After being handed the keys to the Gears of War
franchise last year, The Coalition (formerly Black Tusk Studios) were quick to announce that they would be working on the series’ next installment, Gears of War 4
. After showing the game’s debut gameplay at this year’s E3, series Executive Producer, Rod Ferguson, also revealed that the team had also been secretly working on a remastered version of the original Gears of War
from nine years previously, and that fans wouldn’t have long to wait, with its release scheduled for a couple of months later.
The resulting game is Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
which features a campaign mode that offers practically identical gameplay to the original, whilst being visually boosted to 1080p and with all of the game’s original assets completely remade using modern techniques, the inclusion of five new acts that were previously exclusive to the PC version, and 60 frames per second multiplayer.
In a generation that has so far been littered with remasters, remakes, and definitive editions to varying degrees of success, is it worth taking a trip back to Sera?
Gear of War: Ultimate Edition
The first thing you’ll notice once you begin playing the game is the huge advancements in the graphical fidelity. Gears: UE
is far from the standard increase to 1080P that other remakes are doing simply to be able to put a tick on the box. Every cut scene, every animation and every asset in the game has been remade from the ground up, and the results are stunning. Everything on the screen is crisp, colours are brighter, environments are much more detailed and there is a steady frame rate throughout.
Everything on the screen is crisp, colours are brighter, environments are detailed
The game’s campaign uses the same source code that the original did, and thus plays out exactly the same as the original. The only major addition to the story being the inclusion of five additional chapters at the beginning of act five that were previously exclusive to the PC version
. The additional chapters slot in very well, and if anything help the story flow better than the first time around.
The game’s mechanics have been refined slightly rather than completely altered like the visuals. Movement is smoother and more accurate than before, but at the same time it still has that sense of weight that Gears
is famous for. This makes for a contradiction at times as it is surprising how well the mechanics and story still hold up after all of this time, but at others you’ll be left wishing they’d gone a little deeper and removed some of the annoyances such as your AI teammates' stupidity.
The shooting mechanics were always a strong point for Gears, with a unique set of weapons that were a joy to use
The shooting mechanics were always a strong point for Gears
franchise, with a unique set of weapons that were a joy to use, and once again the basic mechanics for each weapon have been left as they were. Each weapon has a genuinely different feel when firing, as well as its own set of advantages and disadvantages in different combat situations. Battles against the bullet sponges otherwise known as Locusts feel genuinely rewarding on higher difficulties as you try to work your way from cover to cover, to counter attacks, avoid thrown grenades and both short and long distance weapons whilst at the same time trying to make the perfect active reload and make a kill of your own. Even in slower sections of the game, you're constantly engaged, and it’s a testament to the original game developers that it has stood the test of time so well.
The best way to play the campaign is in co-op, and the game offers a range of options to either invite friends in, leave your game open for other Xbox LIVE members to join you, or search for other open games. The level design whilst basic and linear by some of today’s standards is well thought out, with opportunities for coordinating attacks from different angles and distances with your partner to get the upper hand. With AI, the same can’t be said, and more often than not the other members of Delta squad will prove to be more of a hindrance than help. On multiple occasions Dom would casually stroll to certain death without a care in the world, leaving you to fight it out on your own whilst heavily outnumbered. It’s an annoying flaw that is the main drawback on an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable campaign, but is largely down to the developers want to make this as close to to the original as possible.
AI controlled Dom will likely die multiple times at this point
The biggest overhaul in Gears: UE
comes via the multiplayer which has received the same visual boost as the campaign with the addition of a smooth 60 FPS framerate. Gameplay tweaks found in later releases in the franchise such as spotting enemies and the ability to roll in eight directions instead of the four found in single player have also been added along with dedicated servers that have so far been completely lag free, and additional game modes such as Team Deathmatch and Blitz.
The result is a fast-paced gameplay that feels completely at home on a modern console, whilst still remaining true to the original (Gnasher is still king). Small close quarter maps mean you’re never more than a wrong turn away from being blown into tiny pieces by an enemy with a Gnasher, and even with a maximum of only eight players – which seems small compared to more modern shooters – the matches are always action-packed.
The Gnasher is king in multiplayer
The addition of new games modes helps to add a sense of variety to the multiplayer that wasn’t there previously, allowing you to choose between three different playlists, eight different game modes that vary from the more hardcore modes where one death will in you having to sit out for the round, to more objective based games that will allow infinite respawns.
Being a remake of the original, the only that did seem to be missing from the last two entries in the series (we’re not counting Judgment
here) is the omission of a co-operative game mode in the way of Horde mode.
Multiplayer is silky smooth in 1080P and 60 FPS
The achievements for the game are largely similar to the original release, which offer a nice balance between campaign and multiplayer progression. The standout achievement once again comes in the form of Seriously
which will require you to earn 10,000 kills in multiplayer. New additions to the original list award achievements for ranking up in multiplayer, the last coming once you hit level 100, and achievements based around the previously PC only levels.
SummaryGears of War: Ultimate Edition
stands as a shining example of how a remaster should be done. From the ground up the game has been redesigned to make it look and feel perfectly at home on the Xbox One, and The Coalition have managed to combine remaining true to the original game, whilst at the same time adding improvements. By staying true to the original Gears
there are moments where the game shows its age, but they aren’t frequent enough to spoil the overall experience, and you’ll be more surprised by how well the story and gameplay mechanics stand up to today’s standards, and quiet often over shadow them.
If you're not a fan of third person shooters or the previous Gears of War
games, there's nothing for you here, but for everyone else the name says it all, this is the Ultimate way to experience Gears of War
, whether you're a newcomer to the franchise, or if you’re looking for any excuse to return to Sera and chainsaw Locust’s into tiny pieces, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
is a must play.
- Improved graphical fidelity
- 60 FPS multiplayer
- Additional campaign levels
- Weapons feel just as good as they did before
- New multiplayer modes
- AI can be stupid
- Multiplayer can be unforgiving for newcomers
- Occasional moments where the game's age shows
The reviewer spent 18 hours playing the campaign both alone and in co-op, and the game's various multiplayer modes, earning 36 of the games 56 achievements. This copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for the purpose of this review.