Gears of War Ultimate Edition brings a well needed graphical update but doesn’t give any real reason to come back to this nine year old game. The exciting gameplay changes that this series presented are a standard now causing the campaign to feel monotonous. Despite a much needed update to the color palette, the graphics haven’t been totally redone. The multiplayer remains strong and the added frame rate here is nice. Without some of the updates found in later entries to the series, this version of the first Gears of War seems more like something to tide us over before next year’s true sequel.
The original Gears of War (GoW) came out almost a decade ago and popularised a lot of game mechanics still used today in third person shooters. I personally found that without these fresh ideas that the gameplay seemed quite monotonous compared to what I have become used to with this franchise. These mechanics aren’t fresh but second nature now. A lot of the game boils down to moving forward, taking cover in every big room, and shooting the bullet sponge-like enemies. Having gone through the other three games to the series, it makes the first GoW title seem quite lacking compared to the excitement Epic Games pulled off in the later entries. Due to this, Ultimate Edition ends up feeling dated.
One of my primary grievances with GoW is how grey the entire game looked. Everything was in this restricted color palette and made the game look muddy. In Ultimate Edition they have changed this quite a bit. The environments look crisper and use much brighter colors throughout the game. This breathes new life into a game whose visuals I looked back on quite negatively. It is an incredibly appreciated addition that we saw in the later GoW games.
The downside to the visuals is that they don’t look as nice as the later parts of the franchise. The resolution has been increased this time around but the models still don’t look as good as they have. That isn’t to say this is only a bump in resolution since the environments have been updated a bit as well. It just doesn’t look like the game was truly overhauled in ways we have seen in other ‘remastered editions.’ This is readily apparent when you notice that the game only runs in 60 frames per second in the multiplayer. The campaign doesn’t match this at all which is a bummer since a huge part of this series is its story mode. It’s a let down that a lot of Ultimate Edition doesn’t look as good as possible.
This means that the multiplayer looks great and should excite competitive online players of the game. The 60 frames per second makes the action look smooth and really draws appeal to the online competitive modes. Some maps from other games are also included online but no new game modes. This is the biggest disappointment. Not having a Horde mode in a GoW game seems wrong. It would have been great to see this in the new resolution and increased frame rate. This causes the multiplayer to seem lacking as well to fans of the past few games.
When we look at the value proposition, this $40 budget price is giving new players a lot of content. Anyone playing Ultimate Edition online between now and December will be able to download all four 360 GoW titles for free through the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility feature. For anyone missing some of these older titles, Ultimate Edition is a pretty good way of grabbing them.
Gears of War Ultimate Edition feels a little half baked in what could have been done with this remaster. The great addition of color doesn’t hide the fact that the models aren’t as nice looking as they have been. Having 60 frames per second in the multiplayer causes the lengthy story to feel lacking. And without a Horde mode the multiplayer feels lacking too. The campaign doesn’t hold up years later when compared to how much the sequels improved on. If you are new the franchise, or might have missed some of the later games, then this becomes a great deal at its budget price. For most, you might be better off waiting for the already announced Gears of War 4.