premiering a slick trailer during the Spike Video Game Awards in December, news on the Gears of War: Judgment front has been surprisingly hidden on the radar, and we’re curious if it’s a sign of things to come.

For fans of the series unsure of what Judgment is all about and what new gameplay-specific features it offers, Epic Games, People Can Fly and Microsoft launched a new trailer today narrated by fan-favorite Lt. Baird himself to explain what to look forward to.

The good news is that fans of Gears of War 3 – one of our favorite games of 2011 – will feel right at home with Gears of War: Judgment. The bad news it that this game is almost too similar in that looking at gameplay footage would make one thing it’s actually the same game.

Gears of War Judgment wallpaper

Despite a change in time period (insert younger Baird and Cole) and a move to a traditional shooter control scheme (grenades finally have their own button!), the enemies, level designs, character animations and combat scenarios all feel like more of the same. The “Dynamic” spawn system and defense scenarios, not to mention the ‘Declassified’ segments scream “gimmick” as simple marketing bullet points and so far, it’s all really unimpressive.

We got hands-on with Judgment at last year’s E3 and it was solid with the expected Gears polish, but it certainly wasn’t new either. Instead it felt like missing story DLC from the was-it-really-worth-it? Gears of War 3 season’s pass. Keep in mind, we only got hands-on with a simple multiplayer sampling of an unfinished game (we also went behind-closed-doors with Cliffy B to see the campaign), but we’ve yet to see what makes Gears of War: Judgment the next step in the franchise and perhaps it’s simply because it’s not.

Gears of War: Judgment is not an entirely Epic-developed title, with much of the work coming from their subsidiary, People Can Fly (Bulletstorm). With a lack of a “4” in the title – and multiple key people (Lee Perry, Cliffy B, Rod Fergusson) at Epic exiting the company around the same time – and the quick timing of its release, Judgment so far seems like a last ditch effort to cash in on the brand before the next-gen Xbox arrives in an effort for Microsoft to promote more exclusive titles in 2013.

Gears of War Judgment Cast

That’s not to say it’s going to be a bad game. We at Game Rant are going to be all over the four-player co-op campaign and multiplayer modes, but from the gameplay videos and marketing so far, it’s certainly positioned as a less exciting game, and it’s almost reminiscent of the Medal of HonorBattlefield 3 situation where the publisher had the same game engine used for a nearly identical modern shooter which should have simply been story DLC content for Battlefield 3, instead of an inferior and far less popular standalone title.

Judgment will need to make an impressive effort to market itself as it releases in just two months against strong competition. It will be trying to steal players away from Dead Space 3, Aliens: Colonial Marines and Crysis 3 from February, and Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite, and Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel in March. That’s not to mention the game everyone will be playing: Grand Theft Auto V.

In an effort to combat this and add value to Judgment, Microsoft also announced today that the launch copies of the game will include a download token for the original Gears of War which they’ve determined only half of the players from Gears of War 3 have actually played. If you’re loyal to the COG (or the horde), be sure to check out the Gears of War: Judgment pre-order bonuses to see what else you can get.

Gears of War: Judgment releases March 19, 2013, exclusively on Xbox 360.

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