Gears of War Ultimate Edition Review

Playing Gears of War Ultimate Edition is a mixed bag of emotions to be sure. On one hand you have an emaculate re imagining of a game that is 10 years old complete with brand new graphical assets and completley re done CGI cutscenes. On the other hand you have a game that begs the question…do we reallly need a redone version of a game that still holds its own with the most graphically impressive games released to this day?

Graphics

Gears of War blew everyone away when it launched back in 2006 on the Xbox 360. It was the first game to push the graphical limits of the new Xbox hardware.  Epic Studios worked with Microsoft very closely during development being that it was being toted as an Xbox exclusive title. In fact it was Epic Studios that pretty much convinced Microsoft that they needed to upgrade the consoles RAM from 256mb to 512mb that would be included in the final launch configuration of the Xbox 360 ( Gears of War was in development prior to the actual launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005). The extra boost in memory allowed EPIC studios to deliver a game that would set a standard for years to come.

Gears of War Ultimate edition, while still using the Unreal 3 Engine is a marvel to behold. Despite the campaign running at only 30fps ( Multiplayer runs at 60fps) it looks and feels like a XBOX One title . All the character models have been redesigned and the enviroments are bustinng out with enhanced lighting and particles. Playing the game makes you feel like you are experiencing the game for the first time. 

The only complaint I had was with the actual art direction for some of the character redesigns. For the  most part The Coalition ( The new studio that was born out of the former Devs when they left Epic Studios) have brought the over the top characters down to earth a bit. While still hulking ” Dude Bros” the cast now looks a little more realistic. Dom and Baird in particular have been reworked and while Baird looks a little less ragged , he just doesnt look the way I remember him. Dom is a tough one to put a finger on .The ultimate edition has thrown some extra weight onto his cheeks and he looks a little more ” over stylized” than his previous incarnation.Beyond these two minor gripes the game is otherwise flawless in its presentation.

 Audio

I must admit that when the original Gears launched back in 2006 , I barely had an understanding of the benefits of using a professional grade gaming headset. TV speakers where the default  standard for me and it wasn’t until 2009 when I started refining my gaming rig that I came to understand just how awesome games could sound and the fact that game designers placed so much emphasis on that aspect of it.
Gears of War Ultimate edition wraps you up in its beautiful barrage of bombastic gunfire effects to its calm moments. All of its audio is delivered with pre-meditated accuracy and the games soundtrack is woven through its set pieces with intentional care.The biggest improvement I noticed was that the characters ” weight” was translated with audio much better than before. Every step you take has a solid thump to it and slamming into cover really sells the point that you are wearing a massive suit of body armor. Creature sounds are now more pronounced and even make the Locust stand out as a more frightening adversary this time around.

 Gameplay

The one thing that Gears of War did when it launched was to redefine 3rd person shooters gameplay mechanics. Almost every shooter released after Gears of War has incorporated a cover system of some kind. The Ultimate edition has not messed with Gears’s tried and true ” Whack a mole” mechanics but instead it has refined the bad elements of the original. Getting stuck on pieces of game geography and struggling with your controller when the combat gets nasty is a thing of the past. While not fully embracing Gears of War 3’s more fluid and faster paced movement mechanics; Gears Ultimate is the Gears you remember with a touch of refinement sprinkled in.
I wish they had incorporated some of the series newer features like being able to use enemies as a meat shield or even being able to move while in a downed state so you can seek cover while a team mate rushes to revive you. The Coalition has stated publicly that they wanted to stay true to the Gears of War game we all played back in 2006 and not blur the lines between it and its subsequent sequels.I played through the Ultimate edition with my brother as a co op partner and that my friends is how you NEED to play Gears of War. Not only do you become more immersed with the games narrative but planning your attacks and forming strategies on the fly is what Gears Was built for. It remains one of the genre’s best examples of cooperative play to this day.

 Multiplayer

I approached component of Gears of War Ultimate Edition carefully. The original was a game that for the most part introduced me into the world of competitive video gaming ( If you don’t count my quarter plunking days at the local arcade playing Street Fighter 2 as a teenager). On the surface you would think that all they needed to do was slap a fresh coat of paint and pump up the frame rate and we would be golden.
In truth there are a lot of game play systems that have been tweaked and improved to enhance the overall feel of the game play and controls, and YES they did give it the new paint job and frame rate boost as mentioned above.
The movement and cover system have both been smoothed out and incorporate just enough of Gears of War 3’s fluidness and the original Gears to make it feel like its own .The most obvious upgrade is the fact that the game now runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames and man o man is it something to behold. Gears has never felt this great and going back to older the sequels clearly shows that Gears was meant to be played in the higher frame rate.

EDITORS NOTE: Gears of War Ultimate Edition runs it campaign at 30fps.

 The game comes complete with all of the maps that have ever been released in the original game and adds some additional content in the form of unlock able character skins pulled from Gears lore. The only jarring part of this is that some of the characters you can play as in multiplayer haven’t been introduced in Gears of War 1 yet and only have relevance if you have played the entire Gears saga ( I’m looking at you Adam Fenix).
The only negative aspect of the multiplayer is not so much of a strike against it in itself but rather a warning to new players and rusty veterans. Gears multiplayer has a passionate fan base and a VERY skilled community. If you aren’t able to take your licks and suffer defeat ALOT then you may want to stay clear. Multiplayer is challenging but very rewarding when you finally get the hang of it but unforgiving when you are on the journey to the top.

Summary

Its hard to write a review for a game that s so embedded in your heart and played a big role in your gaming history. Trying to be objective yet singing praise for it is a slippery slope but I can honestly say that Gears of War Ultimate Edition delivers big time. Its everything you expect from a remaster and a perfect ball of nostalgia ( albeit only 10 years worth). If you haven’t played the Gears of War saga this is the version you want to kick start your experience and a perfect way to prepare for Gears of War 4 later this year.

Gears-of-war-ultimate-review-box

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