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THE QUICK AND THE DEAD — The new ‘Gears’ is short on adventure, long on multiplayer

I can’t believe how short the new “Gears of War: Judgment” is. Ifinished this humans-versus-aliens war in five hours — including coffee breaks.

But “Gears of War” games aren’t about their solo campaigns as much as they are about the online multiplayer.

And the online multiplayer is sweet. So to understand the game online and offline, let’s first dissect the offline solo campaign.

This is a prequel to the “Gears of War” trilogy in which humans fought aliens in a war. Humans won.

“Judgment” is set 15 years before that main “Gears” trilogy began. Aliens are murdering humans on, um, Earth, I guess.

No wait. “Gears” takes place on the Earth-like planet Sera. I always forget this. Earth, Sera, Earth, Sera — is there an artistic difference?

Anyway, so in this third-person shooter, you portray four different beefy troops who run in a pack, lumbering through concrete buildings and shooting aliens down corridors.

You don’t just shoot aliens. One machine gun has a chainsaw on the end of it, so you can walk up to an alien and chainsaw his face and chest. That’s gruesome.

You can acquire another machine gun with a big blade, so you can sprint toward an alien, shove that blade into his spine, lift him off the ground, then splatter him into several body parts. That’s gruesome.

The plot: Who cares. There are mean aliens to kill.

The dialogue sounds like the following.

Beefy military guy says: “I’m gonna rescue Omega.”

His beefy military comrade retorts: “That’s a coincidence. So am I.”

This droll dialogue could be funny if the actors had studied season five of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to mimic a proper technique of delivering silly retorts in unassuming understatements. Instead, the dialogue is as flat as the storyline.

During the first hour of “Judgment,” I worried the guns would stink because it took me seven or eight shots to take out an alien. I thought, “When is a headshot not a headshot? Answer: When it doesn’t do anything to the alien’s head.”

But as the game progressed, it became much easier for me on every level, and I breezed past battlefield after battlefield.

This is the easiest “Gears” yet. I simply sprinted forward to slay aliens, instead of abiding the old “Gears” mainstay of hiding behind corners.

Hold on, I don’t even know why I’m droning on about the solo campaign. It’s fine and pretty but short.

The meat is the online multiplayer. It has the same basic game play as the solo campaign, but naturally you’re gaming against real players and not artificial intelligence.

The online multiplayer is good. I’m not a “Gears” fanboy because characters walk so slowly. But the multiplayer moves quite smooth, battle maps are nice, and after I re-learned “Gears” online, I was good enough at it.

However, let’s be honest. I’m not going to remember anything about this game if you ask me about it a year from now. It’s a well-executed distraction, a perfect rental.

(“Gears of War: Judgment” by Microsoft retails for $60 for Xbox 360 — Plays fun, if short. Looks very good. Moderately challenging. Rated “M” for blood, gore, intense violence and strong language. Three out of four stars.)

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Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at http://www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html. Write to Doug on Twitter at @VegasAnonymous.

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