Back in 2006, Epic Games released the original Gears of War game, one that ranked pretty well on many media outlets, was well received by fans, and won various awards from many organizations. Needless to say, the game was a complete success and the IP inspired the developer to push the franchise further, thus releasing sequels over the next years.
At the time it was conceived, it was running on the Unreal 3 Engine, which gave it the Guinness World Record of “First Console Game to Use the Unreal 3 Engine”. Additionally, it won the “Faster Selling Original Xbox 360 Game”, and “First Music Single to Top the Chart After Promoting a Video Game”. These feats put both Gears of War and Epic Games on the map, especially towards the Xbox owners, since the game was initially released on Xbox 360 as an exclusive title; it later came out on Microsoft. After being bought by Microsoft, developers The Coalition and Splash Damage have worked hard to bring Epic’s award-winning title back to life by remastering it and releasing it as Gears of War: Ultimate Edition.
At first glance, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition looks fantastic; the cinematic look a good as they can be. Upon starting your experience, you are introduced to this newly remastered game with the same nostalgic cut-scene of Dominic Santiago (Dom) heading to Marcus Fenix’s cell and handing over his confiscated gears and weapons. There is a flamboyant visual difference in between the original Xbox 360 version and this remastered edition, but unfortunately, as good as the game looks, the issue of aliasing is noticeable. Fortunately, these manifestations aren’t imposing enough to ruin your experience with the title.
As far at it goes, the level of detail was strongly altered; everything is more detailed and a lot more visually accurate. This helps the game strive, yes, but it also helps in making it look a lot sharper and distinguished from it original Xbox 360 built. The best part of it all has to be while stuck in the middle of combat, when a lot is going on. On Xbox 360, the game didn’t have any important visual mishaps; the Xbox One version holds the flame up high.
If this is your first experience with Gears of War, then you will be happy to learn that the game puts you in situations where you have to feel uneasy. The game especially does that when you find yourself in a darker room. However, regardless of the lighting situation going on, it delivers a visual experience on its own thanks to the gruesome look on Locust’s faces, the graphic potluck of elements coinciding together, and the rare “wow” views.
As you start along and take over control of the rebellious Marcus Fenix, you find yourself forced into accepting the mission given to you by Dom. Although the lead obviously isn’t your position, you are weirdly enough the one handling this role. After getting acquainted with the control scheme, action starts; the Locust Horde want your skin, and they want it really bad. In order to destroy all of them, they need to initially “map” out the tunnels created by the evil swarm. As they get closer to their main objective, they encounter heavier and heavier Locust resistance, with the eventual confrontation of General RAAM, an eight-feet high imposing Locust general mandated to secure and protect the Lightmass bomb, the COG’s only hope of survival against the horde.
Throughout this gameplay experience, you will meet other members of COG. This is when the drop-in drop-out cooperation system comes in handy; you can have friends or other online players join you at any given time and aid you against the Locusts, how ever troublesome they can be. Of course, easier levels can be come a fun experience with other players, but as you challenge the harder difficulties, you will find yourself in need of communication for coordination and job assignment purposes. At that point, you truly discover what Gears of War can be all about.
Speaking of difficulty levels, Gears of War features a total of four: Casual, Normal, Hardcore and Insane. Initially, Normal was not available in the original Gears of War game; it was introduced later on, with the release of Gears of War 2. While Casual and Normal are pretty straight to the point, they teach you the basics quite well and prepare you for Hardcore. As for Insane, it is a difficulty level that demands you to know the game almost inside-out. There, the enemies are a lot tougher and require more hits than regular, their accuracy has been amazingly increased, and their attacks deal a lot more damage. In short, get hit with two shots and you are pretty much done for. Patience and careful targeting will take you a long way, up until the moment when you will have to pick up the pace a little.
The Ultimate Edition offers a little more than what the original does. Set aside the visual upgrades, the audio and special effects sound a lot sharper and more distinguished. As for the gameplay experience, the addition of the Normal mode is a great way to prepare casual players for the Hardcore and Insane mode. Unfortunately, the split screen feature drags the couch multiplayer experience by the tail and makes the game look really bad and unpolished, especially thanks to the screen being square and centered instead of fitting the whole space allocated. Wide screens have never been the best option for spit screen play, but nevertheless, many other games seem to be able to pull it off way better than Gears of War.
This Gears of War title might be a remastered edition of the classic title of the franchise, but overall, it offers the same great and memorable experience. Whether you play with friends at home or online, the Insane mode really tests your skill as a player by making you dependant of your aiming and most importantly, your perfect reloading. Gears of War loves to put you under massive pressure, but as long as you don’t succumb to it, you should be able to take down your enemies without being harmed too much. Boss battles, however, will require you to use a lot more mind power; evading and positioning will have a more important role then than against regular hordes of Locust scum.
I have always been a huge fan of the Gears of War series and now, I am trilled to see it remastered and released on the Xbox One console. As a gamer and critic, I was expecting great things from this instalment, and to be quite honest, I was half expecting a disaster. However, after giving it a run – I even tested out the Insane mode – I noticed that the game has increased in quality. Unfortunately, the split screen mode single-handedly dragged it down from its masterpiece status.
Gears of War isn’t all about single player, the best fun you can have is buy playing it with friends. As long as you are all communicating together, though battles and encounters will be a breeze to get by, well almost. Since you’re are limited to use but a portion of your screen while in slit screen mode, the experience you get really loses its value and the game turns from a challenging masterpiece to an frustrating nightmare. Of course, you have the option of simply not adventuring into this feature, but then again, it wouldn’t be a proper Gears title.