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Gears Of War: Judgment by Steve Jablonsky & Jacob Shea (Review)

posted Apr 4, 2013, 4:40 PM by Kaya Savas   [ updated Apr 4, 2013, 4:46 PM ]

At the height of Transformers fever Steve Jablonsky was pursued to take over the Gears Of War franchise, and the result was pretty good. Gears Of War 2 was an amazing video game score that was perfectly structured and delivered great themes with exciting moments. Gears Of War 3 came quickly after and even though the score felt a bit weaker it still exhumed the core strength of what Jablonsky did for Gears Of War 2. Now we have Gears Of War: Judgment, which acts as a prequel to the series. Jablonsky brought on Jacob Shea to co-compose this time. Shea has a long history at Remote Control Productions working as a programmer for Hans Zimmer on many of his scores, and as an additional composer for Jablonsky on a few of his scores. What does the fourth score in the series and third from Jablonsky with newcomer Jacob Shea bring? Sadly, not much. 

As a fan of the previous scores I was immensely disappointed with this one. All the bigness, grandness and epic action sound that we loved is completely absent in Judgment. You can hear the hints of Jablonsky’s original theme here and there as the music tries to establish itself as an origin point, but nothing else is there to grab the listener. The score mostly drones along with a heavy rock sound, clicking electronics and very evident looping tendencies. You’re very aware that this is a video game score meant to act as background since I felt no sense of progression or narrative movement. There were a few tracks that stood out from the rest, but it mostly felt all jumbled together. You could have played me the last few tracks of the album and told me it was the beginning and I wouldn’t have known any better. The fact that the score is anticlimactic makes the listen feel like it drags. When the next track starts you sort of feel like the track you just listened to is starting over. I also don’t hear or feel that Jablonsky sound that much. It just doesn’t sound like him. Even in a score like Battleship his sound was evident and I was able to enjoy that big dumb mess immensely. Seriously, Battleship is a very enjoyable score. Here though I feel like Jacob Shea is handling most of the score and is finding his footing, which is fine. This is the best playground to test stuff out, and to work with your mentor is even greater. I guess I was just expecting something more structured, louder and propulsive.

The score ends pretty much the same way it starts. The tracks move at the same pace almost all the way throughout the 56-minute running time, and that makes for a score with no progression. It’s like going for a walk in the park instead of running an obstacle course. You have a nice steady pace and you know you’re going to finish. While it should have been a journey with ups and downs, moments of doubt, a sprint to the finish and a cool down period. Gears Of War: Judgement just doesn’t offer anything substantial. I didn’t get a sense of story or character, and there wasn’t even a hint of emotional resonance. I’ll stick with Jablonsky’s first two Gears Of War scores and wait for his re-teaming with Michael Bay for Pain & Gain, which should be a blast.