Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (Xbox One Review)
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a tale of do-rags and rose tinted glasses, a welcomed addition of colour to the rather grey and brown landscape we remember. Gears of War originally spawned the dude bro shooter with its muscle bound protagonists and chainsaw augmented guns. Almost 10 years on and The Coalition have revamped everything right down to those bulging veins on Dom’s exaggerated muscles.
Fans of the series will often remember the latter instalments to the franchise for their superior online modes and 4 player campaign, but Gears of War sparked something in us originally that made it worthy of 3 instalments. The grand set pieces, the menacing villains, the underlying mystery of how exactly the Locust managed to become such a threat. All of the excitement of the original story can still be relived with the addition of the bonus content which was previously exclusive to the PC.
Stepping right back in to the boots as Marcus as he flees prison with his trusty sidekick, Dom, is something we all remember fondly. A moment of true friendship, a theme that runs throughout the entire franchise. We see the first rough cuts of Baird and Cole as we save them. We all anticipate the bullet splattering poor Carmine’s brains out as the first to fall in the Carmine family. And we all look on in fear as Raam slaughters Lieutenant Kim in front of us, leaving the team without direction or hope. All this builds up to a climatic finish like we remember. Gears of War will never be regarded as a pillar of gaming storytelling, but Epic Games did create a thoroughly enjoyable tale of camaraderie and I’s great fun to relive.
Although the story remains unchanged there is a great deal of improvements to the visuals of Gears of War. Character models are no longer hunks of meat adorned in the finest COG armour, instead we see fully fleshed out characters with defining features. Cutscene visuals are to die for in the upscaled environments and textures, although the story remains the same there is a fresh feel to the cutscenes with the improvements. Along with the improved graphics the game has also been scaled upwards to 60fps(for muliplayer)/30fps(for singelplayer) at 1080p. All of these improvements do however come at a cost, sometimes the frame rate can stumble a little which ruins the otherwise fluid visuals. More importantly is the impact of the in game visual textures, while some are a welcome and astounding addition to Gears of War, there are a few objects that stick out like a sore thumb and ultimately impact the visuals. Gears of War might have previously been slagged off for being brown/grey but it at least owned it, the dark brooding atmosphere matched the aesthetic which has now been brightened to a point in which it can be hard to sell any coherent visual identity. Overall the graphics upgrades are great but some excel more than others.
Alongside the visual upgrade The Coalition have updated the gameplay to that of the later Gears instalments to create a more rounded experience both online and offline. There have been tweaks to the weapons and the ability to manoeuvre has be upgraded from the archaic four directional roll of the original Gears of War. In upgrading the gameplay you now have access to far more fleshed out game modes online and there have been some balancing patches on the weapons, mainly the longshot. In turn Gears of War: Ultimate Edition looks to rid itself of some of the more infuriating elements by giving you more control and preventing an imbalance in online. That being said the Gnasher is still the most popular weapon by a Longshot, pun intended.
Overall Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a welcomed return to form from Marcus and the gang and for those of you that didn’t play the PC exclusive content it adds a worthwhile chunk to the campaign, even if it does mess with the pacing of the story. With internet connections now being far superior than they were back in the day the online is far better than you can ever have imagined and the variety of game modes on offer really brings something to Gears of War that it really lacked back in the day. If you can overlook some frame skipping and the out of place assets, Gears of War is a must have for your Xbox One. Plus you get the whole Gears series on Backwards Compatibility if you play it before December and access to the Gears of War 4 beta, making it great value for the asking price.