GAME REVIEW – “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition”
by Oliver Aston, contributor to the Star
Marcus Fenix and the rest of the almost comically stacked crew from Delta Squad are back in “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” for the Xbox One. This new version of the almost 10-year-old original game comes via The Coalition, a new canadian studio taking over the reins from original developer Epic and headed by original trilogy producer Rod Ferguson. But even with all this talent and expertise, can a new coat of paint keep these old cogs a’turning, or are you better off waging war in another battlefield?
At its heart, “Gears of War’s” storytelling has always been rather simplistic. The rocklike locust horde has risen up from under the surface of the planet Sera and for the past 14 years has been pushing humanity to the brink. You play Marcus Fenix, a wrongly imprisoned soldier who is broken out by his best friend and fellow COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) soldier Dom. One short tutorial later, it’s back to the army and off to fight the locust horde.
“Gears of War’s” pop-and-shoot mechanics paved the way for many of the best games of last generation, indeed quickly jumping from cover to cover and delivering a quick shotgun blast or just giving the locust the business end of the lancer’s chainsaw bayonet is just as satisfying as it ever was. However, despite how smooth this all still feels, it becomes immediately apparent that this is Version One of the “Gears” cover system. You can expect some hitches, such as rolling when you want to snap, and losing some of the more interesting mechanics from later releases. Still, it’s amazing how well “Gears 1” functions as a 2015 release, this really feels like a very modern Triple-A title.
In addition to all the original game’s content and DLC (Downloadable Content) as well as the PC version’s exclusive maps, you’ll also be treated to a few new chapters that were previously cut before the game’s original launch. Ultimately, it’s easy to see why it was cut: there are lots of tight spaces that make it difficult to maneuver, especially when you have sections with all four squad members. You should really play this section in co-op as the game’s friendly A.I simply isn’t up to snuff. That said, there is a thrilling new boss fight at the end that makes it almost worth it.
The presentation is predictably the most enhanced part of ultimate edition: New textures and lighting have been applied to every area of the game and it looks fantastic. This is helped in part by just how diverse “Gears” locales are. Each chapter feels distinct and is given new life in this version, from nightfall in Chapter Two the glowing “imulsion” mines – all in glorious 1080p, and in multiplayer, a smooth 60fps frame buffer. As icing on the cake, all the cutscenes have been completely redone with new motion-captured animations and are a real visual treat. The audio, on the other hand, is a straight port from the original game, albeit with new Dolby 7.1 support. “Gears’s” soundtrack is still just as excellent today as it was in 2006.
Without a doubt “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” is how a remaster should be done, fully respecting the original vision and further refining the game to look just like nostalgia would have you remember it, and is definitely worth the $40 asking price.