Gears of War: Judgment goes on sale in the UK and Europe today, which means that getting chainsawed open from collar bone to pelvis is once again one of Xbox Live's main occupational hazards. Are you buying it on the strength of our review? And are you mortally afeared that you'll disgrace yourself in the listings?
Fear not, for my OXM comrades and I have assembled another of our gameplay guides. Heed our wisdom, and there's a reasonably good chance you'll prevail both online and in the campaign.
Remember your training
Judgment's a departure, but not that much of a departure. Many of the standard Gears of War rules of engagement still apply. Lancers and Gnasher shotguns should be your standby weapons, effective in every circumstance. Use the evasive roll to sneak past an opponent's aim up close, while potentially lining yourself up for a Sawed-off takedown. During competitive multiplayer, get to know the locations of Heavy Weapon drops, but be aware that others may ambush you while you're rushing to claim them.
You don't need to complete every Declassified mission
You need 40 stars to unlock the Aftermath epilogue, which means you can skip a fair few of the Declassified missions (well, assuming you're halfway competent at racking up da headshots and gibs). I recommend skipping the ones that lumber you with a countdown, as they're unimaginative/frustrating.
Watch out for grenades
The ability to throw a grenade without aiming by tapping left bumper makes it much easier to use them while running around - I've been stickied more times than I can count online. So stay on your toes when coming in close.
Abuse the Class system in OverRun
It's generally safest to field one of each class, but once you get a lock on what the other team's doing, you might want to stray outside your comfort zone. Consider: by putting four Engineers in play you're effectively doubling your firepower, thanks to those turrets. Four Soldiers, meanwhile, equals enough in the way of heavy munitions to sink the Titanic - just the thing when you're fighting Corpsers.
OD on Tickers in OverRun
They're the least expensive of OverRun's Locust breeds, and for all the Corpser's power, often the most effective - fast and damaging. Early in the match, use Tickers to take out COG fences fast, then pin the enemy down with Grenadiers and Kantus. Once the other side's committed, rush another bunch of Tickers round to the other side of the COG position and Zerg rush that Emergence hole.
Beware the Booshka's bounce
Here's the wrong time to rely on the Booshka: when you're fighting against mobile foes on open ground with no opposite wall to bounce the projectiles off. The launcher's rounds don't explode on impact, which makes it a poor choice for precision blasting - aim for the floor ahead of an advancing target, as you would with a Battlefield 3 launcher, and odds are you'll send the bomb bouncing through his legs. Wait till everybody's properly dug in, instead, then line up trickshots to catch opponents behind their cover.
Use Stimgas in combat
Sometimes, medical abilities in games are best saved till you're out of the firing line. Stimgas, however, is so ridiculously powerful that blanketing a group of allies with it often allows them to fight out of cover. Not something to rely on, perhaps, but when you're tackling a tricky chokepoint, consider rushing two Medics into the fray - one to heal, the other to revive (the effects of Stimgas don't appear to stack, sadly). When mounting a solo assault, toss some ahead of yourself and walk into the cloud before opening fire.
Weaken enemies with the Beacon Grenade
These are very handy on Overrun and Survival, flagging up low-profile enemies like Tickers, Serapedes and Wretches through cover, but it's not just a question of reconnaissance. Beacon grenades also lower the stats of anything caught in the area of effect, making it slightly easier to pick off slow-moving toughies like the Mauler. Given the speed with which the Scout's power gauge refills, there's absolutely no excuse for not throwing them literally all the time.
Take the easy way out - play bots
Getting creamed? Fear not, you can play all the multiplayer modes offline against bots if you choose, and still earn XP and unlocks while you're at it.