Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is the latest example of Microsoft beginning to realise that they have actually built up a legacy since the original Xbox launched back in 2001, and then again with the Xbox 360 back in 2005. Although Gears of War itself didn’t launch until 2006 a year later, thanks Microsoft! But anyway just as the original Halo was remastered it’s great to see Gears receiving the same level of treatment and respect compared to Halo: Combat Evolved. So has The Coalition managed to do what 343 did for Halo? Recreating the first game with more pleasing visuals and updates yet still keeping the core game that we all grew to love intact? I’d like to say they have done well in their role in this remaster with a few issues still lingering around.
So what is Gears of War? For those who are new to this long running franchise. In short it is a cover based third person shooter with a very dark science fiction story where the locust (monsters living under the planet’s crust) have come to the surface and have decimated humanity living on the planet of Cera. The story within the game is about your team called Delta Squad, led by Marcus Phoenix, who is trying to stop these creatures 14 years later with a wonder weapon designed to take out the locust tunnels, hopefully destroying the lot of them. However (SPOILERS!) seeing as there are two more games in the series clearly this isn’t going to happen any time soon.
Gears Of War Ultimate Edition: Xbox One [Reviewed], Windows 10
Developer: The Coalition
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: 28 August 2015
The main selling point for the game has often been its beautiful graphics and the brutal combat portrayed within the game. There is no greater satisfaction of killing an adversary that has annoyed you online and then watching his legs fly off one direction and his torso in the other. There is an option to turn off the brutality but in all honesty no gamer is going to do that unless they fear the colour red. The online multiplayer’s brutal combat has always been the flocking point for Gears fans and it returns in this game in its original glory with all of the original/DLC maps, remastered with several new modes to add into the mix along with some old modes returning.
The game is an even more complete package than it was back in the day (I feel old) you have the entire campaign with a completely remastered, set of brand new visuals for the player to look at in awe. With the graphics being updated, it’s not hard to notice that the AI is still as stupid as it was back in 2006. Allies will often run into the locust and get downed leaving the player to pick them back up. The locust, themselves, will sometimes do the same charging at you or just hiding until you can be bothered finding them.
This doesn’t happen often though just sometimes. Thankfully though you can easily just play the campaign in online or local co-op without any brutal lag this time around. This greatly avoids you having to mess around with your squad mates. The gameplay experience has, thankfully, not changed too much in the nine years. The cover mechanics are still great, the controls are still smooth and easy to master. The weapons are still brutal to use as well as the executions when you down an unfortunate enemy.
One thing that the Coalition has brought to the campaign that was not in the original console release is the extra chapters that were exclusive to the PC version, they now make a glorious debut on Xbox One. And in all honesty I think this addition killed the pace of the game, you go from making your way to a doomsday weapon and saving your home planet to running away from a Brumak (imagine a T-rex monster with guns on its body) benny hill style. It genuinely bothered me since the pace of the story seemed to get thrown out of the window and a new comedic tone came in from nowhere. You can easily tell that this section was added into the narrative after the game was finished.
The multiplayer now runs on actual servers and the matchmaking is a lot faster than it once was. Although anything that is above waiting for people to just see your game and join will always be faster. You now have social playlists! Although the original game had this too, with drop in multiplayer meaning should you go a man down someone can be brought in to replace them. The drawbacks of social are that it doesn’t seem to balance your opponents and you get far less XP sadly. Ranked play is also back in the form of the competitive playlists this features a few more modes than the social one and it feels like this playlist is actually balanced based on skill since most matches go down evenly compared to the social games. The competitive modes feel a lot fairer in my personal experience when it comes down to the balancing of teams.
A few of the guns have been tweaked by the Coalition but this is really an improvement since the Lancer, my example here was virtually useless in the original Gears. Then there’s the Gnasher shotgun making its glorious return although without the host advantages this time, but the shotgun still seems to have real glaring issues registering in multiplayer. Sometimes you can be at point blank range on an enemy shoot them in the chest with a full volley and they will proceed to laugh at you while they separate your knees from the rest of your body. It still needs some work is my opinion on this matter. Although it would not be an authentic Gears experience if there were not something to rage about or accuse another playing of being a “noob” for doing.
In the end, although Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a great addition to the Xbox One’s game library as it is so far without a Gears of War title for us to sink our teeth into while we wait for the long anticipated Gears 4. The Coalition has delivered a very respectful remaster bringing certain aspects of the game up to date, graphics and certain weapon handling etc. Whilst also failing to iron out a few bugs that would have been gladly seen removed from the game.