LOS ANGELES – Microsoft showcased the world premiere of the new Gears of War Judgment game during its E3 2012 press conference at the USC Galen Center. The new game, which is coming to Xbox 360 in 2013, is a prequel.

Rod Fergusson, director of production at Epic Games, along with members of the development team, will be showing demos of the new game throughout the show this week at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The new shooter is in development at Epic’s Warsaw, Poland studio People Can Fly. This marks the first time a Gears of War game is being developed outside of its headquarters in Cary, N.C.

In addition to being a prequel, the game is expected to be a return to the series’ roots.

Judgment focuses the action on Kilo Squad, which includes Damon Baird, Augustus Cole, Sophia Hendrix and Garron Paduk. While the team is in court in Halvo Bay for disobeying orders (hence the cuffs on the Game Informer magazine cover), the gameplay unfolds through a series of flashback action sequences that will put players in the thick of the Locust War.

Epic promises a prequel with more action and less cut scenes. Gears of War 3 included over 90 minutes of cut scenes.

“It’s a pseudo-origin story of Baird that’s set14 years before the first Gears of War,” said Fergusson. “We go back to when he was a lieutenant and it’s a throwback gameplay-wise with a lot of action. It’s a new style of campaign for us.”

Fergusson said the team chose to focus on Baird because he emerged as the most-beloved male cast member from Gears of War 3. 

“We have a huge world with a lot of time, so we decided to go to Halvo Bay and explore this new story,” said Fergusson. “We have a great partnership with People Can Fly and they brought fresh new ideas and we came together to make this great game. There are Bulletstorm influences in Judgment and we’re still a third-person shooter and cover-based. The people who loved Gears 1 will find a lot more of that and less scripted cinematics.”

In an effort to even further broaden the audience base for the Gears franchise, Judgment introduces a new Smart Spawn System (S3) that will dynamically adjust a variety of factors into where, when and how many enemies attack. The game will determine a player’s skill level, whether they’ve played that level before and how they attack Locusts to adjust the artificial intelligence (AI) in an attempt to make the game more enjoyable for the growing number of casual gamers and the more hardcore fans that Gears has attracted over the years. 

Multiplayer has been a core tenant for Epic’s bestselling franchise over the years – Gears of War 3 remains a popular Xbox Live multiplayer experience even today.

Judgment brings a class-based system to the franchise with OverRun that focuses on each of the four protagonists’ classes – medic, engineer, scout and soldier in a new take on the popular Beast and Horde modes. The five-on-five battles will feature asymmetrical teams that take turns in tactical battles filled with action.

The gameplay classes breaks down with the engineer equipped with Gnasher and Blowtorch weapons with special abilities that include sentry turret, blowtorch repairs and damaged fortifications. Soldiers are equipped with the Lancer and Boomshot can deploy ammo crates, toss ammo to Engineer to give him infinite blowtorch ammo.

Medics come with the Lancer and Snub Pistol, which has a stim gas grenade that revives downed allies when tossed around them. Scouts can climb perches for better sniping leverage and they’re equipped with the Longshot and Snub, as well as a beacon grenade.