Hidden within the depths of the Gears of War: Judgment disc is a fully playable mode dubbed "Warzone."
Many games include unused code. Often developers and publishers find it more cost-effective to simply leave this code in once a planned feature has been scrapped, instead of stripping it out and potentially causing even greater issues within the title's remaining content. For the most part this sort of thing can only be found by hacking into the game's code or decrypting seemingly out of place files, but occasionally the content is far easier to find. Such is the case with Gears of War: Judgment.
Hidden within the game is a mode called "Warzone" that, while fully playable, isn't a core feature of the game. In fact, it was supposed to be removed. Yet, by entering a simple string of button presses, anyone who owns the retail version of Judgment can explore the mode for themselves.
Eurogamer details the "code" for accessing Warzone:
After booting the game, choose Private Match and highlight Team Death Match, and press A. At the next prompt press the A and B buttons simultaneously. When it says "You are about to start a match. Continue?", press A again.
Those of you who are long-time fans of the Gears franchise may be disappointed by what you find after punching in this code though. Instead of a modern recreation of the Warzone mode found in earlier Gears games, it's quite apparent that Judgment's Warzone is far from complete. The disc includes a number of names for maps that should be found within Warzone, but are not present within the game's data. According to Epic Games' senior multiplayer programmer Peter Knepley this is the result of Judgment's multiplayer data being largely lifted from Gears of War 3.
"Thanks for the heads up, was easier to leave Warzone refs than rip out," Knepley wrote on Twitter after fans alerted him to the discovery of Warzone. "It's not the polished Execution of April 2nd," Kneply added, referencing an imminent DLC release.
When asked if Warzone might also be released as additional content for Judgment, Knepley was pessimistic. "I'd never say never, but Execution is way more popular than Warzone."
Microsoft echoed this sentiment when questioned by Eurogamer, "We don't have any current plans to release Warzone. But, we will be releasing Execution, a very similar mode, for free as an update on April 2 via Xbox Live."
So what are we to make of this? Not much really. There are certain to be fans for whom this will appear as a conspiratorial effort to suck as much cash out of players with already-completed, on-disc DLC as possible, but the reality is that this sort of thing isn't uncommon. As I stated above, many games include remnants of features that were initially planned for inclusion, but were later stripped out. This is only exacerbated by the fact that Judgment is built atop much of the code originally created for Gears of War 3.
This sort of thing happened far less often in prior console generations when space was at a premium and developers couldn't afford to leave any excess data within their games as there just wasn't any extra room for it. Modern gaming media however affords gigabytes of excess storage space, and in many cases it's simply too much work to strip out every last remnant of a scrapped gameplay mode.
Then again, if Epic and Microsoft do release Warzone in a few months with only a minor few additions to what is already on the disc, you've all got my permission to flip out and rage against the corporate machine. At that point, between Knepley's claims and the on-disc data, you've got plenty of ammunition to fire at whichever PR representative is unfortunate enough to field complaints.