When Gears of War originally released back in 2006, I was just 11 years old, and the game marked my first proper foray into the world of video games. Gears of War Ultimate Edition reminds me of why I held the original in such high esteem, but the remaster isn’t without its missteps.
The game still mechanically functions as one of – if not the – greatest third person shooter ever made. The combat, whether in close quarters or massive, open firefights, still feels solid and is a complete blast to play through. The variety of weapons and enemies that the campaign offers adds a new dimension to the combat, always forcing you to move from cover to cover, rarely ever able to stay in the same place for too long.
The plot and characters are still likeable an foolproof, if nothing more. Marcus is still gruff, Dom and Cole are still dynamic, and Baird is still a dick. While the characters in the original Gears of War were nothing special, they still aren’t here, but it’s the games sense of survival horror that really gives a meaningful edge to otherwise a redundant, and sometimes boring ensemble cast.
The survival horror aspect was absolutely gripping in the original game back in 2006, and holds up to varying degrees in the Ultimate Edition. I’ve heard reports that cinematic scenes were entirely redone for the Ultimate Edition, and in some cases it definitely shows. Take for example the first time the squad encounter a beserker, and how it rips that poor soldier apart. In the original game, all you could see was the silhouette of him getting torn to shreds, but this time around his decapitated head gets thrown back into view. It’s a small thing, but The Coalition really didn’t have to touch this for it to still be as effective as it was almost 10 years ago, and I couldn’t help feel as though it lessened the horror atmosphere.
While the campaign is still fantastic, there have been a few new levels added in to the beginning of chapter 5, that were apparently only available on the PC edition originally. These don’t add anything particularly new to the game, and you could almost say it makes the final act of the game slightly too long and drawn out, since the original Gears of War campaign was exactly the perfect length at around 5 hours long. In addition to this, there’s a particularly poorly designed level where you encounter a Brumak, and the fight threatens to completely throw out the entire survival horror, close quarters feel that the game absolutely nails elsewhere.
The combat throughout the campaign is intense, and the feeling somewhat translates back to the multiplayer mode of Gears of War Ultimate Edition. The online content of the original game was fascinating to play, and I fully admit to sinking entire days into the multiplayer portion of the game when I was younger. The Coalition haven’t felt the need to tweak too much with the online combat, and that’s a very good decision on their part, since the entire thing still holds up brilliantly, even if the shotgun is admittedly still a bit too overpowered.
For some unknown reason, The Coalition have felt the need to give certain sections of the game a colour change. Perhaps they were going for a more vibrant look for the game, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Once again going back to the first Beserker scene, the studio have felt the need to have the hallway well lit with vibrant orange flames, which completely undercuts the atmosphere of dread and claustrophobia that the original Gears of War worked so hard to install within the player.
Gears of War Ultimate Edition is an absolutely fantastic game to play, and undoubtedly remains one of the greatest third person shooters ever made. The combat is intense and barely ever lets up, and while The Coalition have muddled the survival horror aspects of the game in various places, the overall feel of the game remains fundamentally sound.