It’s 9 years since we were introduced to the Gears of War franchise. A game which, at the time, revolutionised 3rd person shooters with the specific option to hide behind a wall. It’s 9 years since we met Marcus Fenix and his team, Dominic, The Cole Train and Baird. 9 years since I was 21… just for some perspective.
Gears of War 1 is the latest game to get the remake treatment, and it’s probably in the ‘allowed to be remade section given its age. Still, it has to warrant the remake to get in our good books, and with a chainsaw attached to a gun as the primary weapon and a ton of bro-op testosterone, it’s hard to think that it wouldn’t.
It’s still Gears of War
For those that don’t know, Gears of War is a third person action shooter set in a sort of dystopian future city. In this future the humans have been attacked by an alien race called the Locust who will stop at nothing to destroy humanity and take over the planet. You take control of Marcus Fenix, one of the Gears and his squad, in an attempt to take down the Locust stronghold and get rid of them forever.
It’s an action-packed 8-10 hours of gameplay that will have you running and gunning from the word go. The story was always considered on the weak side, even though it has an interesting plot, but if you don’t take it too seriously, it’s incredibly enjoyable throughout.
War can be beautiful too
When it comes to remastered games it’s usually all about the graphical update, and that is something Gears of War gets completely right. Gears of War was a great looking game back in the day (would you believe it if I told you I remember playing it on a 54cm SDTV?) and was initially the benchmark for Xbox 360 games. Despite its generally dull palette the game looked amazing with some excellent player models and environments to run through.
This time around the game hits HD with full 1080p and it looks absolutely stunning, especially for something that takes place during a war. The character models have excellent detail and some of enemies (particularly the Brumak) look brilliant.
The environments are richly detailed and no matter whether you are running through the mud and rain, or through an underground passage or, of course, the Fenix estate, everything just looks excellent and really adds to the game in terms of the remake. If you thought Gears looked good before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
War can be fun right?
The gameplay in Gears of War Ultimate Edition remains true to the original. The cover shoot system is still one of the best I have ever played with and the active reload is still a fantastic inclusion. Something that most games have never built on.
The weapons were always a big part of the game and all your favourites return here. Whether you use the Lancer Assault rifle and the chainsaw, or the Hammerburst, or the Boltok, or the Torque Bow or everyone’s favourite the Gnasher Shotgun or I could go on and name every weapon because they are all so awesome… no matter what you use you are going to love it because it just feels so well balanced.
While the action and entertainment never dies down, I did have some issues with the AI and I just can’t remember if it was buggy in the original or if this is a new problem. The issue related to my AI teammates who for a majority of the time were completely ignorant of their surroundings.
For instance, that terrifying part when you first encounter a Berserker, Dom would just stand in the open unaware of this monster attacking us. Worse still is that if Dom dies you have to restart the section. This happened maybe 10 times before I could finally get past the section. It happened at other times too where I would want to go attack some enemies but all my teammates would stick to their hiding positions three rooms back instead of joining me. Even if I used the commands it did this. I don’t know if this was a common issue or if I was just unlucky, but it was annoying to say the least.
Other than that problem everything else worked well and I had a great time replaying and reliving some of those epic moments in the game. There’s nothing quite like taking down a Boomer or a Seeder with the Hammer of Dawn.
Bro-op of War
One of the best things about Gears of War is that you can play the entire campaign in co-op mode. This can be with a buddy online or on the couch and, like most games, it definitely adds to the enjoyment. Due to some online constraints of my own I only briefly managed to test the co-op online, and it worked just perfectly. Offline split-screen was excellent too so if you have a friend that you like to play MP with, there’s nothing quite like some couch co-op. It also negates the AI issue above, thankfully.
The best things in War are multiplayer
Gears of War, back in the day, was some of the greatest multiplayer action one could have. It had some incredible maps and modes and was honestly the epitome of fun. The Multiplayer returns in the Ultimate Edition with every single map from the original and from the PC version.
I was only able to play a limited amount of multiplayer because of my internet constraints, so I will have to update you on this during the week when more people are playing and I can find games easier. The brief bit I played was an absolute blast and reminded me why I loved Gears and multiplayer online gaming to start with.
Multiplayer can be played online or offline, and public and private games. All your modes return, and then some. This includes Execution, Warzone, Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Blitz, Assassination, Annex and last but not least, Gnasher Execution (a favourite for sure).
With all these different modes and the guaranteed, new 60fps action, Gears of War online is as smooth as you have ever seen it making for some frantic online action. It’s kind of a pity that a Horde mode wasn’t included considering its popularity later on in the series, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Apart from the graphics overhaul and the fresh animations, Gears of War Ultimate Edition brings 5 new chapters into the game. If you remember the original feeling like it missed some dialogue or plot points, these are now filled in with the extra bits. I can’t say it changed the game dramatically for me, but it was nice to see the bits that were originally missing.
The game has a set of unlockables too as you discover COG tags throughout the game, which unlocks comic books telling more of the story. Then there is concept art from each level and mission which gives you an idea of how the visuals were put together.
Don’t Warry, be happy
If you were concerned that Gears had aged badly or wasn’t going to be worth a purchase you are very wrong. The graphics look amazing and the gameplay is as fun as you remember it being. Epic moments relived make it worth the buy and worth the time, and of course that multiplayer is something special if you have enough people playing.
The AI might have annoyed me but it might be an isolated issue. Gears is still very much one of the best third person shooters you will ever play and I just really hope they eventually remake the other 3 games. I need some more Cole TRAIN BABY WHOOOOOOOOOOO!