When it comes to ports of previous generation titles for this generation it has been a little hit and miss. You also have some that use the term “Ultimate Edition” very loosely and the finished article doesn’t quite have the impact that it implies. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, fans will be glad to know, sets a whole new benchmark in what Ultimate Edition really means. This isn’t just a purchase that current fans will appreciate but a genuine great way to go for people coming into the series for the first time. Just like Halo, the Gears of War franchise walks hand in hand with the Xbox name and its a title not to be overlooked if you are into your third-person action shooters.
When Gears of War originally released it was to critical acclaim for the game being such a well rounded action shooter even though the story wasn’t the most engrossing. Don’t get me wrong the scripting does have it moments and some nicely placed one liners. However it felt that it jumped about a bit but this was due to content that didn’t make the final cut back then. These have been restored and the five new chapters do a great job to fill in the gaps that the 360 version left for fans. Not to mention there is quite an epic encounter with a Brumak monster, you could say it was quite electrifying. While this content was in the PC version if you never played that then these extra chapters will come as a nice bonus. This and some well planed gun fights against on coming waves of foes, make up for the slightly low number of various enemies on offer compared to the games of today.
If you are new to the Gears of War franchise then I will fill you in a bit on the games story, for veterans you can skip this paragraph. You fill the boots of a former soldier Marcus Fenix, built like a house but you feel he has some genuine love for his squad. The story takes place in an earth-like planet – Sera – which was colonised by humans. This planet becomes over run by creatures known as Locust’s that wiped out the majority of the population. The game starts fourteen years after Emergence Day with Fenix getting broke out of a military jail by his best friend to kick some royal alien butt and save Sera. There is deficiently a sense of an enriched environment with some great scripting throughout the game. As mentioned above this has been made better with the additional chapters on offer over the Xbox 360 title.
The game uses the run and cover as the core mechanics which are easy enough to get to grips with. There is a training section at the start of the campaign you can go through if its your first time, but you can skip it and just get straight into the action. Gears of War also introduced a neat little reload feature. You can just hit RB to reload your weapon but time a second press just right and hit that sweet spot to get an additional damage boost. Miss it though and it will take you longer to reload as you see the gun getting jammed. It can be quite comical when this happens and hearing the limited one liners never really gets old for me.
Even now the cover and shoot aspects of Gears of War remains some of the best yet in a third person shooter. Enemies take an enormous amount of bullet abuse before they drop and even then they may not be dead, just down. The weapons do feel like they are giving eminence impact into you foes body and armour. Although the shotgun and sniper rifle can still remain an unfair advantage in multiplayer. The iconic Lancer though remains to this day one of the most versatile and satisfying weapons in the game. The melee attack when using the Lancer is one that never grows old.
Now compared to today’s titles the controls did feel slightly clunky in sections while running nine years ago, but there has been a host of tweaks in every area improving the controls. They have brought this into line with the Gears of War 3 controls with 30+ sensitivity settings as well as the new Tournament control option. Players have also been given the ability to switch weapons while in roadie mode as well. The fans will be the ones to notice the benefits in the subtle tweaks especially in multiplayer. If you are new to the series be rest assured that you are getting a more refined control system and more crucially you will now be able to revive squad members while in cover.
Those that have already played Gears of War will be re-purchasing this title for the massive boost in graphical performance as well as the refined multiplayer – the later I will talk about in a minute. Now back in 2006 Gears of War was already a power house in the graphical department, but by God have they certainly went above and beyond with the face paint. In fact just like the Original Resident Evil upgrade, the stunning 1080p graphics, new lighting effects and more will make you want to play through the game again. The amount of extra detail given means that this game won’t look out of place on the Xbox One. Cut-Scenes have seen a massive improvement with an amazing amount of facial detail with lip animation making it look so life like, not to mention the facial expressions. The cut-scenes really do pull you more into the game than ever before.
If you have already played the single player last-gen and are still sitting on the fence on whether to take the trip back in time, the multiplayer will be the deciding factor. Rest assured this title has all basses covered. As before you can still play co-op through the campaign but when it comes to Multiplayer matches there have been a fair amount of extra content and some very welcomed tweaks thrown in. While Horde mode may be absent from the first title in the series the team have worked with the dedicated Gears of War community to bring some new game modes to offer some fresh challenges. I have had quite a few games over Xbox Live and the matches have definitely benefited from the bump up to 60fps and the flow feels much better than nine years ago.
Gears of War Ultimate Edition doesn’t just offer dedicated servers but also an option for LAN multiplayer matches. This you will note is one of the first, and hopefully many more Xbox One titles to offer this option. The map count has been bumped up to nineteen and some maps have had their layouts tweaked to offer a better experience. There is also a brand new mode which is a 2v2 Gnasher all out battle in very small maps, where you need to win by executing the other team first. The matches now run at 60fps making games feel much more smoother as well as the addition of the eight-way roll. The team have also brought a lot of features that you would see in Gears of War 3 like Team Deathmatch and King of The Hill in that style. This will make the transition from the first game to the third game much more comfortable.
You also have character progression in multiplayer and they have brought in characters from the later games in the franchise. There are just a few things though that can dampen the multiplayer side of things a little depending on your taste. Firstly you have three options, from casual, competitive and private games. Casual only offers three game modes and you will only gain XP at a lower rate but stats and achievements are still tracked. Its a great place to start off but it would be great if all modes where available here. Competitive gives full XP rate but penalizes you for quitting mid game although all games modes except Annex are available. Finally private matches allow for you to change a host of options as well as play Annex, an alternate take of King of The Hill.
The Good Things
- The graphical upgrade means this won’t look out of place in your Xbox One Library.
- The run and cover gameplay stands the test of time, and the tweaks are a great improvement.
- Sets a new benchmark for Ultimate Edition titles that are ported from last-gen.
And The Bad
- A.I can still be pretty dumb at times, when playing solo.
- Would have loved to have seen a Horde Mode added.
- It is apparent that Gears of War Ultimate Edition has been put under the knife by a skilled team of surgeons to make a nine year old title look like it was made for the current generation. The make over is not only skin deep but goes right to the core of the gameplay with tweaked controls, new acts to discover and also a more beefed out multiplayer experience. Even if you have already played the original, and just like the original Resident Evil remake, this has enough of a makeover to take one last trip back in time to the day after Emergence Day.
For those getting into the franchise for the first time then this is truly the ultimate edition. For anybody who purchases this and plays the game between August 25th 2015 through to December 31st 2015 will receive the full collection when it has been released on the Xbox 360 backwards compatibility program. That certainly gets extra Kudos from me, and is a great way to introduce fans to the series and bring them up to speed for Gears of War 4.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition sets a whole new benchmark in what an Ultimate Edition port really means.