Release Date: August 25, 2015Platforms: Xbox One Developer: The CoalitionPublisher: Microsoft StudiosGenre: Third-person shooter
Editor’s Note: This review only discusses the campaign portion of the game because we did not spend enough time with multiplayer to fully analyze it. We will add our thoughts on multiplayer after launch. Or you can always read our first impressions of the multiplayer from E3 2015.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition re-introduces Xbox fans to the gruesome franchise that first debuted in 2006. A lot has changed since then. Epic Games is no longer working on the series it created. The responsibility now falls on The Coalition, a studio created by Microsoft to specifically work on Gears of War. Ultimate Edition, while not an original title, is the studio’s first effort. And overall, it is a successful one.
It shouldn’t surprise you that Gears of War translates quite well to current-gen. Even on the 360, the series was always above average in the graphics department. So the graphical improvements in Ultimate Edition are subtle. The animation, especially when it comes to character’s faces, looks way better than it did in 2006. But that’s only natural. There’s a lot less of a jump in looks then, say, Halo: CE to Halo: Anniversary.
I’m not going to dwell on it, though. And you shouldn’t either. For a reduced price tag of $40, you get the remastered first game, the great multiplayer experience, plus all of the other games in the series, thanks to backward compatibility. Plus Ultimate Edition comes with five extra chapters, previously released only on the PC port, that make Act V all the better. Ugh. If you must know, only the multiplayer runs 60 fps and 1080 p, while the campaign runs at 30 fps. Okay, let’s move on.
This will probably turn out to be one of my shorter reviews because, well, I’m not sure I know more than one way to tell you that this game is crazy fun. There really isn’t any way around the simple fact that Gears of War holds up incredibly well today. I didn’t actually know I needed a new installment in the series on current-gen consoles until I took Ultimate Edition for a spin. I’m pretty sure this remaster will reinvigorate the fandom for this series, and Gears of War 4 will seem all the more far away.
Shooting and sawing your way through hordes of meaty Locust is better in Ultimate Edition than it ever has been. The improved physics, especially for those extra juicy blood splatters, make for a much more gruesome affair. Often times, you’ll find Marcus Fenix drenched in blood and guts, every step accompanied by the mushy sound of corpses. You’ll be so happy you picked up your Lancer again.
Long range firefights play out as they always have, each sequence laid out like a mini-puzzle. In instances where the odds are extremely overwhelming, it really is about finding the best wall, pillar, or barrier to use as cover. One false step in the dance and you’re Locust food. The cover based shooting and blind fire are still very impressive, and the firefights really come alive once you acquire the Torque Bow, which continues to be the most rewarding weapon in the game.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition isn’t without its flaws, of course, especially on the technical side. Even with the storyline, score, and character designs incredibly preserved, the game still falls victim to the inevitable Day 1 patch upon launch. I encountered one or two glitches in the game, including one where Dom just sits behind cover shooting at invisible enemies. I had to stand there waiting for my pal to finish exterminating Force ghosts before we could progress. I also encountered a few instances of pop-in in the mine chapters of the game.
My biggest problem with Ultimate Edition was an issue with the Lancer’s chainsaw, which I found to be a lot less responsive than the original. Pressing down on the B button doesn’t immediately cue the sweet sound of chainsaw. Instead, the weapon takes a second or two to respond, which got me killed in a couple of instances.
I was also a little confounded by the lack of improvements to the AI, which is as dumb as it ever was. Actually, I had to ask someone if the AI of the original game was as bad as the one in the remaster. I don’t remember Delta being this useless. But I guess maybe that’s something The Coalition decided to preserve.
The technical side of a game is always a bit more on display when it comes to remasters, and fans will undoubtedly notice some or all of these flaws. But they’re in no way deal breakers. Like I said, there’s nothing a day 1 patch can’t fix here.
After the rough year Microsoft had with Halo: The Master Chief Collection‘s multiplayer, the company gives us a Gears of War remaster almost completely deserving of the label. At a time when there’s no shortage of last-gen to current-gen ports, this is one remaster I welcome with open arms.