Nine years ago, Gears of War popularized the third-person cover shooter. Its storyline-heavy campaign made you care about its cast far more than the “dudebro” characters would initially indicate. Beyond a deeper storyline than many would expect, it also brought cover-based shooting to the masses. While the PS2/Xbox release Kill.Switch had it first, that game was doomed by being a latter-day release on those platforms. Gears made cover shooting popular and resulted in one of the 360’s biggest original IPs. Now, with the former Black Tusk rechristened as The Coalition, the original game is being brought to the Xbox One with one of the most impressive remakes out there.
The game is being rebuilt from the original code, so nothing is going to be lost. Instead, they’re aiming to make full use of the Xbox One’s power — so instead of playing a game that looks like a better-looking last-generation game, you’re getting some crafted with the current generation of hardware in mind. This has been a generation of “remasters” and “remakes” to such a degree that actual current gen-only games seem fewer in number, or at least less important than in years past. Fans have become bitter towards the concept as the point of new hardware is to provide new experiences and not just relive old ones.
However, Gears of War Ultimate Edition is being handled like a Greatest Hits album that has everything you’d want from an album like that alongside a whole slew of new content. Ideally, this will allow you to make new memories in both areas you’re replaying and in new content as well. Everything has been rebuilt with 1080p textures and with 60fps action. Cutscenes have been redone with increased assets and that will pay off even more with new motion capture too. On the surface, it may seem like too many changes are being made — but so far, they appear to just pull you further into the game. Increased graphical deal on faces means that scarring is now far more intricate, and for a war-based game, that drives home the damage being done to the characters.
The original Gears’ multiplayer was a huge deal, but it’s been updated now. You now have matchmaking, spectator mode, and team deathmatch modes. Five new chapters have been added from the PC version, and king of the mountain is here. The online multiplayer beta just finished up and really showed off how impressive the in-game graphics are. While it’s impossible to get a feel for how the new motion capture will be since there aren’t any cinematics for multiplayer, the graphical upgrades might be worth buying the game all over again. Character models have far more detail, and the scales on the Locusts’ bodies are frighteningly lifelike.
Gears 3 gameplay enhancements are planned to be placed in Ultimate, and all told, this should offer up the best multiplayer experience for the series so far. As someone who enjoyed the 360 franchise, but wasn’t won over by the multiplayer, I was impressed by even the limited offerings here. In the public beta, only a couple of modes were selectable between ranked and unranked matches — so mode selection can’t be judged so far. Its smoothness online can be judged to some degree, and it’s impressive right now. After probably ten hours of play, no lag was encountered and everything was silky smooth constantly.
Gears of War Ultimate is set for release on August 25 and will seemingly usher in a new era for the franchise. Beyond the full game featuring a beta for Gears of War 4, if this remake style is well-received, it could result in the entire series being revamped completely for the Xbox One and PC platforms. This might seem like a horribly anti-consumer move on one level — but giving people an option to enjoy something at a higher quality is never bad, and backwards compatibility for the 360’s Gears games does seem likely on the Xbox One. Long-time players should give it a shot, and series newcomers have the best possible starting point to jump off with too.