Book Review: Gears of War: Judgment – Kilo Squad: The Survivor’s Log

Gears of War: Judgment – Kilo Squad: The Survivor’s Log
Publisher: Insight Editions
Release Date: 03/04/2014
Page Count: 128
Cost: $39.99 (MSRP)
Get it Here: Insighteditions.com

As much as I enjoy the Gears of War franchise, I can’t really say that I’ve dabbled much in the literary works based upon the franchise. I know there are a number of novels built around the series, though I completely glossed over them (as I’ve done with most novels based on, well, anything). I’ve never really been exposed to the various art books either. So when I had the opportunity to delve into a hybrid of sorts that delves further into the events of one of my least favorite games in the franchise, I was a bit skeptical. Having read through Gears of War: Judgment – Kilo Squad: The Survivor’s Log (say that five times faster) though, I’m more impressed by it than the game it’s derived from.

The Survivor’s Log acts as the print equivalent to the found footage films that have grown so popular over the last decade or so. Its major gimmick is that it is supposed to be the journal of Damon Baird, composed of his musings and objects of interest collected both before and during the events of Gears of War: Judgment. What makes it so authentic is that the words appear as though they were handwritten by Baird himself, along with a collection of newspaper clippings, drawings, and military files that he attaches to each entry. Many of the items are separate inserts that pop out as you turn the page, or can be lifted up to see more. It’s actually quite neat how it was assembled.

Knowing what I know about the Baird’s personality, The Survivor’s Log actually does a great job of capturing his character and his attitude about the things going on around him. Each entry in the log is a short letter addressed to his deceased parents as he reflects on the past and current events. It’s a surprisingly effective means of communicating some of his more emotional moments, considering the smart ass persona he puts on in the presence of other characters. You can look forward to hearing about his experience fending off bullies as a child, zapping fellow troops with homemade tazers, and his time spent during family vacations. The most interesting stories he has are things that happened prior to Emergence Day, which is why I find it so frustrating that no one has made a game around this yet.

While the early pages chronicle Baird reminiscing about days long past, it eventually transitions into his first meeting with pro-athlete Augustus Cole and how they got so good at working as a team. What makes this so interesting is not just how they met for the first time, but the psychology behind why they work so well together. These segments also come with Thrashball posters, military rap sheets, and mock collectible cards. They are occasionally interrupted with photos of the various weaponry and Locusts that exist in the universe, with Baird’s humorous commentary to go along with them.

It isn’t until near the end that the assembly of Kilo Squad, as it exists in the game, is actually formed, and the events that follow seem to take up the least amount of space in the book. It’s just as well; there isn’t much that happened in the game that felt all that significant, though Baird, in his own words, makes a better case as to why it all mattered than any in-game cutscene ever did. His thoughts on Sofia and Paduk are rather amusing as well.

Gears of War: Judgment – Kilo Squad: The Survivor’s Log, while hardly a requirement for enjoying the games, at least succeeds in supplementing them in a meaningful way. Baird has always been an interesting character, and to be granted an opportunity to get inside his mind and figure out what makes him tick is an entertaining ride. It makes for a nice collector’s piece as well, so if you’re a big enough fan that you’ve got a Marcus Fenix statue erected in your room somewhere, you might as well pick this up too.

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