It’s hard to believe, but almost nine years have passed since the first Gears of War debuted on Microsoft’s Xbox 360, kickstarting the rise of one of gaming’s most popular series. Since then, two sequels and a prequel have made their way to the popular, last-gen console, and confirmation of a current-gen sequel has surfaced.
After being revealed at June’s E3 expo, the original Gears of War experience is set to make a comeback this very week. Known as Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, it comes to Xbox One touting 1080p resolution and a plethora of content, including 60 FPS multiplayer, customizable settings, unlockable comics, tournament controls, additional game modes and all of the behemoth’s previously released DLC. As such, not only does the package come with 19 different multiplayer maps, but it also includes several campaign chapters that were formerly exclusive to the game’s PC port.
Gears of War is, of course, the story of Marcus Fenix, a COG soldier who was freed from jail well after everyone else had been pardoned. Wrongfully accused of betrayal, his time in prison was unjust, and his release comes at an opportune time as humanity is entrenched in a vicious war with an alien sect called the Locusts. Things are looking dire, too, although a promising plan has emerged. The only problem is that it involves going underground, where the enemy lives.
The iconic campaign continues to be fun, and hasn’t lost much in the years since its release. Sure, some of its animations are a bit dated, as are a couple of its mechanics, but its cover-based gunplay remains immersive and entertaining. Then again, this has never been a convoluted series, nor has it tried to do too much, so it’s not surprising that the gameplay remains fresh. There’s also inherent charm within what Epic originally crafted, as its millions of fans will attest to.
However, while its campaign was rather well-received, multiplayer was and continues to be the most popular part of Gears of War. It’s a testament to the unique, balanced and extremely competitive systems that Epic created — all of which remain fun almost a decade later. And, now that it boasts solid 60 FPS gameplay, as well as both skill-based matchmaking and dedicated servers, the game’s ever-challenging multiplayer suite has never been better.
Since we were sent a pre-release download code for Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, our time with its multiplayer mode was limited to a play session hosted by its testers. They didn’t skimp on things, though, because we ran through several different game modes over the course of more than an hour, and got to experience the enhancements first-hand. I’d also seen the game in action at E3, but never found the time to play it.
From the first minute until the last, our play session showcased fluid and beautiful multiplayer action across the King of the Hill, Blitz and Warzone mode variants. That, and a lot of my character’s blood, because I was definitely more than a little rusty going in. I’d expected that, though, because it’d been a while since I’d last played Gears‘ multiplayer.
The returning maps have never looked better, and The Coalition deserves credit for its work in updating their visuals. Comparison shots have shown impressive changes since Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was revealed, but there’s nothing like actually heading online and seeing the in-game difference with your own eyes. The same is true of the campaign’s visuals, which look markedly better in 1080p and benefit from completely redone cutscenes and noticeably more detailed character models.
Sadly, however, not all is perfect on the series’ fictional, Earth-like planet, Sera.
Although the multiplayer ran well during our time with it, the campaign — which has been reconfigured to allow for an easier casual difficulty mode and is advertised as being 30 FPS — isn’t flawless. However, don’t get me wrong and worry about it being unplayable or severely glitchy, because that isn’t the case. I did, however, notice some minor technical hiccups in the form of rare frame rate drops and a couple of graphics glitches. I also had to restart a chapter, because the wheel of the vehicle I was driving got stuck in a highway overpass and wouldn’t come loose. None of it was game breaking, though, nor did it mar the experience to anywhere near the point where I’d recommend against buying this remaster.
What really frustrated me, though, was an install issue that I was not alone in experiencing. Whatever the problem was, it caused the game to stop downloading several times. When it did this, I was forced to manually restart it, though I thankfully lost no progress whatsoever. I also had a similar issue while downloading Rare Replay‘s Jetpac Refuelled and Zombi though, so it’s likely a glitch within Xbox Live itself.
Hopefully all of the above will be fixed and/or patched soon, because apart from its problems, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a badass package. Say what you will about remasters as a whole, but The Coalition has done a rather solid job of bringing one of the Xbox 360’s best to a new generation of gamers.
This review is based on the Xbox One exclusive, which we were provided with.
Despite being almost a decade old, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition comes to Xbox One feeling fresh and having lost little over the years. The remaster job isn't perfect, though, and some slight technical issues do present themselves within the game's updated campaign.