I remember the first time I played Gears of War. I was late to the party because right around when it was initially released I had sold my Xbox 360 never to return to the platform. But I had heard such amazing things about the game and one Christmas about 2 years later I found myself at my cousin's house with a lonely Xbox 360 sitting there with a Gears of War disc ready to take the plunge. So with high expectations and great anticipation I loaded up the first chapter in what I was told was an epic experience. I was thoroughly and completely underwhelmed.
Gears of War is a cover based third-person shooter known for it's over the top style and gorgeous graphics. But it is decidedly not my cup of tea. I find the default aiming stick to be way too flighty and the movement of the characters to be way too heavy. It's like your right thumbstick is swimming in molasses while your left is whacked out on PCP. This is a rare game designed for consoles but with a control scheme that translates so much better to mouse and keyboard. The environments are well detailed but extremely linear and the end result of the combat mechanics for me seem to be a struggle against a bad control scheme more than my opponent. Yes, occasionally a machine gunner grabs the controls of a turret and I might get a rare opportunity to properly flank and take them out. But those moments seem the exception, not the rule. What is even more sparse are those truly jaw dropping sequences. Those type of boss battles and mid game events that immerse you in the experience. I just don't get that with Gears of War. There is nothing in this game that comes close to some of the epic sequences found in the Uncharted series, for example. There are attempts: at one point you get a war junker to get behind the wheel of. But instead of following that up with some fast paced flight to save your comrades, you plod along a wide track with only crushable window-dressing as path obstacles and have to alternate between shooting a very underwhelming enemy and trudging on behind the wheel for a few more meters. Like everything in the game, it does big and bold, but doesn't really do epic. The war junker is a big, over the top war machine, but it has no guns other than a UV spotlight and moves at a snail's pace.
I was actually super excited to play the Ultimate Edition to really get a modern take on the series and give it another honest go to find I how wrong I was with that first assessment. But ultimately, no, my mind has not changed. All that was true for the original Gears of War, the Ultimate Edition really doesn't change a bit of it. Your squad AI continues to be possibly the dumbest in modern gaming. You can play the entire campaign and count on one hand the number of enemies they will actually take down. Your hero and squad are a bunch of meatheads who try to spit out clever one liners but fail to grip or invest me in their plight in any way, meaningful or otherwise. The play is linear and the pace is plodding. You'll spend as much time moving from encounter to encounter and listening to radio chatter as you will actually in the fight.
And I'm sure if you loved Gears the first go-round. You will love this iteration as well. Because what has changed is to take what was great visuals for its day and make them great for to-day. Despite my reservations about the actual gameplay, this game looks and sounds incredible. It's not just a remaster, it's been re-built from the ground up and every pixel shines in glorious detail. I was running it on a GeForce GTX 970 and every one of the 60 FPS at 1080p was coming through brilliantly. It is simply a gorgeous game. There have been some reported early issues with a few AMD cards that Microsoft has already promised to address quickly with a patch, and there are some setting fixes for G-Sync monitors that I'll pass along form the Microsoft press release at the bottom of this review*, but I had no issues with my copy on Windows 10 other than the fact the the doggone game is a 52.8 GB download. Switch to SSD drives they said. Faster gaming read/writes. Then all of the sudden it seems every new release is packing in so much uncompressed audio and video it's just eating up every bit of my drive space. Argh! Even console games from disc are installing 20-30 GBs of content locally. It's madness.
You do get the full single-player campaign in this package, as well as all of the bonus content that was limited before to PC (which admittedly is a bigger seller for the Xbox One version than this, the PC one). You also get all of the multiplayer maps (Xbox DLC and former PC exclusives), 17 characters to unlock in multiplayer, and all of the old game modes and a new 2v2 Gnasher mode as well. You can set up a local multiplayer connection or connect to Xbox live. However, I was not able to connect with the review copy as I am assuming the servers won't be up and running until the full release. So fingers crossed for stable servers and quick matchmaking...
I know there are a lot of Gears of War fans out there and the Xbox One version of this Ultimate Edition released to rave reviews (we gave it a 9) and went gold on release. So with a heavy heart I am trying my best to be fair and balanced scoring a game I just plain don't like. This game does have amazing visuals, great sound, and looks as good as anything out there. It really should be a great bit of nostalgia for a Gears of War fan, and a little something to hold you over, and get you champing at the bit for Gears of War 4. Ultimately however, I think Macbeth could best sum of Gears of War: It's a brief candle! Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. It's big, bold, brash, and the characters use curse words! But I just don't get a sense of epic. It's loud but has nothing to say. And I am decidedly in the minority on this opinion. Maybe I just don't get it or am just plain wrong. I'm going to give the game an 8 purely because I recognize that it is technically flawless, even if I don't particularly care for the content.
*Microsoft release on some early issues and their resolutions:
Settings Issues and Fixes:
** updated comments after a week with the multiplayer portion of the game:
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
First picked up a game controller when my mother bought an Atari 2600 for my brother and I one fateful Christmas.
Now I'm a Software Developer in my day job who is happy to be a part of the Gaming Nexus team so I can have at least a flimsy excuse for my wife as to why I need to get those 15 more minutes of game time in...