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The boys are back in town

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    Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    The boys are back in town

    The original Gears of War is considered a hallmark release, and one of the most significant games that ever came out for Xbox 360. It provided a slew of innovations for the third-person shooter genre, introduced one of the most successful new IPs of all time, and created the first new franchise for Microsoft that could stand even a chance of rivaling Halo. Gears of War is one of the most important Microsoft games, and so it makes sense that the company would want to pay tribute to it with an "Ultimate Edition," especially as a way to build hype for Gears of War 4.

    Gameplay

    Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is pretty much the same game players will remember from 2006. It is a cover-based shooter with a campaign filled with hilarious characters, incredible set-pieces, and one heart-pounding moment after another. The campaign hits the gas pedal and lever lets up, constantly introducing new threats, and new weapons for players to eliminate them with.

    Having said that, the campaign has aged considerably in the past decade. This is mostly apparent with the AI for both allies and enemies. There are times, even on harder difficulty settings, where enemies just stand around and do nothing, and the same can be said for ally AI.

    So, it’s the same Gears of War, but with a fresh coat of paint. There is some new single player content for console gamers to enjoy in the form of the PC-exclusive levels that came out with the 2007 port, but otherwise, veterans of the original will know exactly what to expect from the game’s campaign.

    Ultimate Edition also brings back the original game’s multiplayer, with the same maps and modes from before. The Coalition has experimented with some unique playlists to keep players interested, but what’s unfortunate is some of the best ones (namely Shotty Snipes) are temporary, and so some of the most entertaining experiences in Ultimate Edition aren’t guaranteed to be available all the time.

    The multiplayer functions pretty much perfectly, and supports split-screen/online functionality. The campaign also supports split-screen, along with online co-op, showing that The Coalition is dedicated to providing a well-rounded, fully-featured Gears of War experience.

    What’s unfortunate about the Ultimate Edition is the exclusion of the new modes introduced in Gears of War 2, 3, and to a lesser extent, Judgment. The most glaring omission is Horde Mode, the super popular feature introduced in Gears of War 2 that was subsequently copied by just about every other shooter under the sun.

    Gears of War: Ultimate Edition doesn’t really have updated gameplay, besides some minor tweaks no one will notice. That doesn’t mean that it is a bad game, it’s just that it is a game that hasn’t really evolved with the times, and it’s noticeable.

    Story

    One of the highlights of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is having the chance to relive the original’s crazy story. The original Gears of War also has more of a horror vibe than its sequels, which gives it a unique tone in the series.

    Anyway, Gears of War takes place on the fictional planet of Sera, where underground monsters have emerged from the ground to terrorize the local citizens. This starts a war between the monsters – the Locusts – and the COG Army of humans. Players take control of muscle-bound Marcus Fenix and his squad as they attempt to fight the Locusts.

    There’s plenty of shocking moments, exciting twists, and other developments to keep players invested in the story. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition retains all of the immature banter between the main character, the dudebro mentality, and other things that some people may find dated, but those that loved the original will probably have a really fun, nostalgic trip down memory lane.

    Graphics/Sound

    With little gameplay improvements to speak of, one of the main selling points of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is its improved graphics. While there are some parts of the game that look laughable on Xbox One, for the most part, The Coalition has done a stupendous job with upgrading the textures and sharpening the resolution for the new-gen hardware.

    Character models especially have gotten improved, with a lot more details on characters and enemies. The game also runs smoother, with less graphical oddities, slowdown, or anything like that to speak of. Essentially, The Coalition polished the original Gears of War to be about as polished as it could possibly be with the added power of Xbox One.

    Audio-wise, the game retains the music, voice overs, and sound effects from the original game. Depending on one’s opinion of the goofy Gears of War dialogue, this is either a good or a bad thing. Regardless, the audio presentation is almost perfect, except for a weird issue that is only present when playing the game in split-screen.

    When playing versus multiplayer in split-screen, the audio from the generals that speak after winning or losing matches plays at different times. This means that the two voices are talking over each other, instead of there being a single, unified voice. This is distracting, weird, and it still hasn’t been fixed even a year after the game’s release. At this point, it will probably never be fixed, which is something that should be noted for anyone that plans on picking up the game.

    Play Time/Replayability

    Gears of War: Ultimate Edition has a campaign that can be completed in about 10 hours, but after that, there’s still plenty more to do. Players can go back through and get all the collectibles, they can play on harder difficulty settings, and they can also try their best to unlock achievements. The co-op in the campaign also goes a long way in adding replayability to the overall experience.

    Gears of War: Ultimate Edition has a more fully-featured multiplayer experience than the original did, so fans can look forward to that as well. While the multiplayer is not quite as active as one might have hoped, there’s still enough people playing that it doesn’t take too long to get into online games.

    If someone were to try to 100% Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, it would take quite a long time, but for many, it would be worth the effort.

    Final Recommendation

    Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is like a love letter to the original, and it embraces the first game’s flaws and positives equally. It would have been nice to see a more comprehensive remaster with improved AI and Horde Mode added, but what’s here will still please most Gears of War fans.

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