Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Review
There is something wonderful about getting old games remastered for new systems, but also something inherently problematic. Often these titles, from the present looking to the past, are viewed as iconic, industry changing experiences. With a re-release, the question almost always becomes, “Will it live up to the original?” Gears of War: Ultimate Edition walks the fine line between being an outstanding shooter, but with few faults. Updated graphics, extra missions and an overhauled multiplayer system do make up for the flaws of most early Xbox 360 titles.
Lets examine the bad first. Nothing in this remake of the first Gears of War title is horrible; often annoying, yes, but never flat out bad. The real issues here are ones that were ever present back in 2006; however, in 2006, the ‘problems’ were not as obvious as they are today, as a result of less technical capabilities and the lack of development enhancements the industry has seen since the launch of the Xbox One.
Two major issues caught my eye, and although I’m going back nearly 10 years, I’m pretty sure they were relevant in 2006 as well. First, the difficulty setting. It does appear as if The Coalition (formerly Black Tusk Studio) has altered the difficulty settings to make Gears of War approachable by a wide audience. The easiest setting will definitely help first time players plow through the game – which is a positive for this reboot as the original entry was frustratingly difficult on almost all difficulty levels before. However, I wonder who is going to be able to play this title on the hardest difficulty level.
I attempted to for a level, and while I was able to make steady progression with tactical movements and precision shooting, I found the game failed me too many times. What appeared to be great cover was soon destroyed but what can only be categorized as a seeing-eye bullet to the head. Game Over, return to the previous checkpoint. Rinse, repeat. The hardest level does feel unfair, so for hardcore shooter fans, playing on the second highest difficulty level provides the best game playing reward.
The other issue I had with Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was the pacing. Since 2006, developers have done an excellent job of efficiently molding together cinematic cut scenes and actual game play. Gears fails on that, as most cut scenes begin or end with a black screen, making the story portions of the game disjointed from the actual experiences. Again, we are looking at a common fault of 2006 Xbox 360 games, but this problem has been rectified in current games. To be fair, this is a minor annoyance, if not merely a little side note.
Now onto the good – and let us be real, there is so much of it. Gears of War has been remastered beautifully. The graphics are much better, running at an outstanding 60fps. The visual upgrades make the world of Gears feel more alive than it has ever been. Monsters look more ferocious and the main characters look more bad ass. On a visual front, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition scores a perfect 10.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition also boasts other changes and improvements. From Xbox, “The game includes five exhilarating campaign missions never available before on console. These missions follow Delta Squad as they battle their way to Timgad Station and face off against a terrifying Brumak. Improved checkpoint placement, an additional difficulty level (Casual), and a modernized co-op experience that lets you join and quit seamlessly as well as set your individual difficulty level make this the definitive “Gears of War” campaign experience.”
The seamless drop in and drop out cooperative game play is really appreciated, if for no other reason than that it offers a rare couch cooperative game play not found in many current generation games. Another added bonus is that each player can play on separate difficulty settings. When cooperative game play loses its appeal, players can jump into an improved multiplayer experience. This Gears remake has all the maps from the 360 title, as well as all the DLC and maps previously exclusive to the PC version. Make sure to practice the multiplayer a lot. After all, all who pre-ordered this Ultimate Edition will receive access to the Gears of War Multiplayer Beta in 2016.
If you played Gears of War on Xbox 360, or if you have never played Gears, this will be a worthwhile purchase this fall. The cover mechanics and unique third person game play is still unmatched by most titles releasing now. In that way, Gears of War has withstood the test of time.