Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
Perhaps the biggest failing is showing us just how far gaming has come in the years since Gears 1 was released. The grim setting has been taken and surpassed by the likes of Halo Reach which did the story telling and built this crumbling world and sense of hopelessness considerably better than Epic managed. The Delta Squad Characters especially Marcus Fenix and Cole Train now feels ridiculous almost like a bad wax work model of what you remember. It’s perhaps the Character models that are the most out of touch and whilst I appreciate it was all part of the visual style they just seem so out of touch and ridiculous. The Bromance and inter squad banter is still very present and comes across quite well sure it’s a bit one dimensional but a welcome distraction from all the death and misery.
Visually it’s still a stunning brown & grey world but with the extra resolution and new lighting models comes a new sense of desolation and destruction. The world has a little more colour this time which is a very welcome addition and there is more incidental detail that although largely just superfluous still helps cement the idea that the COG are losing and the world is really falling apart. Missing posters, burnt out building and cars litter the streets and show how unstoppable a force the Locust were.
The last few years haven’t done the Locust any favours in much the same way as the Delta Squad Characters. The first time you encounter them they were a scary, implacable enemy capable of over running your squad forcing quick reactions and frequent respawns but I’ve found them flat, dull and little more than bullet sponges. They spawn, take cover, and shoot a bit before falling under a few bullets or a shotgun blast. The AI is also poor by modern standards with enemy soldiers frequently standing in the open instead of using the available cover or just blindly charging forward into a hail of bullets. There is so much scope in this universe for a more tactical shooter especially with the cover mechanic that for the most part still works really well.
It’s not all negative by any means in fact some parts of Gears of War show us what modern shooters are missing. At it’s core Gears is a fun, arcade type shooter that rewards skilled players especially on the higher difficulties where the combat changes from simple almost boring to intense and pretty brutal. Death is rarely more than a second away & often at the end of a Locust Shotgun. Coming straight at the locust Horde is sure fire way to die bloody, making slow steady and methodical progress is the way to go especially on Insanity difficulty. Never does the game feel unfair or like the numerous death you will experience feel cheap they are usually the result of poor tactics or missing critical shots. Making effective use of cover and flanking are 100% the central element to success and the game feels so much better, so rewarding when you clear that troublesome Locust nest.
There is simply no escaping the fact that Games have moved on, grown up and Gears does in places feel like it’s from another generation. In some ways having it back is an overwhelmingly positive experience that really does show gaming on the right track. Comparing it to this Generations best shooters is unfair and kind of misses the point that Microsoft and to a lesser extent Epic Games wanted to make with the Gears Series. It’s not meant to compete with the likes of Bioshock, Halo or COD it’s meant to compliment them. To offer something a little different, more challenging and in it’s own way rewarding. Gears always felt a little confused at it’s core like it wasn’t sure if it wanted to be a hardcore shooter or a horror type shooter. In a way it takes the best from both but also the worst.
My biggest issue with this remaster isn’t the game, isn’t the story or any of the points I’ve mentioned above but it’s one of value for money. Compare this Ultimate Edition to say The Master Chief Collection which retails at the same cost and there is a massive difference. For £30 you got Halo 1, Halo 2 Remastered, Halo 3 and Halo 4 all at 1080p and with considerable investment in lighting and textures on 3 & 4. There is no mention of the other 2 Gears games getting the same treatment sure you get to download the 360 versions free of charge but it still feels like poor value for money. All that’s new is the campaign chapter and graphical overhaul of 1 title. A more appropriate price point would have been around £15 or flesh it out with way more content either at launch or in the future.
Overall my experience has been mostly positive and although i was a huge fan of the game first time round the niggly issues i had have grown and whilst not deal breakers it would have been nice to see them ironed out.
In a nutshell then Gears of War Ultimate edition is worth a purchase if you’re a fan of the genre but wait for the price drop to come. At £30 it’s simply poor value for money.