Gears of War originally came out in November 2006 for the Xbox 360 and quickly became a hit for Microsoft. Almost nine years later the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is being released and it retains all of the charm and fun the original release contained with some new content that hasn’t been seen before in this particular title. A while after Gears of War was released on the Xbox 360 it was released on the PC with new content. This content never made it over to the Xbox 360 version so console gamers will be able to experience this “new” content as they go through the campaign. Additionally new items have been added to the multiplayer suite as well, such as Team Deathmatch which was not in the original Gears of War. The development team did a tremendous job of not just making this another remaster. They rebuilt a lot of the assets, redid all of the cinematics, gave the game a graphical overhaul, incorporated some ideas from Gears of War 2 and 3 more. A significant amount of work went in to the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and it really shows as you are playing it.
By now everyone should know the basic story of the Gears of War franchise. Emergence holes are popping up all over the world and the Locust are coming from the underground to wage war against humans to try and take over the world. As Marcus Fenix you need to lead a group of COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) soldiers to try and wipe out the Locust. As you progress through the game you will notice how much more detailed and bright everything is compared to the 2006 release. It still has the Gears pallette but thanks to the more powerful hardware everything looks much better. There are new details in the environment and as a result you pick up on things that either weren’t there before or they were just added for this release. The campaign runs at 1080p and 30 frames per second, while the multiplayer runs at 1080p and 60 frames per second. The explanation for this was they really wanted to focus on the visuals in the campaign and I personally think it was worth it. The cinematics look absolutely fantastic and those who have gone through the original release will notice some slight changes. It isn’t anything major but there are changes such as character positioning and things of that nature. There is one particular change in the ending cinematic that I thought was very interesting but I am obviously not going to spoil it for you here. The campaign also features different ways to play it whether you want to go through the story by yourself, play it with a friend or family member via split-screen or if you have a friend across the country and you want to go through the campaign with online co-op. For those who might not like the excessive gore in the game you can turn the “extreme content” off. Keep in mind it is still going to be a violent game but if you choose to turn the extreme content off it will disable the explicit language and things won’t be as graphic.
In addition to the new story content that is in the campaign, other things have been tweaked as well. The development team took ideologies and concepts from the more recent Gears of War titles and incorporated some of them here. There are new tournament controls and everything has been tuned for the Xbox One controller, for example. The multiplayer was changed up a bit to bring it closer in line to what people generally expect from a game being released in 2015. The multiplayer now features enemy spotting so you can help your team locate the enemy. You also have improved sensitivity customization and a multiplayer tac-com. If you enjoyed Gears of War 3 there are 17 characters that you will be able to unlock via multiplayer progression. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition also features dedicated servers and skill-based matchmaking. The new game types that have been added here include Team Deathmatch, 2v2 Gnasher Execution and King of the Hill (Gears of War 3 style). For those who might be wondering, the horde mode is not available here as that particular mode didn’t make its debut until Gears of War 2. That doesn’t mean it will never be added (similar to how Team Deathmatch was added) but it isn’t a part of the package right now and no plans have been announced. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition also launches with 19 remastered maps. During my time with the online everything seemed to run well and it was a very smooth experience. The matchmaking seemed to work really well for me and hopefully that will remain the same as more and more people begin to hit the servers.
With all of that said I’m sure you can tell that I have had a great time going through this title. It isn’t perfect though and there are some annoyances. There is a lot that has been done to bring this to the Xbox One, however, the AI still seems to be as bad as it was back in 2006. There were many times when my AI partner would just stand there and watch the action take place instead of jumping into the fray. I entered many buildings by myself as one of my partners seemed to wait outside until I reached a specific point and then they magically appeared. To be fair there were other instances when my AI partner saved me from some trouble but it was a bit jarring during the instances when I am trying to take on a horde of enemies and they aren’t doing much. There was also the time when I was trying to line up the Hammer of Dawn to eliminate a Seeder but my partner walked right in front of me and we ended up being the ones that got barbequed.
Outside of the actual gameplay there are some nice extras and details that fans might enjoy as well. For starters there is the “war journal” that will give you statistics on both your campaign play through and your multiplayer progress. Going completely through the campaign for this review my stats say that I killed 667 Locust with 102 headshots. I had 578 of those kills with my Lancer while the Torque Bow was my second favorite with 30 kills and I was able to chainsaw 38 Locust enemies. The multiplayer statistics are broken down into each game type so you know what your strengths and weaknesses are as well. There are also leaderboards where you can see how you stack up against both your friends as well as the general multiplayer population. For those who have gone through a Gears game before, you remember that there are cog tags that you can find throughout the course of the campaign. In the original release the only purpose the cog tags served was being a collectible you had to find to get some gamerscore. That still applies here, however, there is now an actual purpose to picking up these tags. There are five digital comics that are part of this game and the more cog tags you find, the more comics you can read. The first issue, “Unseen,” will be unlocked after you find 12 cog tags. That particular issue deals with Hoffman being tasked with destroying an enemy radar tower. Other comics include “They Also Serve,” “Unsaid,” “Promise Me” and “Harper’s Story”. There are 33 cog tags to find throughout the campaign so you need to keep an eye out and pick them all up if you want to dive a bit deeper into the lore with these comics. In addition to all of that there is concept art that can be unlocked by completing different acts in the game as well as the in-game cinematics. Once you see a cinematic in the game you can view it again at any time in the extras section. Personally speaking I always enjoy it when companies allow you to rewatch the cinematics.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition isn’t simply a port or a remaster. The team over at the Coalition has done a tremendous amount of work bringing it to the Xbox One with the cinematics being redone, adding in new features and ideas from more previous entries in the franchise and more. The A.I. could still be better and hopefully when we get a brand new game in the franchise with Gears of War 4 it will be. Keep in mind too that if you purchase Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and play it online before December 31 you will get the franchise for free via backwards compatibility when that feature launches in November so this is a tremendous value. If you are a Gears of War fan then I highly recommend picking up this title. If you are new to the franchise then this is a great time to jump in and experience why it is such a popular franchise for Microsoft. A lot of games and companies have taken ideas from this franchise over the years and it is a tremendous amount of fun to play the game where a lot of that started.
Originally posted on Gaming Target