When the original Gears of War debuted on the Xbox 360 way back in November of 2006, Epic Games succeeded in creating a military stylized third-person shooter that depicted a brutal war between soldiers and creatures. This popular title laid the groundwork for several more sequels in the series and established the Xbox franchise as a worthy addition next to the likes of Halo and Forza Motorsport.
Nearly 9 years later, The Coalition has taken on the task of remastering this game before shifting all of their focus towards the next installment in the series. The end result is an exceptional remaster and one of the best Xbox One console exclusives currently on the market. Here are few more reasons why Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is worth the $39.99 price tag attached to it.
Gears of War follows the trials and tribulations of a fierce Delta Squad unit as they attempt to contain a Locust threat hell-bent on destroying all of mankind. Players take on the role of iconic GOG soldier Marcus Fenix and can have a friend play cooperatively as his fellow brother-in-arms Dominic Santiago. This engaging shooter is primarily known for making players use cover strategically to decimate enemies and achieve the best results on the battlefield. The narrative remains action-packed from start to finish, but also has elements of horror sprinkled throughout to add a bit of mystery and intrigue to the overall experience. This is one particular aspect of the game that isn’t quite as prolific in the sequels, and it certainly is a reason why this entry easily outshines the others.
As with most remasters, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition has been completely rebuilt from the ground up in full 1080p. What this essentially means is that every cinematic sequence, environment, and character animation has been recreated at a higher quality. The visual differences between this game and the original simply can’t be stated enough and really is worth seeing to believe. It’s also worth nothing that this version of the game includes five additional campaign missions that were exclusive to the original PC port and revolved around a Brumak fight. This content certainly won’t matter much to anyone who has played it already, but it’s a great addition for those who are diving into the series for the first time.
When it comes to gameplay, The Coalition and Splash Damage worked together diligently to fine-tune this title for the Xbox One. Players are now able to revive teammates while in cover, switch weapons while roadie running, and drop in and out of co-op campaign sessions without a hitch. These are just a few of the improvements made to this game that not only enhance the overall experience but also guarantee that diehard Gears fans will be kept busy for quite a while.
Online multiplayer has always been a staple for this series and luckily the same remains true for this version of the game. Multiplayer matches now run smoothly and effortlessly at 60 FPS. This dynamic makes online sessions fast-paced, while also training the player to think through combat scenarios more quickly. The game also comes with 19 remastered multiplayer maps, new Team Death match, King of The Hill, and 2v2 multiplayer mode additions, 17 unlockable Gears of War 3 characters, dedicated servers, and LAN support. Those who decide to purchase the deluxe edition of the game for $59.99 will receive several bonus DLC skins for their weapons. I can personally say that this isn’t entirely necessary as the core package is more than enough to satisfy your urges.
As an added bonus to everything I mentioned above, it’s definitely worth pointing out a few bonuses that come with this game. For starters, early access to next year’s Gears 4 multiplayer beta is guaranteed for any and everyone who buys this title. Microsoft has also confirmed that the Ultimate Edition comes complete with every game in the franchise thanks to the planned Xbox 360 backwards compatibility program launching this November. As a whole, this is an incredible value and is exactly how a remaster collection should be done to properly introduce new audiences to the series.
With so many positives said about this game, there are at least two minor gripes that I have with the finished product. The first issue lies in the inconsistent way the AI partner is controlled throughout the campaign. This is particularly noticeable when you raise the difficulty level and are then tasked with having to take down all of the enemies by yourself. Even the most skilled of players might be slightly annoyed by this, but the good thing is that the ability to play co-op campaign can easily make one forgot about this shortcoming.
On the other hand, one problem that might not be quite as forgiving for some is that a lot of the same issues with the original game have made their way into this remaster. For example, the powerful up-close shotgun kill mechanic from online sessions is still intact and can be quite frustrating when participating in intense competitive matchups. When recreating a game, developers may solve an old problem and create an entirely new one in the process. This of course doesn’t make or break the game as the team can still make fixes now that the game is out. It does however also suggest that we have to adapt to change and I’m not entirely sure if this is something everyone will want to do.
Regardless of the gripes I mentioned above, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is still a solid remaster and the perfect example of how a remastered collection should be done. If you played the original and forgot about it, you definitely owe it to yourself to take this trip down memory lane. Then and only then can you truly appreciate exactly why this franchise is as big as it is right now.
This review was based on a review copy of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for the Xbox One provided by Microsoft Games Studios.