It’s hard to imagine that nine years have passed since the original Gears of War was released and forever changed the third-person shooter genre. Nearly every action game that followed borrowed gameplay elements from Bleszinski’s talented team. Understandably, it was only a matter of time before Microsoft decided to release an HD remake of their acclaimed franchise. But, is a decade-old game with a new paint job enough to mask Microsoft’s recent hiccups? To a degree, yes, even if the gameplay elements that made GOW so revolutionary in 2006 no longer carry the same weight.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition may appear like another piece of padding in an industry deprived of ideas, and this HD-remake does more to point out how far the genre has evolved. Nevertheless, Games like Gears of War carry a certain timelessness that leaves little room for major criticism. If nothing else, the Ultimate Edition is a great way to re-experience a beloved classic with new hardware.
"A part of me is mesmerized by the impressive visual overhaul and the characters’ persistent charm, while another part of me struggles with the now archaic gameplay."
After spending several days with both singleplayer and multiplayer modes, I’m still torn between loving Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, and coping with a sense of disappointment. A part of me is mesmerized by the impressive visual overhaul and the characters’ persistent charm, while another part of me struggles with the now archaic gameplay. That’s not to say GOW plays poorly, it’s just that it lacks the same impact it once had.
The remake has been tweaked in a few key areas by incorporating elements from the original Gears of War 3 to streamline the UI and overall responsiveness. The ability to switch weapons while running or evading is a nice touch, too. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the countless third person shooters over the years, but when the act of reloading a gun is more satisfying than actually firing it, I begin to wonder whether certain gameplay changes could have benefited from further refinement.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition looks stunning. Every single level has been completely redone with higher-resolution textures, improved lighting, and, of course, better anti-aliasing. The revamped visuals are at least partially responsible for the occasional fps dips during hectic battles, but the world is so much richer and believable that it’s almost worth it. Unfortunately, I’ve also encountered a few major bugs. On multiple occasions, I had to restart entire levels because a checkpoint wouldn’t load or a character/vehicle would get stuck in the environment. None of these issues are deal breakers, but considering this is Gears of War we’re talking about, it comes off as a little lazy.
"Having the action run at an uneven 30fps makes everything look and feel sluggish. It’s particularly disappointing in comparison to the smoother multiplayer mode, which runs at a flawless 60fps."
It’s also a shame that the single player portion is limited to 30fps. I don’t buy the “cinematic” excuse for a second. This is an action game that relies on quick reflexes and fast controller response. Having the action run at an uneven 30fps makes everything look and feel sluggish. It’s particularly disappointing in comparison to the smoother multiplayer mode, which runs at a flawless 60fps. Sacrificing some heavy post-processing filters in favor of a higher frame rate would have been a much better choice here.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a solid, albeit unimpressive HD remake. With Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection offering three full games at 60fps just around the corner, GOW comes off as a bit lazy and barren. The 19 classic multiplayer maps, a few digital comics, and the Early Access to Gears of War 4 Multiplayer Beta can’t hide the fact that you’re only getting a small portion of what should have been a full HD trilogy collection. And no, having access to downloadable, digital versions of the original GOW sequels does not count. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is worth picking up if you’re a die-hard fan or new to the series, but if you already own the original Xbox 360 version, you won’t be missing much by waiting for a price drop.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox One