Grab your bro. It’s time to cut dudes in half with a machine-gun chainsaw.
You can’t really deny Gears of War their place in video game history. It gave us the blueprint that started the AAA third person cover-base shooter genre, and while it didn’t invent cover-base shooters but provided the framework for the next generation.
Gears of War: Ultimate Editions let’s us go back to where it all began with two best friends armed to the teeth against an a horde of subterranean boogeymen.
Playing through the Gears campaign I couldn’t help but notice how the mechanics have aged over nine years. You’re basically moving from one shooting gallery filled with chest-high walls to a walk and talk sequence to another shooting gallery filled with chest-high walls.
I can’t really blame the game for since it is just product of its time. Nine years (and three sequels) of improvements to the genre as a whole, it’s tough to recapture that feeling even with a new coat of paint.
And boy what a coat of paint it is. Even after all this time Gears of War is still a rather impressive looking game. Despite its aggressively grey color palette, there’s a beauty in the ruined world of Sera. You can believe that charred-out remains of the cities once filled with life before the Locusts came.
Ultimate Edition ups the resolution to 1080p and runs at a solid 30FPS which is great since the original suffered from numerous framerate hiccups at the most inopportune times. No more are the muddy graphics that would pop-in whenever your Xbox 360 felt like loading them in.
The act of popping up behind cover or blindfire still feels really good. When I first cut deep into some Locust scum with my Chainsaw-tipped Lancer while having my brother giggles at the ridiculous amount of gore as he sat next to me to playing co-op brought, it really took us back.
All the weapons and characters feel like that have a real weight them especially when you see a bare-chested Marcus Fenix slam into some debris for cover. Gears of War in motion still holds up visually even if the enemy encounters feel one-note.
The competitive multiplayer stays true to the original, which could be good or bad depending on your position on GoW‘s most controversial weapon, the Gnasher.
Not since the Halo: Combat Evolved pistol have fans praised/complained about the overwhelming stopping power of this furious shotgun. Your enjoyment with the multiplayer hinges your ability to accept the shotgun lifestyle.
To me this has always been a major issue from a balance standpoint. It changes how everyone plays. Some matches can devolve into sessions of a bunch people trying to roll behind another with shotguns, especially when you play a mode like King of the Hill that forces everyone to converge into one position on the map for a set amount of time.
Smart players learn to adapt by keeping their distance, but even then it’s tough to gauge the devastating power and deceptively long range of the Gnasher.
Shotguns aside, the competitive multiplayer is the main reason most people will pick Ultimate Edition. Unlike the campaign, multiplayer runs at a buttery smooth 60 FPS (makes sense considering the campaign has more characters on-screen and a lot of crazy set pieces).
Multiplayer feels like the way Gears was meant to be played. Say goodbye to things like “Host Advantage” since all modes play on dedicated servers.
There’s also the fact that it’s not a twitch shooter — it’s all about being in a more advantageous position than the people trying to kill you. Precision weapons like the Sniper Rifle or Torque Bow feel a lot easier to use and I have to attribute that to the bump in framerate.
Calling this Gears of War: Ultimate Edition feels odd without the inclusion of Horde Mode, especially since the multiplayer has no problem taking UI and gameplay features from later series titles, like being able to spot targets or being able to revive someone while in cover, seems like a queer exclusion.
The fact that we still playfully call these endless waves modes “Horde Mode” in other games show its importance to the co-op gaming world and its inexplicable omission is a huge let down.
In a perfect world, Ultimate Edition would have included an online mode that took the best parts of each game’s competitive experience and combined them. Instead we get a fairly competent but disappointing remastered that could have been much more that what we got.
It’s a Gears game to hold us over until Gears of War 4 comes out and nothing more. Die-hard fans will love the updated visuals and the competitive multiplayer running at 60 FPS. I still can’t help but feel like The Coalition could have done more with this package, however.
This still doesn’t change the fact playing split-screen co-op or online is still one of the satisfying cooperative moments out there right now. Flanking Locusts with a buddy providing cover fire as you roadie run into position is such a blast but I did hate it when the campaign would split you and you partner apart.
It was those sections of the game my teammate and I had the most problems with and what I despised the most from Gears of War. That and the boss fight with General Raam on the train. General Raam can go to hell.
The $39.99 price tag is a fantastical bargain considering you have access to the entire Gears of War collection (Gears of War 1-3 and Gears of War: Judgement) thanks to the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility. It’s too good of a deal to pass up even if you only have a passing interesting in the franchise.
At the end of the day if any triple-A franchise deserves the remastered treatment, Gears of War fits the bill. It spawned a legion of devotees. Even though the campaign has shown its age, the multiplayer still can compete with today’s shooters.
It also goes to show no matter how many times you do it, sawing a Locust in half while wearing goggles is still stupid fun even if there isn’t a Horde mode.