In Gears of War Judgment, Lt. Damon Baird is on trial for disobeying COG orders – being a military outfit, they're kind of big on following orders – and must recall the events that lead up to the disobedience in question. His recounting of the events while on trial is the entire campaign, but this being a military trial, certain things are classified. It's an idea that will play out in the campaign: the first time through, certain elements from the game environment will be missing; a second playthrough of the "Declassified" campaign will change events and those in-game elements.
In one example, a gameplay segment could be dramatically altered by the inclusion of a mech, People Can Fly's Adrian Chmielarz explains. So the first time through, Baird may recall pushing through an enemy location with his fellow Kilo Squad. In the second play through, he may have remembered that instead the progress came through the aid of the mech.
It's still too early to show any of this stuff, so for now Epic Games design director Cliff Blezsinski and People Can Fly's Adrian Chmielarz are talking more about what to expect rather than showing it. Another big component of the campaign is adding replay value, doing away with static encounters that play the same way each time. This will be achieved through Gears of War: Judgment's "smart spawning system," which we discussed earlier.
In previous Gears of War games, there would be a trigger location and when the player passed it, emergence holes would open up or Locust would come crashing through a wall or whatever, each time the same event. Chmielarz says changing this will make for more dynamic encounters – it may just mean more enemies spawn or even different enemies, perhaps more difficult to take down than the previous set.
"The story is the downfall of Kilo squad, led by Damon Baird. A base is attacked and Kilo squad tries to deal with it in their own way and things go horribly wrong, then they are put on trial," Chmielarz said. "Kilo squad is Damon Baird and Augustus Cole, 14 years younger. They are thinner and they don't have scars on their faces. But we are also introducing two new characters to the universe: one a red-haired girl named Sophia Hendrick, an Onyx Guard cadet. She's very by-the-book, this sort of an angel on Baird's shoulder. Of course, there's a devil as well: Garron Paduk. He's a UIR (Union of Independent Republics) refugee, the UIR being former enemies of the COG from the Pendulum Wars, and now we see they're all united against the common threat of the Locust. But you can imagine the team dynamics when you have an Onyx Guard and a UIR veteran soldier in the team."
Chmielarz elaborated that the campaign is "a series of flashbacks, a testimony basically of the events leading up to the trial. The first time you play, it's a classified version – if it existed in a written form, there'd be a lot of black ink on it. After you play through it once, you can now unlock the declassified version and sort of learn the full truth behind these events and what really happened over there. So it's the stuff basically that the COG wanted to keep away from the public. Sometimes it's the very existence of an enemy type, like dark wretches – which we know from the lore that these are not exactly Locust – and sometimes it's an ugly truth, like that the COG was about to destroy an area with the Hammer of Dawn strike without first checking if there are any friendly units nearby. Now this stuff is discovered and declassified, so when you play the declassified version of a level, you now have four minutes to leave a level – good luck, you have to kill every Locust to get out of the area in time. This forces you to replay the section in a completely different way."
"The first time you play, it's a classified version ... After you play through it once, you can now unlock the declassified version and sort of learn the full truth behind these events and what really happened over there." -Adrian Chmielarz, People Can Fly
Chmielarz assured that Gears of War: Judgment would also feature more advanced forms of this feature, where the environment will actually change in the declassified version of a level. "The other thing about the Classification system is that you can also declassify mission details, so in the testimony it's not exactly clear what kind of tools of destruction you have used to achieve your goals. Imagine you play through the game and you literally have these fuzzy items [in the game environment], like 'is it there or not?' We put this cool shader on it and you approach them and you can essentially earn the right to unlock them, and sort of adjust your testimony on the fly. 'Yeah, okay, now I remember it was there.' So imagine Baird, for example, materializing a mech and then going, 'And then we found a mech, so we were lucky, and then this and that happened because we had the mech.' Obviously you would probably perform very well in that section now, and kill a lot of Locust with that mech, so something else will then happen and you will get access to cooler items." Bleszinski added, "It's like a pseudo-narration in parts of the level where you hear the courtroom and things like that."
"I think we have great incentives for you to replay, but we're not talking about this today," Chmeilarz concluded.