One of E3 2012’s many spoiled surprises was that of another exclusive Xbox 360 game from one of their most important and best-selling franchises: Gears of War: Judgment. With Gears of War 3 coming out last fall, it seemed odd to see another full series installment so soon, but it coincided (and offered comfirmation) with previous reports that People Can Fly (Bulletstorm) were working on another Gears title and that it would be a prequel.

As it turns out, the rumors were true and we had the chance to demo the game with Cliff Bleszinski from Epic Games and Adrian Chmielarz from People Can Fly at E3 along with spending some hands-on time with one of the game’s new multiplayer modes: Overrun.

In our discussion with Bleszinski and Chmielarz we asked about when Gears of War: Judgment would be releasing since it was previously reported to release sometime in 2013, to which Chmielarz strongly emphasized that it would be “early” next year. Not long after the Expo, CVG learned from their sources that Microsoft was aiming to release the game three months after Halo 4, sometime during February 2013 but in a response to the rumor, Microsoft would only confirm what we already know: that Gears of War: Judgment is coming “early” next year.

“We have not made any announcements updating launch timing for Gears of War: Judgment beyond early 2013. Stay tuned for new details about Gears of War: Judgment to be revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, July 12-15.”

Along with Epic Games’s Fortnite, Gears of War: Judgment will have a significant presence at Comic-Con next month where we expect to learn at least a little bit about the new modes/weapons/characters and story details there.

Since Microsoft is pushing Kinect functionality on first-party titles – Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Forza Motorsport 4 and Fable: The Journey are three examples, and since back in 2010 rumors had Epic working on a Kinect-powered Gears game, there’s been speculation and concern from the community regarding whether or not that would be featured in Judgment.

It was confirmed that a game titled Gears of War: Exile was in development but had since been cancelled, likely because no one wants to play an on-rails Kinect shooter. Not to mention, Kinect proved a failure in delivering worthwhile gaming experiences with Kinect Star Wars and the more recent Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor.

That doesn’t mean Epic wouldn’t employ the technology in a future Gears of War title and Cliffy B went on record saying as much last summer:

“If, in the event there were to be another Gears game, that’s something we might explore. But we want to do it right. If I had unlimited amounts of time and a team I could sit down and make a cool Kinect game, and I would love to, but it’s a matter of time and opportunity costs right now.”

So, with Epic Games’ interest in Microsoft’s hands-free technology and Microsoft’s interest in pushing it on a ton of their games for marketing purposes, could Kinect features be included with Judgment, even if its just for menus or voice? Nope. Cliffy B on Kinect to GamesTM:

“There are not a lot of things that wound up in there. There’s one thing actually that you just reminded me of though, is that we are not supporting Kinect in Gears Judgment. I like Kinect, I’ve been a fan of it, but I don’t think it has been fully realised as far as the potential of the device. Dance Central 3 looks great and all, but I’m curious how the ‘core’ games will work out…”

There you have it. No gimmicks for Gears of War: Judgment. What we know about the game so far is that it follows Baird and Cole (and two new characters) 14 years before the original Gears of War, but outside of the time change and characters, not much has changed with the game.

Upon playing it at E3, we took a liking to the altered control scheme (no more D-pad controls) that has the ‘Y’ button switch weapons like every other shooter, and the left bumper toss grenades (also like every other shooter), but ultimately it felt like more Gears of War 3 with characters given restricted loadouts via class labels, as if it could have been an update and a DLC multiplayer mode.

There was only limited information and one multiplayer mode playable at E3 however, so we can only hope that Epic Games has something big to show at Comic-Con.

Gears of War: Judgment will be released in early 2013 for the Xbox 360

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Sources: CVG, GamesTM