I have a long and storied history with the whole Gears of War franchise. When I bought my first Xbox, a 360 that my lovely wife treated me to out of the blue, it came with Gears 2, Halo 3: ODST and Forza 3, and I have now formed a strong attachment to two of the three franchises. I just never really got Halo; it never clicked with me. I realise as I type those words that that is heresy in the Xbox world, but it’s true. Anyway, having played Gears 2 on my own Xbox 360, and having played the first game previously on my dad’s Xbox 360 (he turned 76 this year, and asked for Sekiro for his birthday), I obviously had to buy the first game and beat it.
So, with the announcement of a remastered version, the titular Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, all the memories of playing Gears the first time came flooding back. Running through the campaign with a friend on insane difficulty, seeing all the twists and turns, the insane set pieces, wondering why the future destroyed world had so much waist-high cover in it; all these things and more ran through my head. I may have run around the living room a little bit, squeaking, but soon regained my composure. It’s telling that my first writer’s bio for TheXboxHub, “Really wants a remake of Gears of War“, appeared. That should give you some idea of how much I was the target demographic for this remake.
The remaster was developed by The Coalition, and to be honest I feel it was a good way to hand the torch to the new studio that would be taking the franchise into the future. It gave Microsoft a way of seeing what their new studio could do, it gave The Coalition a chance to show off their skills, and it gave us lucky Xbox One owners a chance to play a great game, updated for modern hardware.
And what a treat it was! Seeing the visuals with their new lick of shiny HD paint, seeing the way the world was always meant to look, seeing Lt. Kim getting killed in glorious colour and in 4K… it was a revelation. Seeing the Berserker boss delivered with a new visual look was a terrifying thing, seeing the Locust up close and fragging them with a Gnasher, it was all lovely. And the story was left pretty much alone, which was a good move as any changes would have outraged the fanboys like me. Despite some rumblings from the serious media about how the story had not aged well, I disagreed; I’m a fair believer in the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and to me the storyline was, and remains, a cracker.
This new look carried over into the multiplayer side of the coin as well. Now, I have written before about how as I have grown older, I’m more interested in co-op experiences than competitive multiplayer, and this attitude stems in a large part from the world of Gears. I have loved and played more Horde matches than is probably good for me, but I absolutely suck at the PvP side, and get comprehensively wrecked whenever I try to play it. Still, this was nothing more than a flashback to the original game, as by the time I tried the multiplayer side, the second game in the series was out, and the people left playing it knew every inch of the maps. And yep, they had the infamous cover bounce down. Trying to aim down the sights with a Gnasher got me killed, trying to chainsaw got me killed, and don’t even get me started on the Longshot specialists!
So, was everything rosy with the launch of the remaster, the so-called Ultimate Edition? Well, sadly, it wasn’t. Having an Xbox One X and a 4K TV should have been a ticket to Gears gaming nirvana, but sadly there was an issue. You see, I thought it may have been my console at first, but trying to play in 4K and in UHD made the game look weird. It turned out that playing in this display mode caused the brightness, colour and sharpness to fluctuate, making things very difficult to watch, frankly. It was extremely distracting, and sadly there wasn’t a patch for it – the only fix was to dive into the settings and set the display mode to 1080p, which solved it. It was galling to have a £500 uber-console and have to hobble it to make a game run, but that’s all I could do. The Windows version, released six months later, also had display difficulties at the start, but as you’d expect for the PC crowd a patch was hurriedly released that went a long way towards fixing the issues.
So, these then are my memories of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Xbox One. I loved that the game didn’t change, I loved that the action was as raw and bloody as always, and most of all I loved the way that the new HD visuals made it look like a genuinely ruined world. How about you guys out there in Readerland? Did you play the remake? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!