Considering I’ve enjoyed many hours of play from the entire Gears series over the years (even Judgement), I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the thought of the original Gears of War getting the re-mastered treatment. With backwards compatibility just around the corner for the masses, if I want to play Gears then can’t I just play it in its original glory without shedding out more cash? Nevertheless I’m going to give the Gears of War Ultimate Edition a fair chance to impress me with all its enhancements.
For anyone not clued up about the Gears saga, the story here is that a Locust horde has emerged from below an Earth-like planet’s surface to rein supreme and destroy the human population. Many years later we take control of the main protagonist Marcus Fenix as he joins up with the Gears team, forming the Delta squad, in the hope of bringing down the Locust threat once and for all.
The Campaign plays out across five acts in total and aims to test your third-person shooter skills at all times. Barely a second goes by where you aren’t being attacked from one angle or another, regardless of the difficulty level. And that’s what set Gears apart for me, unlike other shooters where getting into cover meant popping out and picking enemies off at your own leisure, in this they’ll come directly for you, so there’s no slacking whatsoever. It’s rather intense and in no way should you rely on the A.I. team mates to alleviate that intensity.
Armed with just a Lancer rifle, a Snub Pistol and maybe even a Gnasher Shotgun, if you’ve picked one up along the way, it really forces you to play smart. New enemy types pop up at pretty regular intervals, thus sometimes a completely new weapon comes with their soon-to-be dead bodies or the weapons are just lay around for usage on the next, scary looking Locust variation.
Enemies are, surprisingly, the key to keeping the story fresh in this generally dark and dingy post-apocalyptic looking world. Even just variety in the standard Locust soldiers using different weapons keeps you on your toes with how to tackle an onslaught from them. Chuck in a few explosive Wretch creatures that bounce around like they are hyped up on caffeine, some overweight Locusts called Boomers whom just have one word in their vocabulary (“Boom”) and a mentally unstable, seemingly invincible Berserker, and you’ve got a recipe for pure chaos.
Whether you decide to go it alone or grab a friend for two player co-op, it’ll take a good ten hours at least for even seasoned Gears of War gamers to complete; longer if you intend to grab all the collectible COG Tags. You’ll be thinking this has been a rather positive take on this offering up to now and it is because there’s no doubting the idea and story is pretty darn cool. Let’s not get too carried away though, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news… the multiplayer sucks.
I’ll clarify that. Okay, not all of it does suck, but mainly for anyone who enjoys using the Gnasher Shotgun, it’s rather screwed up. It was noticeable during the campaign that when you get up close and personal with the ugly looking beasts, a shotgun to the body either sent pieces flying in the air or did absolutely nothing. I could work around it with the A.I. enemies but online is unforgiving. The aim of my weapon suggests it’s not me and when this happens in the more competitive environment of online multiplayer, it renders Gnasher users out of control of their own fate.
The fact that they are almost the opposite, instead being completely over-powered from range is extremely baffling; I’ve often had my head popped off in what would usually be considered a harmless enough distance away from the enemy. That’s just half the problem though.
In the later games in the Gears of War series, humans were replaced with bots when people quit out during a match. Maybe it was naivety to expect the developers to do that for this re-master, but it should’ve been done because it is rife with quitters. I wasn’t enjoying the online side anyway, however being left on my own to face a team of up to four opponents just added fuel to my burning issue.
Frustrating doesn’t even begin to cover it when there are plenty of versus modes such as Warzone, King of the Hill, Assassination and Annex (although this one is only available for private matches). If you add the 20 maps into the mix too, it’s set up on paper to be a great multiplayer experience. My favourite maps like Gridlock won’t be getting a look in this time around unless changes are made, which seem unlikely to happen.
What new stuff does the re-mastered Ultimate Edition bring to the table? Improved visuals would be the most noticeable enhancement and the inclusion of the previously PC exclusive chapters. They’re nothing special but at least most won’t have played them before. There are also five comic books to unlock by collecting COG Tags, which are a decent read. Oddly, I believe the best reason to actually purchase this would be to own the entire digital collection of the Gears series so far. Basically if you own and play the Gears of War Ultimate Edition before the end of 2015, you’ll get them all to play via the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility program.
I’d have loved to have seen some of the Gears of War 3 features incorporated to make this original Gears of War a fresher experience for those who played it the first time round. Even if just the Onyx medals were brought in so there would be something more to work towards over the course of multiple playthroughs and online sessions.
For first time buyers there’s good value to be had from the Gears of Wars Ultimate Edition, but as a veteran I don’t feel that I needed to play a re-mastered version. Ultimately it’s left a slightly sour taste in my mouth.