Judgment is a prequel in many senses, turning back the clock not just to Emergence Day and the fall of Halvo Bay, but to the year 2006 - back when the icky, peely-skinned Locust were still capable of inspiring fear besides tongue-chewing hostility. "It's about making them scary again," former studio demiurge Rod Fergusson told OXM last year. "When you spend eight years with the Locusts it feels a bit like Germans in a WWII game, after a while they just become a known enemy. We wanted to bring back the terror of year one, and that's what we're trying to do in Judgment - it's only a few weeks after E Day, these things are all new to us and we're really scared of them, what does this all mean?"
Having played the game in some depth, I have mixed feelings about these claims. On the one hand, the Judgment campaign feels like business as usual in terms of Locust breeds so far, though proceedings are a good deal more frenzied (especially if you opt for the new Declassified combat criteria). On the other, the Locust are pretty damn scary when you become them, care of new competitive objective defence mode OverRun. Playing the part of one of several hideous subterranean munster classes (the more powerful they are, the more kill-points you'll need to earn first) requires a very particular set of skills, as Liam Neeson might have put it. Master them, and you'll rip human-imposed rules of engagement to pieces. Fail to master them, and you'll be nothing more than an annoying terrain infestation.
I, sirs and madams, am that annoying terrain infestation. I'd like to say that the experience of playing Gears of War 3's Beast Mode - OverRun played against comparatively dim AI COG bots, basically - stood me in good stead during my multiplayer hands-on, but the opposite is true: I waged war as I would against computerised opponents and suffered the consequences. Superior results were achieved when fighting as the COG, but that's "superior" in the same way that sawdust on toast is marginally more appetising than sawdust. Here are a few tactical gaffes you might want to bear in mind.
1. Don't quite pop the Ticker
The Ticker's none too glamorous - a chargrilled Tribble equipped with ridiculous T-Rex arms and the ability to explode itself - but it's cheap, fast and crudely effective. During the opening stages of each match, you might kamikaze-rush the COG's barbed wire fences to clear a path for beefier Locust types. Later, once you've pushed the other side back to the immediate vicinity of the objective, you might scurry in and detonate the prize while the COG are busy fending off more eye-catching threats like Corpsers and Maulers.
All that's assuming, of course, you have the timing and tactical awareness to not get shot while you're in the process of blowing up, which causes the Ticker to disappear with a disappointing squelch. It's like coitus interruptus, only messier.
2. Get grenadead as the Scout
Playing the Ticker, I was picked off more than once by the other guy's Scout. (OverRun's COG come in four self-explanatory classes, in case you'd forgotten - the others are Medic, Soldier and Engineer). Besides a powerful Markza semi-automatic rifle, the Scout has the ability to mark targets on friendly HUDS using throwable beacons, and is agile enough to access the sniper's eyries that dot each map. The latter trick is extremely useful, providing you can aim and providing there's another COG watching your back at ground level (Wretches are also capable of entering eyries).