August 24, 2015
Gears of War Ultimate Edition - Maxi-Geek Review
Gears of War was a game that I loved when it first came out, the game was just so different from anything else at the time, it really cut a path forward for itself and countless other games have since attempted to follow, which is why it is a shame that Ultimate Edition feels like its behind the original.
The story of Gears gets very complicated from the end of the third game, but thankfully where it starts off its very simple to follow, it starts with Marcus Fenix in prison for crimes that are only mentioned in passing, before Dom comes to bust him out and from here the pair head out on a seemingly impossible mission. Along the way the characters of Baird, Cole and Anya help round out the stable of character archetypes and with them all involved they set out to stop the decimation of the human race at the hands of creatures known as Locusts.
Their reason for declaring war upon the surface is not explained, but that helps add to their mysterious nature, with only Raam standing out as someone who has no mysterious side, his introduction in Ultimate Edition has been refined from the original release, so he now has a real sense of danger to him, rather than the surprise attack that happened before. There is also a voice that helps explain some events, but meeting that character won’t take place until the second game, but the calm tone that is used is very creepy, in a we are going to kill you all, then have lunch kind of way. The story is of course the same as it was in the original release and while it was not something spectacular then, it still holds up today.
Gameplay is what sold the Gears of War title back in 2006, cover based shooters were nothing at the time, but Gears changed that, entering cover and moving between cover just worked and the game felt really good because of it. With Ultimate Edition it still feels as nice as ever, but the characters look weightier so it is even more impressive. The active reload system is back and is a really wonderful little way of reloading, you can hit the button to reload and let it play out, or you can hit again and if you are in the sweet spot your reload will finish and the new rounds added to the gun will deal more damage, of course if you get it wrong, the reload will fail and you will need to wait a few more seconds for the gun to become functional again, meaning getting that right in combat is going to be crucial.
Sadly, it is with the Gameplay that Ultimate Edition falls down as I found a lot of bugs and issues that caused a lot of grief, things like characters taking cover against a pillar, but then being popped a good meter off the pillar, but still in cover is humorous if anything, but it’s when characters who have to open doors disappear and you spend minutes walking around hoping they will come back, all the while they are telling you to hurry up and just frustrating. The AI also showed a lack of awareness as I had enemies ignoring me as I flanked, even when I was shooting them, my own squad mates would get stuck on door frames, or as Dom did quite often, run out into the middle of a firefight only to be brought down and then me having to save him.
There was also another instance of Dom being a little to Gung Ho for his own good and it involved the Krill, he ran out in the darkness and was attacked and downed, the game revived him, to which I was grateful and then he was downed again and this process repeated 4 more times, before the game gave me a failed objective notification and prompted me to restart from the last checkpoint, because he was unable to get back to safety before he was attacked again and I could not reach him without dying. There were other issues, like the squad just standing around as I pressed forward, Dom disappearing during my fight with the Corpser and enemies just spawning right in front of me causing some very rage inducing deaths.
There is an upside to the gameplay, with the PC exclusive chapter now making its way to Xbox for the first time, which if you have played on PC, will be nothing new for you, but Xbox gamers will be surprised. The best part is that it fits into the story really well, keeping the games flow and momentum going and for those new to the story, nothing will seem a miss. However, that is not the only new content to appear in the game, modes from the later games online modes has made it in as well, providing players with even more choices to explore. Sadly, being pre-release, there was a very limited number of people for me to play online with, so the match making was not working great, but there were a few games to try out and they proved to be fun. The game ran smooth, I noticed no lag, which was very common on the original release and even with a few people being chainsawed in half had no issues with the performance of the game.
The one are the game has improved on is the presentation, the audial changes are minor if any, the guns sound as nice as they did 9 years ago, the chainsaw bayonet is still a blast to rev up and the locusts provide some nice out of the world battle cries. The visuals are the big area of improvement and not just talking about how things look as a whole, the characters and world all look nicer with the added power of Xbox One, but the game now loads right, which means there is no longer a series of muddy textures all over the place that are slowly replaced by the proper ones. When a level or cutscene loads, everything is ready to go and looks great.
Some characters have been tweaked, like the Locusts as a whole, they are now slightly paler, to help sell the fact that they have lived without sunlight for ages, even Carmine looks nicer as a whole, but perhaps the biggest change was to Raam himself, that first scene where you meet him is a better introduction to the character, but now he looks like he is a real menacing threat. From the original release to Ultimate Edition, Raam has had the most change, but the entire game looks better overall, from an art design perspective as well.
Gears of War Ultimate Edition is strange, they have taken a lot of time to adjust things that were of concern to players of the original, even beefing up some characters to help them look better, but thanks to the constant issues with AI, characters appearing and disappearing at will and even the player being zoomed around the maps, it feels like it needed more time before it was ready for release.
Thanks to Xbox Australia for supplying the game for review.