Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is the culmination of some of the best aspects of the Gears of War franchise. Elements from Gears of War 3 and the PC release combined with the original to make Ultimate Edition the definitive Gears of War experience. Can the newly dubbed The Coalition deliver on recreating this long standing franchise, or is it doomed to follow in the footsteps of the Master Chief Collection? Rev your chainsaws to find out!
Developer: The Coalition
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Format: Xbox one
Release Date: August 25th, 2015
Copy provided by publisher
Back in 2006, Gears of War was release on the Xbox 360 featuring what seemed like thousands of locust, great graphics, and a cover system that blew away first time users. It quickly became a staple franchise for the Xbox and must-have for any shooter fan. Now, nearly ten years later, The Coalition (formerly known as Black Tusk Studios) has breathed life back into the series in a way that other remasters could only hope to attain.
Right from the very beginning, the striking improved visuals are immediately apparent. Gears has always been criticized for its fondness in shades of brown and the UE has corrected that oversight. Now everything from the characters armor and gunfire to the lights on the street, the textures shine compared to their old rusted look.
The campaign itself is as crazy as ever with Delta-One (Marcus, Dom, Cole, and Baird) take the fight to the locust after E-day. From the hulking characters, to the ridiculously large weapons and funny banter, playing through the UE campaign brought back nothing but good memories from my early Xbox 360 days. Not to mention a sense of awe on just how far technology has come. Gears of War was a technical marvel in the console realm at the time. It’s fair to say that UE also ruined that mystique with it’s vast improvements.
The main new addition to the campaign are the five extra chapters which were later added to the PC release of Gears of War. These chapters take place in the beginning of act five, after escaping the mansion and before boarding the train in the finale. Without spoiling too much, the chapters feature all-out battles in a theater, parking garage, power station, and culminate in a boss battle of epic proportions. What made these chapters even more enjoyable was how seamlessly they integrated within the story.
Finishing the campaign solo on Insane did have a few drawbacks. For one, the AI teammates are useless. A small, yet worth mentioning, issue I kept running into was when my teammates would run back and forth because they either didn’t know what to do, or I was in the piece of cover they wanted to be in. Granted this was a very minor complaint for me, but it happened enough that I feel it’s worth mentioning. Another is the infamous “walkie talkie” sections. You know the ones. Those sections spread throughout the entire campaign in which you are forced to walk very slowly with your hand to your ear as someone on the other end of the radio talks to you. It’s one of the few memories I wouldn’t have minded them ruining. Even my girlfriend who can barely look and walk at the same time got annoyed with it!
Enough with the campaign, this is what made Gears. The wall-bouncing, the Gnasher, Gridlock, Canals, GEARS IS BACK BABY! Ultimate Edition is the most complete multiplayer experience for Gears of War. There are tons of maps, game modes, and features. Some new and some taken from later entries. Let’s go over them all shall we?
There are a total of 19 multiplayer maps, 8 game modes, and 3 playlists including Competitive, Social, and Private match. All of the maps have received the 1080p polish and the entire multiplayer is a smooth 60 framers per second. New additions include being able to choose your spawn point among teammates by pressing the start button in the lobby. The first person to press start spawns in front, second spawns on the left, and so on. Spotting enemy players from Gears of War 3 also sees a return.
There are three new standout game modes: Team Deathmatch, Blitz, and Gnasher Execution. Team Deathmatch is your typical shooter game mode but a first to the Gears franchise. It’s great to see a mixture of one-life and respawn game modes on display in Ultimate Edition. Blitz is a fast paced, frantic variant of King of the Hill. In Blitz, players must remain inside the ring to gain points, and ring captures are instant. The spawns are also not restricted to the initial base spawns as they are in KOTH. In my time with the game, this was easily the most enjoyable game mode. Finally, there is Gnasher Execution, a shotgun-only game mode set in a secluded section of War Machine called Boxes. With little room to move, and no weapon pick-ups on the map, this is a pure shotgun-fest for the hardcore. The Competitive Playlist is limited to 2v2, but private matches allow anything from 1v1 to 4v4.
Private matches also allow you to tweak certain settings to your preference. Want to turn off the added damage from Active Reloads? Or how about making the Respawn time two seconds? Should Self-revive be turned on? All of these and more are at your disposal to adjust. There’s also two additional player slots for spectators. No need to argue about host advantage anymore, simply have a friend host and spectate the match.
Although I have not yet tried the matchmaking, I was able to play for ten hours with a mixture of reviewers, popular streamers (LikeButterLive and Prod1gyX), QA testers from The Coalition, and competitive players (Kenny Bounce and CrReam) in private matches. Being a veteran of the Gears franchise and a huge fan of the first entry, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition does the multiplayer of the franchise justice. It feels amazing, it plays amazing, and it looks amazing. The Coalition has struck the perfect balance between keeping old elements and adding new ones. One such example is the fact that weapon sliding is still present.
The number of customization options are abundant as well. There are at least 8 COG characters, 7 Locust characters, and 18 weapon skins. I say “at least” because there are extra characters locked behind level progression that I have not obtained (such as Kantus). These are all of course just cosmetic items, but their unique appearance (especially the weapon skins) helps to mix things up from time to time and separate yourself from the pack.
The matchmaking in Gears of War: Ultimate functions slightly differently than previous entries in the series. Players are now able to leave a lobby after being match up with an opposing team. An even more interesting feature is how the match will automatically start after one is completed. So as long as players don’t back out, matches can be played in quick succession. The new matchmaking system is also based on servers and does a good job at matching you with equally ranked opponents. With servers ranging from the United States and Europe; Japan and Australia, South East Asia and Latin America, most should be satisfied.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is not only the best remastered game I’ve played on the Xbox One, it’s one of the best shooters available on the system period. The Coalition has done an amazing job at balancing what made the original trilogy special, while enhancing and improving upon it. The campaign is as fun and challenging as ever, and the multiplayer is buttery smooth. The sheer amount of content and polish in this one package puts other remasters to shame. For fans of Xbox, Gears of War, and shooters, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a must buy.
+ Improved Graphics
+ Bonus Campaign Chapter
+ Gnasher Execution
+ Amount of Content (maps, modes, characters, etc.)
+ Balance Between New Mechanics and Old Improvements
– Campaign AI
– Slow Walking Sections
Score: 9/10 “Amazing”
What I Played: Completed the solo campaign on Insane, tried a few missions in online and local co-op, played 10 hours of private matches on various maps and game modes with a variety of players, all while obtaining 35/56 achievements.